Carless with Kids
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Don't have a car, expecting a baby
- Should we go carless?
- How to get out of the house-no car, bad bus service
- Are there other parents out there who don't have cars?
I'm expecting my first child in September and I don't currently have a car because I prefer to bike and it is so feasible in this area. I'd like to hear what has worked for other parents in terms of managing without a car with an infant. I *could* get a car if I absolutely needed it but I feel like in this area it is not necessary even with a baby.
Some advice I'd like is: what's the best bike option for a young baby (I've heard bike trailer + car seat has worked for some)? How young have you taken your baby on a bike? What bike seats have you found effective and what's your experience with them (I've heard that it's hard to keep the bike balanced with some types)? How old does baby have to be before taking her on bike is a safe option?
Baby on bus? Is it feasible to get a stroller on the bus? How does that work -- do you have to use the wheelchair ramp or lift the stroller w/ babe up the stairs? It seems like it would be such a hassle especially if there are groceries in the stroller. What are people's experience with this? Hard on packed buses/rush hour?
The other option I can think of is just walking a lot! That makes me think I should probably get a jogging type stroller because it might be more comfortable for baby for long walks. But I also think a smaller more lightweight stroller would be good because it wouldn't be so bulky. If I'm not jogging, but just walking long distances (ie a couple miles to and from the grocery store) what stroller type would you recommend?
Thank you for helping me find creative ways to avoid buying a car! Amy
I don't have bike travel advice, but for walking and being on the bus, I highly recommend in investing in good ''babywearing'' gear, like an ergo baby carrier or other types of high-quality slings. (Most high-quality carriers are sold online only or through super-nice indie stores: they are not the ones sold at Babies R Us, Target, etc.) We used the ergo w/ our 1-year-old when we traveled in NYC -- we went on and off of buses and trains with ease and your kiddo will be snuggled safely next to you... AND you won't tick people off (or tick yourself off) trying to manuever a giant stroller on and off transportation or through narrow doors and stores. You can walk long distances wearing your baby around if you get something like an Ergo. You can shop and get around w/ a ton of ease. Good luck! ergo mom
-- Good question! We also have a baby and prefer biking (although we do have a car). Our baby is now 15 months. We didn't bike with him until he was about 7 (??) months and could hold his head up with a helmet on. Since then we've been taking him in a bike trailer. At first he hated it (mostly bc of the helmet) but he got used to it. I'm not sure if there are helmet solutions for tiny babies. Good luck! Jonathan
It's not safe to put a helmet on a child under 1 year old, because their neck muscles aren't strong enough to support the added weight. (I.e., the same reason car seats are rear-facing.) And a helmet is mandatory for any child under 18 on a bicycle, including in a trailer in a car seat. So for the first year of your child's life, you'll need another solution.
You may also find that getting around with a baby requires a lot more stuff -- diaper bag, toys, snacks, more stuff to bring home from the grocery store, etc. Having a baby also means you have less time and less flexibility about things like rain and cold weather. I wouldn't think twice about riding a bike in the rain myself, but I never put my kids in a bike trailer when it was raining -- seems like it would be really stuffy under the plastic cover. (Walking in the rain is another story -- pop the kid in a front carrier or backpack, grab an oversized umbrella, and you're good to go.)
Of course, even if you don't own a car when your baby is born, you can always get one later. Or you can own a car while your child is an infant and sell it in a few years. But my experience is that even though I hardly ever used a car before I had kids, having a baby and no car seems like a royal hassle. Cycling mama
Hi - I biked a lot with my baby & bike now with him as a 5-yr-old. I used a hand-me-down solid bike seat attached to the rack on the back of my bike. It worked well for 4 yrs. I started with him around 8 mths to 1 yr old or so (once they can hold their heads up & fit the seat - there are various sizes to choose from I think.)
Now, he's on a Burley Piccolo bike tag-along (piece that fits to the bike rack & he pedals which is awesome!) He also had his own Skuut bike (from REI) which he ran about on simultaneously once he was about 2.5 years old. He has his own bike now too (no training wheels necessary cuz he learned on the Skuut) but for rides to get somewhere (e.g. pre-school), we use the tag-along.
