Thursday, July 16, 2009

summer without a car

Summer is in full swing and even without a car, we have had an activity-filled season involving a variety of modes of transportations .

Camp: When we signed the kids up for camp in the spring our only criteria was whether the camp was in walking distance to our house. Blue Camp, where Leah is going, has an elaborate pick up and drop off routine that involves hundreds of cars driving up to the camp then camp counselors radio-ing down to the "holding" area where the campers are hanging out; the children are then escorted to their parents' awaiting cars. If you're a walker, then you are, apparently, a low-priority in the pick-up hierarchy. I realize that they need to move the cars quickly so as not to create (even more) gridlock, but you would think that those of us who are helping to ease the traffic congestion by walking instead of driving would not be made to wait in the hot sun while they attend to the needs of the drivers. If there's one thing this carlessness experiment has taught us, it's that cars seem to always get priorty over pedestrians.

Swimming: No summer is complete without lots of water time. Luckily we live within walking distance to two pools. Willard Pool has family swim in the evenings and is some eight blocks from our house. Going out for an evening swim is an easy activity that can be done quite spontaneously. It's a bit more of a hike to get to Strawberry Canyon pool on the Cal campus but once you're there it's bonus not to have to go through the frustrating parking routine that UC has set up there.

Movies: The Elmwood Theater and the Pacific Film Archive have both had screenings of kid-friendly movies. They are both in walking distance. To see Up in 3D we took BART into San Francisco.

Farmers market: When we can, we try to bike to the Berkeley Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. The ride home from the market is slightly uphill but Anna has been a trooper and, riding her single gear bike, can keep up with those us with 24 gears. (Leah rides on the trail-a-bike behind Keith.)

Day trips: We spent a day at Gilroy Gardens, a family theme park south of San Jose. For this, we used up on of our CityCarShare "extended freedom credits" that allowed us to reserve the car for 24 hours and pay 10 cents a mile. We've had a couple of day trips to San Francisco: for one of them, we took the Alameda/Oakland Ferry home. Nothing says summer like a boat trip on a large body of water.

Friendships: One of the things that we told ourselves when we decided to ditch the car was that we would not deprive our kids of a normal social life. If one of them gets invited to a birthday party in a far flung location, we would find a way to get them there (bumming rides has proven to be one successful strategy). Many of Leah's buddies are pretty nearby. But Anna made a new friend at camp this summer and was invited to her house for a couple of get togethers. Turns out Sierra comes out every summer to spend three weeks with her aunt who lives in Oakland slightly out of our usual walking radius. Aunt Sandy is also very generous and happily picked Anna up and dropped her off. (Perhaps, Sandy is not hip to the notion of "driving currency" in which a parent will willing drive your kid around so long as you agree to drive theirs around at some point in the future. Read more about this phenomenon at "The Perils of Carless Parenting" ).