Friday, October 25, 2013
"Do You Even Own a Car?"
The words were like music to my ears, spoken by another mom as she wheeled her bicycle into the rack beside mine. I'm ashamed to say I didn't recognize her, but she obviously observed I'd often ridden with my son to his elementary school and now we both showed up at the middle school open house—again by bike.
Do you even own a car?
I couldn't lie, yet was nonetheless embarrassed. "Yes, and would you believe we have two cars?"
We went our separate ways, but her words stuck with me.
It's taken a long time to reconcile why we still own two automobiles. It's not something I'm proud of, so in my attempt to explore alternatives, I joined Carshare Vermont, enticed by the free introductory membership. My thinking was we would find the service could suit our needs and eventually get rid of one car. 6 months later, the Carshare option remains untested. It's inconvenient to schlep across the university campus to locate the nearest loaner vehicle, especially when we own the two sitting in our driveway. The cost of having that second vehicle is primarily gas and insurance—at least that's what I tell myself. But, of course there are the hidden costs: registration, inspection, maintenance, etc. I suspect total expenses of second-car ownership is slightly more than paid membership in Carshare.
To our credit, rarely are both automobiles on the road at the same time—rather, it's more likely one car is driven (the Honda gets 35 MPG) and half-time at that. Both are equipped with bike racks. So, why do we still have these two beastly things? Unfortunately, my husband and I work several miles from home—in opposite directions no less—plus my workplace is not on a bus line for winter commutes. (I won't ride a bike when it's dark at 5 p.m.) And, there is no guarantee that I can snag a Carshare vehicle when I truly need it.
"It's not about the number of vehicles we own," my husband said, trying to put it in perspective for me, "It's about how many miles we drive."
In the end he's right, and the more I ponder our transportation situation, it's an answer I can live with. We aren't tempted to drive more, like some folks are, because there are two vehicles available. We both pedal to work and often walk to do errands. My husband mixes riding a commuter bus to his job, 25 miles away with car/bike commutes. We insist that our children find alternatives to asking for the mom and dad taxi. One son makes two bus connections to get to high school, while our youngest boy rides his bike or takes a bus when he schleps his cello.
I've accepted our situation and no longer feel guilty. We are doing our part, helping the environment, making healthy car-free choices, and passing important lessons onto our children. If acquaintances think we don't own a car, it must mean we are doing something right!