I love biking with him! Buy a good helmet, flags & lights & enjoy.
Since I also had a car, I can't speak to the bus issues. But, you definitely want a BOB stroller (REI) - I have a two strollers - one small & lightweight and one for real walks/carrying groceries when they are older & walking. When they are babies, you either carry them on your body with a baby carrier or buy a car seat that fits your stroller.
The other type of bike to consider is that new, longer bike made in Berkeley - I am forgetting the name. It's great if you don't live in the hills and will use it primarily on flat streets. It has space for a bike seat in back & bags for groceries simultaneously. Cost-$1000, but worth it if you are dedicated to a car-free life with kid(s)! cvg
I didn't have a car for the first couple of years after I had my son. I bought a bike seat but found I was too nervous about safety, so I walked and public transited everywhere. Here's my quick breakdown: BART was easy, AC transit was a pain, with a stroller. I often ''wore'' my son on public tran because of ease of movement. Many times I felt like a pack mule carrying him and all the other stuff. After he was two, I began using the stroller more and more. We loved the McClaren (spelling?), because it was very maneuverable and could easily be folded down. We also encouraged him to walk as much as possible when time was not a factor. I found a car wasn't necessary until playdates began and swim classes, etc. but that still could have been managed without a car, I just got burnt out. Probably witha bike system in place I would have gone without longer (though winter rains were NOT fun), so it is doable! Hope this helped. Pack Mule Mama
I do appreciate your desire to avoid driving a car for daily transportation - but there are some serious safety problems with putting a baby on a bike. You might do better to get a carseat and a car-sharing membership for those trips that simply aren't practical on foot or via public transit.
Standard recommendation is babies under 1 year old should NEVER ride on a bike in any way. Reason being, a relatively weak spine and large head mean that baby cannot support the weight of a helmet on his head (that's why there's no such thing as bike helmet sized for a baby under 12 months), and he is susceptible to serious injury from the 'shaking' motion of the bike. Some people decide to use an infant carseat installed in a bike trailer, which seems like the best option if you really must transport baby by bike - so if you're going to do that, make sure you choose a carseat and a trailer capable of being used that way for at least 1 year. Still, neither carseats nor bike trailers are really designed or tested for this and you will have to balance the benefit and risk for yourself.
After 1 year of age - or once baby is walking - you can put a helmet on baby and put baby in a trailer or a bike- mounted seat. Arguments rage about which of those options is really safer. I'm firmly in the trailer camp, because (in a nutshell) I think falls from a bike are a MUCH higher risk than a car hitting a trailer - and it's the bike-mounted seats you've heard about causing balance problems. But there's very little in the way of hard evidence and you'll have to do your own research and consider your own biking habits when you decide.
As far as traveling by bus and/or on foot, babywear! A sling, wrap, mei tai or buckle carrier allows you to easily navigate steps, escalators, narrow aisles, and all sorts of other situations where a stroller is a hassle. Strollers are mostly useful when you need to carry a lot of ''stuff'' - possible alternatives being a wagon, granny cart, or capacious backpack - or if you're going to literally jog or run, in which case you do need a jogging stroller. Jogging strollers, by the way, are not appropriate for newborns; the risks are essentially the same as for putting small babies on a bike. Wait until the baby can sit up and always always always (1) ensure all folding parts are properly locked in place and (2) use the harness. (You might be interested in a bike trailer that converts to a jogger.) Holly
For bike seats, our CoPilot has been great, and our now 3-yr-old has loved it since she was 1 (we were advised not to start her in it til 1 because before that, the neck muscles aren't quite strong enough to withstand impact from sudden braking or a collision, especially given the extra weight of a helmet). The CoPilot has gel padding, side protection all the way up, foot rests, and a front cross bar for her to hold on to. It's been really comfy and kept her safe when the bike got knocked over once.
