Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

Car-Free/Car-Lite as a Family, Part II

I came across the Walk Score website the other day. I entered our current address and wasn’t the least bit surprised when my address got a score of 40 which is considered “Car-Dependent.” I didn’t feel all that badly about it until I entered our last address and got back a score of 75 which is considered “Very Walkable.” Again, not very surprising now that I look back on it. It might be helpful to type in your address and see your score. Then again, perhaps not. Don’t let it discourage you – I don’t think all is necessarily lost.

One of the next child carrying devices that you could consider is the bike trailer/stroller combo. Now, when I was doing a lot of my research and asked around I got somewhat frustrating replies which insisted that you could not be Car-Free/Car-Lite by using these. The only *real* way of doing it was to buy one of the pricier bikes (like the ones I listed in Part I). Anything less than that was really a waste of money. I see these kinds of comments a lot, especially where bikes are concerned.

I can see their point. If you really want to replace your car with something the pricier options usually will fit the bill a bit better. Yes, you could take out a loan to buy one of these bikes and it would certainly take care of the issue.

If, on the other hand, your reasoning is more complex and you want to avoid buying it on credit then your next option is to save for it. This option could take a year or two depending on your family’s budget, existing debt load, etc. In the mean time you’ll need to continue to drive your car because you still need to buy your groceries, visit the library, go to the credit union, etc.

It’s all a bit depressing, really. If I were to chose the above option I have a feeling that we’ll never get to point B (well, unless by car). I think there is some value in going with what is most definitely is good enough for now and more than likely all we’ll need. Hence the bike trailer/stroller combo.

There are a number of bike trailers out there that fit a range of price points. Some of them really are only good for a leisurely ride with the kids. Others of them are much closer to what you’d be looking for. They typically go for around $500 and up, but can often be found on Ebay or your local Craig’s List. On one of the Craig’s List sites for a city not too far from mine they tend to go very quickly so I would definitely suggest you check often. As an extra bonus, if and when you get to the point that you want to invest in something like a Bakfiet, you can list your bike trailer/stroller combo on Craig’s List and recoup some of the money you spent.

Don’t let the term “bike trailer” fool you, some of the manufacturers out there make a carrier that works wonderfully as a stroller and more! The one that I like the most is Chariot Carriers. With the one chassis you can take your kids biking, walking, jogging, hike, and cross country skiing.

The other carrier high on my list is the Burley D’Lite ST. It comes with both the bike trailer kit and the strolling kit. According to Burley’s website you can carry 3 bags of groceries in the back cargo space.

Both the Chariot and the Burley are in roughly the same price range. Unfortunately, I have very rarely seen the Burley on Ebay or on my local Criag’s List. My local bike store does carry them, however, which is certainly a bonus.

The nice thing about either of these options is the fact that you can attach them to your bike which would increase the distance you could travel without using a car. You can also conceivably use them as a stroller once you reach your destination (but again, here width is an issue).

If you don’t own a bike, you can use them as a stroller at first and investigate buying a bike later. As with the jogging stroller, you may want to look into buying a nice backpack to increase your carrying capacity. If you’d rather go by bike here again budget is an issue.

There are a number of moderately priced bikes available at your local bike store. I’d certainly suggest taking a look there to see if they have something available in your price range. If not, you may want to try one of the big box stores. The bicycling purists would never agree with me, but I think it’s always best to stay within your means. Get the best bike with what you can afford. You can always get something nicer down the road when the means presents itself.

Of course, don’t rule out purchasing a used bike. Craig’s List (and mostly like Ebay, I haven’t looked there) can be a great resource for this. I have had somewhat mixed results with the Craig’s List pages around here. For the most part it seems like some folks think their stuff is worth it’s weight in gold. This is another one of those things that will require checking back often.

Your local bike store (LBS) is another great resource for used bikes. There are some out there who specialize in selling used bikes. If your LBS doesn’t sell used bikes they will more than likely be able to point you in the right direction.

Looking for a good place to go and get an overview of the numerous bike trailer offerings out there? Sally suggested in a comment on Part I to try Bicycletrailers.com. I wholeheartedly agree!

After quite a bit of research and comparison shopping I think we finally came up with something that will work for our family. Want to know what we got? Stay tuned for Part III!

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