In February 2017 Sara Crawford and her husband Shannon Hards were expecting their first child. They purchased a second vehicle, an SUV, in preparation for their family growing. Less than a year later, the couple decided to ditch their other vehicle — an older Honda Civic — and replace it with a cargo bike. Here — in Sara’s words — is their story…
Q: When did you decide to make the change?
When I was pregnant, we knew we’d have to make adjustments to how we got around and wondered how a baby would fit into our active lifestyle. We really didn’t want to revert to driving a car everywhere just because we had a baby.
Q: What prompted the decision? Why did you decide to go to one car?
We needed to have an option for biking with the new baby. Looking at the different options it seemed like a Dutch cargo bike (bakfiets) would be best. We like the way the Dutch and Danes bike. This bike could be used for more than just moving a baby. Saskatoon Cycles had some cargo bike and long tail bike owners volunteer to let the public test them out one day at the Farmer’s Market, and that was our first time riding one. Prior to that we had been looking at trailers, but one ride on the cargo bike had us hooked! The cost of a cargo bike is high, so selling our second car made the purchase simple.
Q: Are you viewing this as a permanent change? Or simply a test/trial?
Definitely permanent. If we have to use our car, we use it. But whenever possible, we bike or walk. It’s just a nicer way to travel for all of us. We enjoy it since we get to see more of the city at this slower pace, and we get some fresh air and exercise.
We decided to put studded tires on the cargo bike and trial driving it this winter. We weren’t sure if it would be feasible, because it’s hard enough to pedal with all that weight in good weather! It’s definitely harder, but ultimately, it beats warming up a car to drive for a few minutes – faster, cheaper and more fun!
Q: Was your decision based on dollars and cents? Concern for the environment? Or some combination of the two?
We considered both of those things, but ultimately having two cars just seemed really wasteful to us. Why let a perfectly good and reliable vehicle stay parked in our driveway when someone could actually be using it? And even though it had long been paid off, there’s still the insurance expense as well as gas and maintenance. We have been trying to simplify our life, following some of the principals of minimalism, so keeping an extra car, when we could easily make do without it didn’t make sense.
Q: Did you consider the math? What did your calculations show as potential savings to the family budget? What are you doing with the money save?
We sold the car for $3500 and bought the cargo bike for $2500. Shannon uses it every morning to transport Blythe to daycare. I usually walk the dog with the stroller to pick her up at the end of the day. It’s less about the money and more about lifestyle, but we’ve definitely come out ahead money wise. We have already saved well over the cost of the studded tires this winter alone. Some of the money saved will buy bikes for Blythe when she’s a bit older. (Editor’s Note: A 2018 poll by the Canadian Automobile Association found the majority of Canadians don’t know the annual cost of owning and operating a vehicle. Hint: If you own a compact, it’s more than $3,200 and less than $3,400)
Q: What adjustments have you had to make, in terms of getting people where they need to be each day – parents to work, kids to school, sports, etc?
I’ve been cycling to work at RUH year round for the last 10 years. Everyone knows that the parking situation there is not ideal. We purchased our house in a location that’s ideal for active transportation to work and the places we like to go. We chose a daycare that is in our neighborhood. For Blythe’s swimming lessons, we chose the pool that has the nicest bike ride. When she starts school, it will be at the one in our neighborhood. Shannon is a self employed contractor, so has a work vehicle solely for that purpose. He wishes he could commute by bike, but he has too many tools and supplies to haul all over the city!
Q: What does your daughter Blythe think about being in a one-vehicle family?
We’ve always loved cycling, and just active transportation in general, so it’s only natural that we model that behaviour for our daughter. She loves riding in the cargo bike. We first used the infant bucket car seat when she was about 6 months old, and have now installed a toddler car seat rear facing, so we can still see and talk to each other as we’re riding around. Once she’s a bit bigger, she can sit forward facing on the little bench in the cargo box, but hopefully by then, she’ll be riding her own bike! Since this is all she knows, using active transportation will hopefully become second nature for her as she grows up.
Q: Any challenges or problems so far? What has been the hardest part of the adjustment?
Climbing a huge hill with a fully loaded cargo bike is pretty challenging! People are shocked that we don’t have e-assist, but it’s expensive, and another thing to maintain. We like to keep it simple! Seriously though, it’s only been rewarding. We’re lucky that we still have the option to use our car if we really need to.
Q: What is the best part of the change?
Having a bike that can move lots of stuff has opened up more possibilities for biking. We bike more than ever now. The less time we spend in a car, the happier we are.
Q: How is life, as a family, with just one car?
Great! It’s more in line with our values and the lifestyle we want. We feel good raising a family focused on active transportation. The money savings are nice as well. But ultimately, it’s just more fun!
Q: How have your friends and family reacted?
I guess they weren’t very surprised. Most think we are doing a good thing, but it’s not for them. They seem to think it’s harder than it is. Some people freak out about having our daughter outside in the cold weather, but don’t worry, we’re careful! We’ve all got good winter gear and even little baby goggles. A few years ago, we put studded tires on my mom’s bike so she could try out winter biking. She liked it so much she continues to commute to work on her bike year round, even though she has ample parking!
Q: Any advice you’d offer another family contemplating making the same move?
Just do it! It’s fun and rewarding. We’re actually pretty normal people!! We want to show that this lifestyle is normal and doable for anyone, not just in Amsterdam and Copenhagen! We hope people that see us out on our cargo bike might consider one for themselves. It looks huge and intimidating, but if you can ride a bike, you can ride a cargo bike. It takes about 30 seconds to get used to, and off you go. There are only a handful of them in the city, but I really hope they catch on. They’re just so practical, and fun!