If you're planning to use a stroller pretty heavily, I'd recommend getting one that's well-balanced (as in, won't fall over backward if you've got bags hanging off the handle when you need to pick your child up out of the seat). A well- balanced stroller is also much easier to push. This usually means getting one that's not an umbrella stroller. Our Bugaboo Bee was incredibly stable, though I don't know what the newer model is like (our kid outgrew the old Bee pretty early, but I hear the newer ones are bigger). Our Citi Mini is pretty decent in that regard, too. We haven't had trouble rolling strollers onto AC Transit buses or Bart, so we haven't minded that our strollers didn't fold up as small or light as a lightweight umbrella stroller. We have a lightweight Maclaren that we use for travel sometimes, and our other strollers are much nicer to push--they roll and steer more easily. Berkeley mom
Hi Amy, I don't have any experience with biking with a baby. But I have walked and jogged a bunch. I have used a Maclaren umbrella stroller, a City Mini Jogger, and a Bob jogger. Of the three, the Bob is a standout by far. Yes, it it bulkier and harder to get in and out of smaller spaces/stores. But if you plan to be walking for a couple of miles at a time, you will love it. You can effortlessly steer it with one hand, it's lightweight to push, handles bumps in the sidewalk and curbs well. The other strollers require much more effort to push around. The Bob is bulky and heavy if you plan to fold it up and carry it. But if you're mostly going to walk out the door with it to and from destinations, it's great. Coreen
I don't bike w/ a baby so can't comment on that, but I live on the Oakland/Berkeley border and do walk and take public transportation a lot, so... assuming you are in the east bay too, here are my thoughts. Buses: most (maybe all?) AC transit buses are low to the ground and have just one step to get on. It's not hard at all to board with a stroller. And the lines i take most often (49 and 51) are ALWAYS uncrowded, so it is surprisingly easy. I don't like to do it, because it's unpredictable, and I get stressed worrying about being able to board and having enough room on the bus, etc. But every time I've done it, it's been super easy. The buses and drivers are built to accommodate wheelchairs, and I guess a stroller is like a wheelchair to them. If you are in the city, i think MUNI is another story. BART is pretty easy w/ a stroller too. I stick to the front car, which tends to be the least crowded.
Re: walking, I am a fan of carriers rather than strollers but have used a stroller plenty. I have a Bob, and it is great for running errands around town bc it's so light and easy to steer that I can control it with one hand (this is HUGELY helpful, trust me). It's also great bc it can handle all kinds of terrain, and you know what? The sidewalks of Oakland are bumpy and rough and all-around crappy. I have a Bob and a snap n go, and the snap n go's little wheels get hung up on sidewalk cracks or going up and down curbs, but the Bob handles it all really well. Best gift we ever got! A Rockridge Mom
I hate to break it to you, but a bicycle is not an option for a newborn.
Even with the bike trailer, a helmet is required and babies do not have the neck strength for a helmet until they are 1. Even then, you need to be careful to ensure that the helmet fits well.
My twins just turned 1 and we were very excited to be finally able to take them on family bike rides. We have the Chariot 2. Since my husband is a much stronger rider than I am, he has been the one to haul the kids. He really likes the trailer. It is a lot harder and heavier than when you are just pulling yourself, but it works well.
Also, I would recommend sticking to bike paths whenever possible. Just last November a dad was riding with his toddler in a trailer on Masonic Ave in Albany and a person in a car doored them. It hit the trailer and the son was injured and had to go to the hospital. Here is a link to the article: http://albany.patch.com/articles/toddler-father-on-bicycle-sent-to-hospital-after-getting-doored-by-driver . Kate
First congrats on your first child! From what I understand, your little one needs to develop head control before they can ride on a bike seat or in a bike trailer (or even jogging stroller for that matter), so those may not be options for at least the first six months. Most trailers recommend children be one year old at least. Putting the carseat in the trailer is a bad idea --- You can't put a helmet on a baby in a carseat and that bumpy ride with a big wobbly head can result in shaken baby syndrome. Honestly, those trailers scare the pants off me considering how folks drive in the Bay Area.
Regarding public transport, my advice is don't bother with a stroller at all! There are many wonderful baby carriers out there that are perfect for keeping baby close to you on public transit. Then you don't have to worry about lifts/elevators/crowds, etc. For a newborn, ring slings are my favorite, but some folks like wraps. For babies a few months old, soft structured carriers (ergo, boba, and beco are the easiest to find brands) are fabulous and will last until toddlerhood. If you value your back or your baby's hips, I do not recommend Bjorns. There is a great site called http://www.thebabywearer.com where you can ask for carrier recommendations and also buy used ones.
