After a couple years' hiatus, I recently resubscribed to Bicycling magazine. (Long story short: I'd been trying, vainly, to curb my rampant magaholism.) My first issue arrived with a rather anti-climactic main coverline ("Lance Rides Again: Why he can win"—or not as it turns out), but I still enjoyed the other lead feature, by Todd Balf, "My Family Gave Up Driving for 30 Days to Stick it to the Man".
At first I thought, "Big deal! One lousy month! My family has been car-free for going on nine years!" But Balf and his clan faced bigger obstacles to their experiment in low-carbon living. They live in a community (Beverly, Mass.) not especially conducive to biking (certainly not compared to Victoria, B.C.), in a climate (the U.S. Northeast) not as temperate as the Pacific Northwest. His wife has a long, complicated commute to work. And his kids are at that tween-ish age when they have lots of after-school activities at out-of-the-way locations.
It's easy enough to justify your own "inconvenience" of not operating a car. It's a lot harder—as I fear I will soon discover—when it means forcing social, and even educational, sacrifices upon your children
While the Balfs experienced a few bumps and scrapes along the way (and plenty of weird looks from other families), the story is an otherwise humorous recollection of their month of logging miles on two wheels rather than four. I was fascinated by the quiver of bikes the author used to entice his family into riding: an electric hybrid, an extend-a-bike, a single-speed, a fold-up bike, a tandem. And I was impressed with how many times he ended up cycling home, while ferrying one (or even two!) of his kids' bikes along with him, because they'd decided to catch a lift home with a coach or a friend.
In the end, the feature is an honest yet still inspiring account of the challenges (and rewards) of riding against the grain of a culture in love with the car—and one of the reasons I started subscribing to Bicycling in the first place.