Car-Free Days

{The Reluctant Hippie}

I was out of excuses. Everybody had bikes and helmets. We had a great bike trailer, loaned to us by some dear friends who wanted to support our 1-car existence. There are tons of activities and places to visit nearby. School was no longer in session – we didn’t have to worry about being late all the time. There was no reason for us to be spending so much time in the car.

It was time. Last summer, we had to stop driving everywhere all the time.

I knew that summer would be a logical time to lead a less auto-driven lifestyle. I wanted to take advantage of nicer weather and a more leisurely schedule to try getting from place to place without our car. I also knew that I needed a plan beyond a vague goal of “Drive less, bike more.” Kicking the car habit completely seemed too lofty of a goal – it would be too easy to throw in the towel if the bar was set so high. Baby steps, Hippie. Baby steps.

We settled on having a car-free day each week. Kind of like Meatless Mondays. We could call them “Walking Wednesdays.” Except that we weren’t walking most of the time. And also, having a car-free wednesday wouldn’t really work for us because there were some weeks where a kid would be taking a class or we would be on vacation on Wednesday, so we were doomed to fail.

So, instead of designating a specific day of the week to travel on foot or on bikes, we set a goal of one car-free day per week. Some weeks, we did not succeed. However, we had more than one car-free day per week several times. It all equalled out in the end.

We’re lucky that our kids are young enough that this can just be the norm for how summers operate – we don’t have to sell the idea to them. Little Hippie kicked the training wheels to the curb last summer, and she was thrilled to be tooling around town. On days when Baby Hippie refused to get into the bike trailer, we would walk to the bookmobile or our neighborhood park.

We loved challenging ourselves to drive less and bike more last summer. We saved money, learned a lot about the neighborhoods near ours, and were much more physically active. It’s also easier to justify ice cream if you rode your bike to the ice cream shop. Win-win-win.

This year, we’re counting the weeks in summer and establishing that number as our baseline. That is the minimum number of car-free days for our summer. Then, we are establishing “bonuses” for exceeding our quota.  There are 11 weeks of summer, so our quota is 11. If we average 1.5 days/week, we earn a trip to a children’s museum that we all rather enjoy. If we double our quota, we get to stay at a hotel during a road trip to visit friends later this summer (the Hippie children are *really* into the hotel lifestyle. I think it’s because you can watch TV in bed). I don’t think that the kids really need the rewards system, but having it in place means that they are keeping the Hippie Husband and I on the straight and narrow.

If you are serious about reducing your carbon footprint, exercising more, or using active transportation, join us in setting a car-free day goal. It doesn’t have to be once a week. Just decide as a family to designate a few days as walking and/or biking and/or staying in the neighborhood days. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

We just finished our first week of summer, and we had two car-free days. Hoping to improve our record as the weeks progress!


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