My son lived in an ergo when we were out and about --- if he was awake he wouldn't tolerate being in a stroller anyway. It was great for grocery shopping when he was too small to sit in the cart. If you do chose to rely on a stroller, get one that is lightweight, folds small (and preferably with one hand since you'll be holding the baby while hustling onto the bus), and can recline for an infant. Many people I know who make do without cars have two strollers, one lightweight for this sort of thing, and a bigger jogging type stroller for long walks.
Even if you have no car of your own, have a plan for access to one (a friend, city car share, taxi numbers at hand) and a carseat that you know how to install in a pinch. You never know when you'll need a car---emergencies happen---and you can't rely on taxis or other people to have an appropriate seat available. Unless you are giving birth at home, You will also need something to drive home from the hospital, and probably to the first few pediatrician appointments. Believe me, depending on how your birth goes, you may not be in any shape for long walks (or bicycle rides) for several weeks! Good luck mama. Walking mama
One important thing to know is your baby isn't supposed to wear a helmet until he/she is one years old (check with Kaiser). A baby's neck is not strong enough to support it. I would go for a good umbrella stroller and walk....or buy the car. anon
It's totally doable but know that you will need to allow a lot more time to get places and do simple things. That's how it is with a baby anyway, but if you are taking the bus you need to factor in schedules and if you are walking, well, you're walking, so you're not as fast as a car. I did both with my firstborn and didn't own a car. Never did the bike thing as we lived in SF where it was super hilly.
In general: When he was really little I popped him in a carrier (Bjorn/Ergo) and could jump on the bus or just walk wherever I needed to go. I didn't take up extra room in the bus and he liked the stimulation of being outdoors and seeing lots of things and people, etc. We had two small strollers once he could hold his head up -- a Maclaren Techno XT from when he was 3 months old and a tiny Maclaren Volo from when he was about a year. The XT was our walking around the neighborhood stroller or for longer trips where we knew he would nap. (The seat reclines all the way) The Volo was great for bus rides because it folds up to the size of a large umbrella. Lots of other umbrella strollers are available too; I like the Maclarens because I'm tall and they aren't stubby and short-handled like some of the other umbrella strollers.
Buses: In SF I almost always folded up the stroller and put the baby either in a carrier or on my lap. It was a little annoying carrying around a baby carrier in the bottom on the stroller but I was always grateful for it when I needed two hands for the stroller, baby, bags, etc. Not sure how baby + stroller would work on AC Transit, but I believe those buses are roomier than Muni.
Lots of smiles to the bus driver and other passengers usually avoided anyone getting testy about the stroller. The many bus riders who clearly had families of their own were always so accommodating and kind, as were many others, and I was often offered a seat during rush hour. Sometimes with a baby in a carrier it really is easier to stand on a bus. Often on crowded buses whenever I was standing and the bus lurched and I lurched with it I was invariably offered a seat anyway.
Bus/... Don't expect a bus driver to let you use the wheelchair ramp. I also didn't find a backpack helpful when grocery shopping, FWIW. It was actually easier to have good over-the-shoulder bags I could pull out of the stroller quickly when preparing to board the bus.
Jogging strollers: We never had a jogging stroller but with our newest baby I have finally coughed up for one. After a lot of deliberation -- and fruitless scouring of Craigslist -- I chose a BOB Revolution SE. It has incredible suspension and tight pivoting and is *way* better than the car seat carrier strollers (Snap-and-go, etc.), which are great for smooth rides (in stores/malls/city streets, etc.) but horrible on suburban streets that have bumpy sidewalks, tree roots, etc. to deal with. Those strollers really are meant for long walks. The BOB Revolution CE model has smaller wheels for navigating stores, etc.
Know that if you are not jogging exclusively you need to get one that has a front wheel that can swivel. Many older joggers and certain newer ones have large fixed front wheels that are important for jogging but a total PITA when maneuvering around tight corners. FWIW you can get a new BOB (which since 2010 has had a better seat harness system and several other new features) for about 25% more than people are asking for their 4- or 5-year-old ones on Craigslist. (Go figure!) It took me a while to decide to splurge on one but by all accounts they are indestructible and last a long time (and resell well, if Craigslist is anything to go by).
