Monday, 25 February 2013

My Car Free Life with 2 Small Children

I have this conversation regularly:

New friend: "its a bit of a nightmare to park around here isn't it"

Me: "I wouldn't know I don't have a car"

New friend: "What about your husband's car?"

Me; "no, he hasn't got one either"

New friend: "Oh, so you are a member of the city car club?"

Me: "no, I can't drive"

New friend: "Oh, so your husband is a member of the city car club"

Me: "no, he can't drive either"

At which point my new friend's head explodes.

Most people I meet have real trouble working out how I survive with no car and 2 small children, but I can't actually think of when we would need a car on a daily basis.

My husband and I both grew up in London, easy access to public transport didn't give much incentive to learn. I did have a couple of lessons, but after nearly driving into a wall trying to avoid a bus in rush hour I decided it really wasn't worth the hassle. My husband has never even had a lesson.

In our Bristol home we are lucky enough to live just a few minutes walk from a butcher, baker, greengrocers, hardware store and fishmonger. As most of the shopping can be done locally we don't need a car. We do use online supermarket shopping for the bulky things, but most of my friends do this despite having cars.

My 3 year old isn't interested in the pushchair anymore, so we gave it to a friend, this was a bit of a shock as I was so used to putting the shopping on it, so I bought a trolley (with a nice print so I don't look like a granny). The kids like pulling this along so are more than happy to pop to the shops.

Back in the pushchair days I had these hamster bags to carry the shopping. They fit quiet a lot of shopping and stop the pushchair falling over backwards as it would if I hung bags off the handle.

I don't need a car for the school run - its just down the road. I can walk to town, to the doctors and the dentist. When the kids are older we live near Beavers and Rainbow groups, swimming and various sporting activities, at the worst they are short bus ride away. My husband can easily walk too work.

Not having a car does require a little bit more planning. You can't just go somewhere - you need to know when your return train journey is. For anyone in the south west I found this brilliant route planning tool. We do get lifts from friends if everyone is having an outing to somewhere that we can't get to by public transport, so we do still have to own kids car seats (and store them in the house, which is a probably the biggest pain of not having a car). I did work out it was a 6 hour round trip to go to Slimbridge on public transport, do there are some things we miss out on.

As my kids don't know any different to this lifestyle they just fit right in with it. My daughter had just turned 2 when my son was born. Rather than get an expensive Phil and Teds right away with thought we would see if we could cope with just a buggy board, which we did. Although we did wear the first one out (we wear a lot of things out with our car free life). Having a buggy board meant she could jump on and off as she wanted, so she got used to walking.

I do have one driving ambition. If I was famous I would like to go on Top Gear's "Star in a reasonably priced car". Only because it would be hilarious to see me complete the course in 20 minutes with the Stig next to me in a dual control car!


  1. Well done you. I manage life without a car most days, walking to shops, doctor, dentist etc. but I do have one, and use it to visit my family in Surrey 90 miles away, and Essex 130 miles away, as travelling there by train would be overly expensive. My son (who co-incidently lives in Bristol) has just given up his car as it was proving too expensive to run, and he manages nicely on public transport.

    1. The Bristol public transport network isn't bad, you can get to most places quite easily (although the bus fares are a bit much)

  2. We don't have a car either for the main reason we can not afford it. Luckily we are just down the road from shops and a 20 min walk to the centre of town. I usually walk to town and bus back up (I hate walking up hills) A car would be a real luxury to us, but we manage fine without one.

    1. I'm sure we could afford a car if we wanted to, but I much prefer what we spend the money on now! It would mean giving up some things to get one, and I'm just not willing to make those sacrifices

  3. Years ago when we bought a new vehicle, we purchased a van that sits 8, this way if each of our 3 children brought a friend along on a trip there would be room for everyone plus the two dogs. That being said, we live in a city with excellent bus service and my children always took the two buses to high school on the other side of town. For elementary school, it would have been two buses plus a walk, so it was necessary that I drive them. We do need our vehicle, two of our children moved to another province twelve hours away, so moving them, the van was packed beyond belief. Our daughter now has a dog so we have to pick her up for visits home, the bus doesn't allow pets. I wish I could go car free but for us it just won't work.

    1. Its not for everyone - it totally depends where you live. If I lived in the countryside I'm sure I would have to learn.

  4. Thanks for writing this post. It certainly makes me feel a bit better about not driving. I don't why I've found that such a hard thing to come to terms with. I am learning though as I do find it stressful depending on public transport (probably because I am not very organised). I'm still not 100% sure I will succeed though! I'd be very interested in knowing where you got your trolley bag in the meantime. :)

    1. I bought it online (can't remember which shop, it wasn't one of the big names) its a brand called "Hoppa" I went for that one because it has big wheels which makes it more stable than some


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