Friday, May 15, 2015

Car-Free in the Summer

As I addressed in a previous post, being car-free in the winter in a cold climate raises the most questions from well-meaning acquaintances, but if anything, being car-free in the summer in a car-centric region poses at least equal challenges. In the winter, many activities come to a standstill, and people generally stick closer to home anyway (except for the skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing set).

But during the summer months, there are festivals and concerts and picnics to attend, vacations to take, and friends visiting, not to mention camping, hiking, and swimming to be had in the wild. As you can imagine, as people who've chosen to live a good portion of our lives outdoors when many spend it in cars, we love the outdoors and get good doses of it on a daily basis. What we don't get as much of is wilderness. In fact, the main reason we would consider car ownership as a distant future possibility would be the convenience of getting to camping and hiking destinations.

For this summer, our kids are young enough that we probably wouldn't be doing a lot of camping anyway, to be honest, so I have been on the lookout for other potential strategies for accessing summer fun without owning a car.

Surveying the very local possibilities
As usual, we start out by looking in our own neighborhood. We have two local parks with duck ponds and walking paths through what feels like wilderness, not to mention beautiful botanical gardens. We have also been taking advantage of the local public pool, which is very large and about 1.5 miles away. The evening walks to and from the pool in the cool of the day have been lovely.

Depending on if you live close enough to accessible campsites, bike camping is also a realistic (and double-the-fun) possibility.

Investigating bus routes
Surprisingly, I've found a bus route that will get us to a lake waterfront quite conveniently. I've also investigated other possibilities, such as the arboretum, but that is unfortunately a "take your life in your hands" kind of affair. Still, it is worth checking into wild places that are close enough to be accessible by city bus (or tourist buses, if your city has such things).

Renting a car
I know it might be cheating, but for our out-of-town trips, we will be renting a car. We have looked into trains, but they come through our town at about 3 in the morning only, take hours longer getting anywhere, and only get us to where we're going. Once we arrive at our destination, we would need to rent a car anyway. The good news is, renting a car can be fairly inexpensive if you plan it right, and in any case, it's still cheaper than owning.

Combining transportation methods
Finally, we might need to combine various ways to get where we want to go. We might take our bikes on the bus to get to trails to get to a good swimming spot. This would be tricky with a bike trailer, but it could work. For out-of-town trips, of course flying and renting a car onsite would save the trouble of driving long hours with kids (by far our least favorite part of car travel). Depending on the public transportation or bike rental/bikeshare options at the destination city, it might not even be necessary to rent a car.