Good luck! Was also carless
I realized the other day that selling our car could be beneficial for many reasons: we could pay off our debt, invest in biking gear ( rain gear, burley, stuff to get the kids around easily), reduce our footprint and lose insurance, gas and maintenance costs; not to mention teaching our kids a healthier lifestyle and more exercise for us. I know the obvious thing is just to drive less and use the bike more, but we can't afford the bike gear. We do drive to sonoma county twice a month, but thought that we could use city car share for that. We have a 3 yo and a 3 mo, and we both work at home. We have a gas efficient car that we own and could sell for around 10K. Has anyone tried this? Any advice, for or against? I tend to assume things will work out and my husband is better at spotting pitfalls ahead of time and is not enthusiastic about the idea. I thought we could get perspective from the community. Thanks for any input. want to be greener
I went car-free when I moved to San Francisco. It's very easy to rent a car occasionally when I need it. I don't use City Car-Share, because there are less-expensive options if you want the car for a whole day. Has your husband considered the opportunity cost of keeping $10,000 tied up in a car? You could invest the $10,000 and be making money instead of letting your $10,000 depreciate. Economist
DO IT!!! We did it for close to 2 years with two kids under 2 (that's a mouthful). We just had #3, and gave in to buying a used minivan from friends of friends... but it was a good investment that we hadn't really planned on making. Here's how we lived (happily) car free: biking, bus (we live in UC Village... I'm a grad student, so bus is free), Bart, Zipcar, rentals for long trips, great neighbors who always came by to see if we needed anything when they were on there way to the store. We didn't realize until now (now that we're car owners) just how much of our income was freed up by not owning a vehicle. Also, we got rid of our car when gas was 2 dollars a gallon, so the pump shock is still wearing off. If we hadn't gotten this amazing deal on a van, we wouldn't have a car now.
There are definite downsides I shouldn't sugarcoat: a lack of impulsiveness and a smaller day-to-day radius. Some places are not public-transit friendly... and with zipcar sometimes you're just looking at the clock too much, hoping you can get the car back in time. Also, a tantrum on a crowded 51 bus (my kids are 4, 2.5 and 7 weeks) is a whole lot crappier than a tantrum within the privacy of your own van.
Email me if you want to talk further! You can do it!!! If for no other reason, do it for the moral superiority you will feel when you tell others about your decision! Sarah
We have three kids and have been car free since May (only partially by choice). It is working ok. I'm pretty tired because it is hard work to tow three kids on a bike on even a mild incline. We rent cars from Enterprise when we need to drive somewhere, generally 0-3 times per month. We are certainly saving money with this arrangement.
Things to consider:
- Think closely about where you live and what you can walk to in your neighborhood. We can walk to the store, school, bart, church, the park, doctor's office and most places we need to go. Riding on the bike is certainly more challenging than walking.
- As your kids get older, think closely about what activities they will be involved in. Getting to baseball practice has been our biggest challenge. We'll need to find a new place for ballet lessons.
- What you miss out on is social events and spontaneity. We can't just say - It's a beautiful day, let's drive to the beach. And we have a hard time making it to parties since very few of our friends live within walking/biking distance.
But again, we are certainly saving money, living greener, and teaching our kids to lead a more active & moderated lifestyle. I expect we'll buy a new car within the year. The crazy woman you've seen on the streets towing three kids on a bike
I totally recommend trying to live the car-free lifestyle, and our family loves City Car Share. Before you sign up, take a close look at the CCS pods, and make sure that there's at least one close by your home.
Also, if you're driving long distances (like to sonoma) it probably makes more sense to rent a car from a regular car rental place instead. CCS has a deal with Enterprise so CCS members get special rates. You also should plan to pay the daily insurance, since you won't have your own insurance any more.
