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Cutting the cord: Why we are going car-light

Luci and I check out the horses on our way home from the grocery store.

It all started with the words that make any crazy, bike-obsessed spouse jump for joy.

“I think I’d like an Xtracycle,” Irene said.

Irene was lamenting the fact that she can’t easily take Luci anywhere on a bike because, due to space limitations, her bike is hanging from the ceiling and Luci doesn’t really care for the trailer we have — instead preferring the bike seat I attach to my Big Dummy.

I immediately jumped and said we’d get her one so she could tote Luci around, but it became clear the space issue was going to be a problem with having both cars in the garage. Storing it outside isn’t an option.

Because two cars take up most of our garage, Irene's bike has to hang from the ceiling.

I broached the subject of selling our second car again. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but Irene didn’t think it was a good idea. She was probably right.

There were a few months where we lived with only one car before Luci was born. I loved it. Not that I ever pick a car over the bike, but it was oddly freeing to not have the option of taking a car.

We purchased a second car shortly before Luci was born. Because of where and when Irene works, bike commuting isn’t really an option for her, which meant I’d be with a newborn and without a car for five nights a week — not really doable, especially not since riding with an infant isn’t something I was comfortable with.

My bikes get crammed next to our second car.

We started riding with Luci at 6 months old in a trailer with a “snuggler,” which makes the trailer act more like a car seat and supports their head and neck. At 9 months old she was in the bike seat with her purple ladybug helmet.

I’ve been lobbying to get rid of our car for a while, but Irene was hesitant to go through with it. Her point, which was valid, is that she didn’t want it to be extra work and extra driving for her because I wanted to get rid of the car.

Last week when she said she wanted an Xtracycle to take Luci on bike rides we started talking again about getting rid of our second car. This time, though, she seemed interested. Now that Luci is older and a pro at riding bikes, Irene is working three days a week and I’m still biking everywhere it seemed like it was more plausible.

We started doing some research about what it would be like having a family, two jobs, one car and two utility bikes.

Here is what we discovered, why we decided to cut the cord and become a car-light family and how we plan to make it work:

Money: We realized we were making a car payment and paying insurance each month for a car that we drove once over two months. Selling the second car will save us hundreds of dollars a month.

This is a photo of the Radish we plan on getting Irene. She says it is cute, but could be cuter.

Bikes: We already have one cargo bike, which is the Xtracycle-compatible Surly Big Dummy. We are going to add an Xtracycle Radish, which just started shipping yesterday. Both bikes will be able to accommodate the PeaPod LT bike seat, which Luci likes to ride in. I like it because Luci isn’t right up against my back so she can see things a lot better.

The downside is that it is open to the elements. I’m investigating adding some sort of shade screen and rain protection. We also have a Burley trailer which will protect Luci from the elements in a pinch.

Rental cars: A friend who is already living a car-light lifestyle with a family suggested I look into the price of a rental car. Several people who follow TucsonVelo on Facebook pointed me to a link for Enterprise Rental Cars that charges $9.99 per weekend day, which is when I would need to rent a car on occasion for going to bike races. There is a pickup location about 1.5 miles away from our house.

Car sharing: While Tucson doesn’t have a Zipcar system, it does have Connect by Hertz. Connect is similar to Zipcar. You sign up for an account, they send you a card which allows you to unlock any number of cars located on the University of Arizona campus.

The rates range from $5 to $8 per hour depending on the account you sign up for. You are allowed 180 miles a day and gas is included in the hourly charge. There is a $62 cap on a 24 hour period. While this isn’t particularly cost-effective it is convenient because I work at the University of Arizona. It isn’t clear what the yearly membership cost is because there is currently a special for free membership.

Cabs: While it is the least cost-effective, in a pinch it is always an option.

Public transportation: I have little experience with the bus system in Tucson, but we are within (long) walking distance of a transit center. Combine that with Suntran’s trip planner, the bus system could be a viable option.

Walking: We live within walking distance of several grocery stores, a mall and more.

Given the number of times that we need the second car and the various options listed above I think we’ll have plenty of options to make living a car-light lifestyle completely possible. I know we’ll enjoy the extra space in the garage and extra money in our pockets.
Do you have any tips you would like to add to help people who might be considering a car-free or car-light lifestyle? Leave a comment.

Anyone want to buy a car?

21 comments
Heidi
Heidi

Hey Michael, I was wondering how the Radish was doing since its been a few months.  I know we are just starting to creep out of summer so maybe it has not been enjoyed much, but I'm once again thinking about making the switch to a cargo bike and this one is on the list.  Any updates would be appreciated!

HEAVYLIFTER714
HEAVYLIFTER714

Hey folks this all sounds geat. Now to my own expierence. 0 cars 3 bikes none cargo (although I AM leaning in this direction). I purchased a Croozer cycle trailer 2 years ago so my hybrid can do cargo duty. I find this is a very acceptable solution as the Croozer can haul up to 45kg (100lbs) of cargo. I dont relly feel like riding uphill towing any more than this. And when groceries/laundry/whatever is done I unhool the trailer and stash it in the closet, and my hybrid (with 10,000 trouble free miles on it) goes back to just a bike. Keep up the resistance to the car world. It can be done.

AC
AC

Good for you. Brave choice. The hardest part will be having to defend your decision to less open minded neighbors, friends and family. My wife and I gave up our second car around Thanks Giving. No big deal, we don't even have kids, but still everyone acts like we're radicals or something. My next door neighbor noticed the absent Honda and assumed we split-up. Other people might miss your car more than you . Status is a biggy in our society and nothing says status like a shiny car.

