The Car-Free Summer

Kids on bike path

My kids and their bikes along the bike path.


My minivan is dead. It is still in my driveway, but it has been sitting there all summer long. For six months previous to parking that chug-a-lug, I prodded that thing along, milking almost every last mile out of it. We passed the point of it being road worthy, and went a little farther. At one point, I decided it was easier not to drive. And so, this has been the car-free summer.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been without a car or that we’ve biked everywhere. In the past we’ve ridden long distances through the cold and the rain. I didn’t fully embrace the car-free state, then. The inconvenience of not having a personal vehicle was more of a trial, something to endure, a struggle to get through. When we moved, I wanted to live near routes acceptable for biking with kids. Our last house had us trapped in the middle of a web of unsavory roads. Here, we are perfectly situated to fully use our city’s expansive cycling infrastructure.

I knew we could happily pedal along, at least through the beautiful summertime. The idea of saving money on gas had its appeal. The realization that we would all be stronger, fitter, and healthier at the end of the summer was encouraging as well. After discussing it with the kids, we decided to take the challenge of a different lifestyle, at least temporarily. I didn’t want to think ahead towards the fall and the never ending rain that is coming. Being an over-analyzer, it’s a rare event for me to be content to take things a moment at a time.

My biggest reservation about not driving was the desire to get our family out of town for some vacations. Sure, there are lots of things to do locally, but I really wanted to go camping in the mountains. I wanted to get away from the city and find solitude. How would we do that without a car?

Riding has a unique way of letting people connect with their community in ways that don’t happen inside an enclosed automobile. There’s something about moving gradually along a bike path that causes you to notice things that you missed before when whizzing by. There’s something isolating about fenders and doors that causes you to ignore people, even if they’re visible through glass windows. In a car, your space is defined. On a bike, the space is shared.

We managed to keep up with a busy schedule of rehearsals and performances. We found nearby places to enjoy downtime and play. A few times, we even managed to get out of town . Now, summer is just about over. Next week, it’s time to start back to homeschool and classes. For now, we’ll keep on taking this arrangement a moment at a time, and we’re ready and looking forward to a car-free fall.


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