But...from your post it sounds like you guys aren't able/willing to get on your bikes right now. How about starting off with one day a week, now when the weather is good, of biking? That could get you used to it, and you might love the way you feel after the bike ride, and it could inspire you to move forward with car-free living. And...remember the bus can be your friend too! Rahel
I have lived with a car and without a car on and off, with and without kids. The one thing I find I really need a car with is shopping. Without a car it became exhausting because I had to make multiple trips to finish what I could have done in one trip with a car. You really have to plan ahead for what you need and you don't have access to discounts (which was important to me) because you simply can't go to stores farther than a certain distance because of kid attention spans/time you have for the errand. I find the food/home goods stores available to me in Berkeley/Oakland to be very expensive to use all the time. Maybe you don't have to worry about this. It is also really really a drag to take kids out in the trailer in the rain in the winter when you just need to get groceries. It will happen. One way I got around this is by organizing to go with car owning friends. There is always internet shopping, I suppose. All the benefits you have listed about being car free are true. It's a major lifestyle choice. anon
I've been ''car free'' in oakland for 5years, and now am a proud mamma of a 2 month old, riding my bike around litterally the day I went into labor! It can get pretty lonley out there with cars wizzing by u all the time- so I would suggest finding others who share ur desire and commitment to being car free- try the east bay bicycle coallition and walkoaklandbikeoakland.org and such. Bike gear is completly priced for the upper class, but ususally worth the investment, and used stuff is always around craigslsit and ebay from the weekend warriors.I have been walking everywhere with my baby, and taking cabs to doctors appointments and such.Bus's and bart are also useful. I love the idea of citycarshare, but I find that @ $6/hr I can get a better deal @ enterprize renting for a full day, and they pick u up and drop u off. Its a tough decition to make, and its not easy, u have to be really commited, especially during the rainy season, but you can do it, and you can do it on a budget. If you need advice or support feel free to contact me! souz
We bought our first car in June '07 when our first kid was 2.5 yrs and I was 6 months pregnant. Before that we lived car free with city carshare and borrowing a car from generous relatives who have a second car that isn't used much. Frankly, I would not go back. We didn't use bikes so maybe that would make it easier, but for us it meant a lot of putting the carseat in someone else's car & relying on friends/relatives to pick us up. Both parents worked full time at the time and commuted & dropped of kid at preschool via BART (walkable from our house). We used CityCarshare for errands and short trips around town. During the week we mostly went to work and back. On weekends it limited what we could do. We couldn't easily get to the Zoo, Fairyland, or regional parks. We went to places our relatives were going and could take us along. Or we borrowed a car if they weren't using it. But that meant coordinating picking it up and dropping it off and inconveniencing them. Now I enjoy the freedom of deciding where I want to go & when and taking ourselves there & back. And I don't have to install carseats every time.
I guess what I'm saying is, think about everything you currently drive to and would you still go there and how would you get there? Maybe keep a log in your car for a month and then look back at it and determine what alternative transportation would look like and how much longer it would take. Then, before selling your car, I would try not using it for a month and see how it works for you.
Of course there are advantages too, like saving money and having a smaller footprint. Also, it forces you to be conscientious of how you use a car and even opens up opportunities you might otherwise overlook, such as places easier to get to with public transportation. And it builds community if you do things with others to facilitate transportation.
Like I said, we didn't use bikes, so i can't really speak to that, but one concern I would have would be safety. I wouldn't feel comfortable biking my kids around in bay area traffic for everyday errands. When we go on bike rides we avoid busy streets and try to find bike trails. (Our limited bike rides are for pleasure and not as a mode of transportation.) anon
My son and I stay home a lot, going out mostly on weekends with Daddy to parks, etc, or running errands. I am getting increasingly frustrated with our situation, having applied and turned away at 2 preschools that would have been perfect because we liked their philosophies, and they fit with our transportation needs. I don't seem to be able to find a cooperative school or one that welcomes a strong parent involvement/presence in my area that I can get my son to and from. I live in an area with very poor and limited bus service, although we use it when we can, and I have been known many times to walk with a stroller and ride the bus for a total of three hours to try to get to an activity in Berkeley from Oakland Montclair just to get us out of the house to be with other kids and parents. To get to anything other than rows of houses, one has to walk 2 miles up and down hills, which I'm willing to do and do all the time. So the problem is about our need to connect socially and how being so physically isolated prevents us from doing that enough. I have posted about this a few different times in a few different ways, but I'm not getting many answers that are sensitive to the transportation issue. Maybe that is because it is hard for people to imagine not using a car, or maybe because there just aren't any solutions. I don't know, but I welcome any suggestions the wise and creative parents of BPN may have! Bonnie
I am also a non-driving mother so I understand and sympathize your situation. Because I don't drive, we never seriously considered living in Montclair, because it was too inaccessible. Any chance you could move to a more centrally located, bus-friendly location? I know that's a huge decision, but if you are not planning to become a driver, it's worth thinking about. If not, is bicycling an option for you? If that won't work either, then the next option would seem to be budgeting for a certain number of cab rides each week (and investing in one of those ''vests'' that can serve as a carseat for kids in taxis) to get you and your kid out of the house. Even if that just got you down to downtown Oakland, you'd have lots of bus and BART options from there. Since your husband drives, would it be possible for him to do preschool drop-off with the car in the morning, and you do the pick-up later via bus or bike? Good luck find some creative solutions!