3wheeler
3wheeler

We had just one car for years. I took the bus to work or rode the bike most days, but I admit to getting the wife to drive me a lot of times. We both work at home now and we inherited a second, nicer car. We held on to the first car. We have no car payments and the insurance is cheap, so I have no reason to go down to one car again. The older car only gets used once a week, but I'm glad to have it. I sure see your reasoning for going down to one car though. It sounds like you guys are going to do great.

bdhpdx
bdhpdx

Congrats to you - you can totally pull this off and save $$$ in the process. I'll be watching the blog for updates, but shout to you for downsizing a bit :)

Jay Rochlin
Jay Rochlin

Sounds great! Good luck making it all work. Suggestion: with some the money you'll be saving on not having to keep up a second big car, encourage Irene to buy something really great for herself (in addition to the great new bike). Ride ON!

sara
sara

One car. Two adults. Three kids. Three cargo bikes (OK, we really *are* going to sell one of them). Most days we really are absolutely fine with one car. In fact, the car can sit for days & days at times & never be used. This winter the weather was brutal (we live in the Northeast) so the one-car was more of a juggle, but we did it. One thing I had to make peace with--It's totally OK to ask friends & co-workers for rides when you need them. I am not so good at asking for help about loads of things, & I didn't want to have anyone think we were taking advantage of them since we were the ones to decide to have just one car. But, truthfully, when needed, I can often think of folks who live near us, are going in our direction, who having me along does not cause them to go out of their way, & their reactions to being asked have been nothing but gracious. I am not bumming rides every day & I am not asking the same person to drive me over & over. But really, it is OK to ask someone for a ride when you need one. I always make sure they have the out to say no, but really, they have seemed happy to help. And I try to reciprocate-- maybe not necessarily driving them, but in other ways. Come to think of it, maybe it'd be a good idea to alway keep an extra helmet... Heck, you have room for one in those X Freeloaders and you got the longtail for the passenger who needs a ride, too.

Sluggh
Sluggh

Exciting news, Mike. My 21-year-old Nissan has just 69,000 miles. I've been unable to sell it so far because every potential buyer cannot believe the odometer hasn't turned over.

Red Star
Red Star

Suggestion 5: there is no shortage of unemployed and underemployed construction workers here in the Old Pueblo. They love pick up trucks and have to make the annoying payments. Utilize them to do heavy hauling if you are restoring an old house or something. Be careful about the liability side of this. Craigslist. You get more time to ride bikes!

Red Star
Red Star

Suggestion 4: why wait for City of Tucson/Pima County/PAG/BAC/Suntran/whatever and whomever else to get it together on the bike/car ride share thing? Start your own.

Red Star
Red Star

Suggestion 3: if you must, carpool. Carpooling gets cars of the road and makes conditions more safe for cyclists. Be careful...carpooling can get very political and icky in the workplace.

Red Star
Red Star

Suggestion 2: go huge grocery shopping every two or three months. Utilize your car or a cab, or serious hauler bike and trailer, or the latest rent-a-car trick. Buy a freezer, if you can. First, make a list of stuff you consume over a typical two month period, and scale it up or down according to your cash flow and savings. Next, go shopping but do it sparingly and intelligently. Use a bike to fill-in the things you forget and the dairy perishables.You might surprise yourself: all the time you free up.

Red Star
Red Star

Suggestion 1: forget Charlie Sheen and the mindless and stressful culture that gave rise to him. Just walk away. Grow your own vegetables and, if space doesn't permit, utilize close community gardens. Community gardens booked-up? Push for more.

Nate Byerley
Nate Byerley

Radish will look a lot cuter once Irene is riding it...not to mention Irene and Luci - that will surely tip the cuteness meter into the red.

Ascentionist
Ascentionist

We've been car-lite for over a year now. We had moved to a metro area with emissions testing from a rural area without and my car wasn't worth "fixing" and failed emissions in a dirty brown cloud. We decided to drop to one car. It was great because we were also looking for a new place within a few months so we oriented ourselves in a slightly better place in the world. We didn't get any closer to my job (about 10 miles) but we did get ourselves closer to everything else. And now its tax time and we're giving the hairy eyeball to a Kona Ute for my wife and an Xtracycle for me. By the time the gas prices skyrocket we should be mostly carfree. We'll keep our aging Forester for awhile. Maybe by the time it needs to be replaced we'll decide not to.

zz
zz

You guys will do fine. I keep a running track of fuel useage....7½ gallons last month. So far this month.....0.

Ann C
Ann C

whoohoo congrats Mike! I'm excited for you and jealous of Irene's new bicycle! One learning experience I had with the UA car-sharing program is that the price they quote - is a little lower than it is in reality. Just a warning... I actually called them about it because I usually take the PRIUS and found there was about a 20% increase on my bill each time I took it. So basically, there are taxes. It's still really nice to have the car share program for quick trips or to use in a pinch, but really, if you need it more than a few hours renting a car is way cheaper. Good luck!

Britt
Britt

Living car-lite is great. You wind up saving money on everyday items because you become more aware of those uneccessary shopping trips and extra purchases that you make without thinking when you are in a car. Do you really need that giant package of paper towels from Target? Do you really need to stop at the grocery store on the way home- or do you have everything you already need at home?

Charles Miles
Charles Miles

We did one car for several years and while we carefully considered and discussed it before we made the switch we found that it was actually no big deal at all! It is important to have a setup you will be happy going to the store with and important to live in an area where services/work are reasonable distances/commutes. Not for everyone but I bet that many people would be surprised how easy it is!

Mike McC.
Mike McC.

The Radish looks sweet... DO IT :D

Daniel
Daniel

I like this one. I believe craigslist has "rideshare" as a section of their website. I'm not sure how big it is here in Tucson but it's worth a try.

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