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Family of four thrives with One Less Car

When it is NOT raining, it is a little easier to imagine getting around like this family does. But read on, by the time this story is finished; you might decide it is the Way to Go.

A preschooler asking, “Mommy, why can’t we ride a bike to school like those guys?” as you arrive to school with your two kids on the back of your Xtracycle…getting smiles when you ride the bus with your three and five year-old daughters…losing ten pounds from biking with those cute kids on that Xtracycle. These are just a few of the benefits that Kari and husband Akwetee have enjoyed since selling their second car in the City of Seattle’s One Less Car Challenge.

Kari, Akwetee, and their two daughters recently completed their year in the One Less Car Challenge—a City program to encourage Seattleites to drive less and bike, walk, and use transit more often. Participants sell a car, commit to live with one less car for a year, and receive hundreds of dollars in incentives. Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) provides participants with $200 in gift certificates to buy transit passes or REI gear, ZipCar provides use of their car share vehicles, and Cascade Bike Club and the Bike Allianceprovide a free annual membership. Other incentives include a $100 discount from Tiny’s Organic Produce.

Kari found that shedding a car also provides significant ongoing benefits: “We’ve noticed how much money we’re saving on insurance and gas.” (AAA says the typical car costs about $7,000 per year to own and operate.) “We also have less stress with fewer cars to maintain.”

Kari uses a mix of biking and busing, while Akwetee “is the real bike enthusiast.” Two times each week he bikes from their home in Ravenna to his job at Boeing—a forty-mile round trip. While some of Akwetee’s colleagues had written off bike commuting because they live more than ten miles from work or face a big hill on their way home, Akwetee’s bike commute has given some of them food for thought.

Kari admits that there are challenges when a family gives up a second car. “When both drivers have a car, it’s easy to just jump in the car for every trip. When you first start with one less car, there are initial hurdles to overcome, and sometimes it feels like you have too many choices. ‘Should I take the bike or bus? Should I set up a carpool to school?’ You’ve got to be patient and open-minded. After about a week or so, you’ve figured out your new pattern.”

“Overall, the experience has been great. We are encouraged to bike, walk, and use transit to get places we once drove. There are now days when our only car sits outside our house all day.”

Now that their one year commitment to the City program has ended, Kari and Akwetee are still committed to having one car. They have reduced their carbon footprint; saved money and are less stressed.  Even when it does rain, many cyclists find it is kind of like cross country skiing; once you get started, you are warm and it feels good to be outside.

So if your kids ever ask, “Why can’t we ride a bike to school?”, maybe your answer can be, “Why not?”