You said: ''I'm not getting many answers that are sensitive to the transportation issue. Maybe that is because it is hard for people to imagine not using a car, or maybe because there just aren't any solutions.'' My suspiscion is that no one has thought up a good solution. My best suggestion is to move to the flatlands, where bus transportation is better and biking is a feasible mode of transportation. You would also have the opportunity to choose a home in walking distance of businesses, parks and activities. Of course that is a HUGE change, a big decision with all sorts of consequences (schools being an obvious issue), and if you own your home, the state of the housing market might make it difficult to sell right now. Renting out your house and renting in the flatlands would be another alternative. But if you prefer to stay where you are, your options are limited. If you are up for it, you could try biking, but of course the hills are extremely strenuous, especially with a toddler on board, and biking isn't as safe as driving. Good luck Flatland dweller/bike commuter
It's hard to evaluate your situation not knowing if you don't have an extra car by choice or if you can't afford one and not knowing where you live in Montclair. But, the reality is, if you live in that area, you do need a car or you need to accept your situation. One of the reasons we want to move (we don't live in Montclair but our neighborhood is very car based) is to be in a more mixed-used community with shops and places to walk. Frankly, I'd love to be a one car family, but it wouldn't work for us because my husband and I both work. So, in order to give you advice, we'd have to know your reasons or options.
As for the preschool situation, again, have you made your plea to them? Did you lock into these two because they were the only options? I really don't know what to tell you. It sounds like you do what you can by walking three hours to do things. That is really rough especially with a small child. Maybe you need to consider getting a cheap car. I'd go nuts if I couldn't get out during the week and run errands. One of the advantages of me being home for a while was that I took care of all errands and household things so we were free to do other things on the weekend. Maybe you need to reevaluate your needs and do something practical and save your sanity. woefully car attached
When I didn't have a car, what saved me was a neighborhood play group. Try craig's list, post your own ad if necessary. You can also inquire at Bananas. You might also find some other info from moms at the park or toddler time at your local library. You live in a family-friendly area, there is probably something going on. East Bay moms has park hikes on Fridays and you might be able to contact them and get into a car pool. anon
I'm just curious: Are there other UCB parents like us, who DON'T have cars? My husband and I have a 19 month old daughter; we live on the top of a very steep hill; and we don't have a car. Since we are sort of minimalists, we haven't wanted one. Unfortunately, life without a car can be tiring and isolating, especially in the rainy season. I'm beginning to think we were insane to have resisted owning a car (even though it means more debt). Are there others who are or were in a similar situation? (that is, not having, wanting, or being able to afford an automobile, but feeling pressure to buy one anyway.) Lara
We don't have a car either. (Don't want one, can't afford one, shared one for a while till both we and our friend that we shared it with graduated and moved away, then owned one for a while cuz it was sometimes convenient but gave it to Goodwill when it wouldn't pass inspection.) We're actually living in Pittsburgh PA now, and didn't have our baby till after we moved there. It's also a very hilly city, and it rains a lot, maybe even more than Berkeley in the winter. The main difference might be that rents are cheaper. We made a point of getting an apartment on a good bus line and across the street from the grocery store, and getting to know our neighbors, and finding people/families nearby whom we like and can spend time with. We're doing a baby-swap with a student couple + baby who live about 5 blocks away. Also, both my husband and I like walking, he more than I, but I don't mind, and I do bicycle a lot (used to bike up Euclid to Cragmont, even though when I first moved up there I didn't think I would be able to -- but I surprised myself). (see recent posting on bicycle seats for babies.) BTW, I find that using a sling is often more convenient than using a stroller, since you don't have to fold anything up when you board the bus, etc. My baby's a year old and I foresee him being in the sling for a while yet. We think of walking (esp with baby) as a way of getting in one's exercise without having to go to the gym, so we routinely walk up to 45 mins a day. It almost saves time, if you consider having to park, stretch, exercise, shower, etc. A good umbrella and good boots suffice for the rain, or if your baby is little and doesn't mind it yet, a rain poncho will also do. Joyce
We're not carless but had hoped to get by on one car. Unfortunately, the rain has pushed us into going whole hog and getting another car--a minivan, no less (I was the one who asked for minivan recommendations a while back). The reason is the unreliability of the bus service. In good weather my husband bikes to campus (we live in Albany, off Solano) and it takes 15-20 minutes. When it rains he has tried the bus--but it often takes an hour or more to get to campus (worse on the way home), the buses never follow the schedule, and he has basically given up in disgust. It is a surprise and a disappointment that in this area the public transit is so poor. Although I do most of my shopping on foot, I need a car to get my daughter to preschool. On the other hand, my neighbor with two young boys has never learned to drive and lives quite happily without a car (her husband does drive to his job in SF). I think it's hard to get by without a car if you have kids, but on the other hand, if you live along Solano or in the Elmwood, you can do just about everything you need on foot if you arrange your life properly. If you're committed to being carless, location is everything, though as we found out, not a panacea. Susan
In response to the question about car ownership:
I too am opposed to our excessive dependance on cars and all that it implies (compulsive consumerism-malls, lack of urban social interaction-suburbs, excessive time constraints-taking kids to a thousand lessons and sports activities intended to developp their social, artistic, etc skills).
So on my free time with my son, I WALK with him to the library, to the playground, etc amidst scores of cars on busy streets. We ride the bus and walk to his daycare, which necessitates me carrying a stroller, my backpack, my lunch cooler and a coffe mug onto the bus. Sure, it's not easy, but it's doable.
In general, in the Albany-Berkeley area, AC Transit is great, but I've found that at times, in other areas, there can be hostility, which I can take, but in the company of my son, this can become difficult, as is the manifestation of other pathological behaviors (in such cases though, the drivers are good at keeping a lid on the situation).
Now for the other side: I use our car to get groceries (there is just too much to carry on a bike or to put in a stroller, and some stores are far away). Our car also gives us access to great places like Point Reyes or Mount Tamalpais.
You do have quite a few options, one of which is to forego a car and rent one or use a taxi when you need this form of transportation. Indeed, even a used car will cost you in insurance and maintenance. For example, when you're on a tight budget, there is nothing more depressing than having to foot a steep car repair bill. So ownership of a used car should be accompanied by the development of an emergency fund to cover such mishaps. You could also exchange use of a friend's car for a service.
Finally, in my present situation at least, I know that I could live without a car and cover almost all my transportation needs with my bike (equipped with baby seet), the bus, our stroller and my own two feet. That's the key, I think, to avoid depending on your car for everything from social life to entertainment, to avoid seeing it as a necessity rather than what it is: a privilege by world standards. Good luck in your decision.
My husband and I each work full-time, and we have two kids to schlep around. We're trying hard to hold at one car. Some of the things we do may also be applicable to the struggle to stay car-free.
1) Set up trades for regular car rides. For example, now that it's snowy (here in upstate NY) and I can't bike with my 2-year-old to child care, I get a ride with another parent to child care and then to work. It's just a bit out of her way, and we trade 15 minutes of babysitting for each day she gives me a ride.
2) Rent cars and take cabs liberally, if you can afford it. Not having a car saves you $4000-$8000 per year, when you include the purchase cost of the car (averaged over its lifetime), insurance, maintenance, gasoline, registration, etc. If you try to get by without ever renting or taking taxis, especially when you have a child, chances are you'll get fed up after a few years and buy a car. If, instead, you budget $1000 per year for sanity rides, you may hang on a lot longer.