Bikes · Car Free

Bikiversary

Long time, no update, but as you’ll see from this post there has been a lot going on in our lives.

The Packster turned 1 year old back in May. I put ~3500 miles on the first engine (before the replacement due to the light/wiring malfunction) and had put >600 on the new engine, for a total of more than 4000 miles in that first year (and nearly 5k now). It cost us ~$6k to buy, no small amount, but has saved us at least $1000 compared to me driving to work, and much more when other costs are factored in. Things have changed a lot this year and we’ve got more changes yet to come but we’re still totally in love with the bike. Our lives have become better as a result of having it.

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Flashback to a year ago when we brought it home.

Over the last year we’ve:

Learned to get all over Seattle by bike: There are still a few places we haven’t been (Upper Queen Anne comes to mind) but we’ve visited most corners of the city by bike, even going outside the city to places like Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, Lynnwood, and Vashon. As newcomers it’s really helped us feel more connected to the city. I’m grateful to the Seattle Family Biking group for helping to make that possible with route suggestions and meet ups. This process of learning to get around involves a lot of mental labor and there were times early on where it was easy to want to fall back to using a car. Having that group of friends to ask for advice really helped us push through. Now we’re so used to getting everywhere by bike that trying to get places by car is the mentally taxing option!

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Participating in the Emerald City Ride, which gave us the chance to ride the viaduct before it gets torn down. H regularly asks to “ride in the street the way you do” now that she’s getting more confident on her bike.

Gotten a job: T already had one, but I got a full time job that started in January. My work offers an inexpensive transit pass and bike parking in the (very small) parking garage but does not offer car parking for most employees. This made it extra easy for biking to be the obvious choice for my commute. Biking also helped us find childcare. Through the Seattle Family Biking group I’d made friends with a biking nanny who has been watching our kids since I started work. I don’t have to worry about whether the kids are being put into their car seats correctly but they’ve still gotten to go do things all over the city while with her. It was a great transition for Little T, who had been home with me for over a year, and it meant H has been able to keep attending her preschool, minimizing the disruption for her. Also, since the nanny’s child is one of her best friends she’s gotten to spend a ton of time with one of her favorite playmates. The arrangement just recently ended because we’ve both moved but it was pretty much the best arrangement I could have imagined for making my return to work an easy transition for our family.

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Much of my current commute is on “protected” bike lanes. Unfortunately, Seattle has a long way to go to actually make these routes as safe as they should be and this type of situation is a frequent occurrence on my route.

Added another bike: As mentioned, we ended up doubling down on the biking thing and adding another cargo bike to the mix so that T would be able to pick up or drop off children as well as I could once I started working. This let us stagger our schedules a bit so we could minimize how much childcare we needed, one of the factors that made it possible for me to go back to work (childcare in Seattle is $$$).

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Compared to the Packster the Load looks petite. The kids have nicknamed it the “baby bike”.

Gotten involved in biking advocacy: I didn’t really see this as something I’d be doing, but here I am. I’ve taken on a role on the board of Familybike Seattle, started leading Kidical Mass rides on occasion, and even helped organize and led a ride in support of upgraded bike infrastructure on 35th Ave NE (go see Safe35th to learn more about this issue). It’s hard sometimes to fit this in with kids and work but this is worth dedicating my time to. The more I ride in the city the more I realize that bikes are GOOD for cities. And people. Seattle is a much better place to bike than most of the places I’ve lived in the past (especially Orlando) but it’s stalled lately. We need to push for continued progress. And we need to help get families who want to be biking onto bikes.

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Holding Little T and getting everyone ready to ride 35th

Sold our car: Within a few days of bringing home the Load, we sold our car. It’s now been almost 5 months and I can’t say we’ve missed it. We do technically have access to the car my brother owns but we’ve only rarely made use of it (<1/month). I’ve only taken a couple of Lyft rides, instead usually opting for bike share or the bus if I can’t take my bike. And we’ve only used car share twice thus far. Day to day things go pretty smoothly with bike commuting and we’ve had many longer adventures by bike on the weekends.

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I’ve used these more than I anticipated. Sometimes it’s great to be able to leave my bike somewhere else and know there will be a bike share bike I can use. Still kinks in the system but on the whole I’ve been impressed with the utility.

Bought a house: This is the biggest. I’ve moved 17 times since I turned 18. Settling down here in Seattle is a *really* big deal for us. Buying a house in the Seattle area is not easy. Or, honestly, fun. Buying a house was the single biggest lesson in privilege I’ve ever had and I have many complicated thoughts about the entire thing related to that that I am not going to get into right now. I really wanted us to stay on the north side but the market in Seattle didn’t really allow for silly things like restricting our search to a particular half of the city. We bid on a lot of houses, across the city, and were ridiculously outbid on them all. We also considered many areas outside the city. We considered places that would have required us to buy cars but the prices on the houses were not low enough to make it worthwhile given the added cost of having the car(s). We also considered a number of options for living outside the city without needing to get a car. The final contenders in that category were Bremerton, Vashon Island, and Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge ended up excluded because it’s too expensive for us to afford with it being located in Kitsap county (due to cutoffs for types of mortgages that vary by county). Bremerton eventually got ruled out because the normal ferry is too long (1 hour + our commute time on either side) and the fast ferry doesn’t allow ebikes (among other absolutely absurd restrictions that make is clear whoever decided on the bike rules/rack design has never ridden a bike in the PNW). That left us with Vashon as a place to look in addition to Seattle. Vashon is tiny (in terms of population) and so housing supply is even lower than Seattle and we honestly didn’t expect to find much. But we lucked out one weekend and found 2 appropriate houses in our price range. We ended up bidding on both. We lost the first but much to our surprise had our offer accepted on the second. We closed a few months ago and finally moved out completely in mid-June.

So now we’ve moved to Vashon. It was a rather long process for us because lease rules for our Seattle rental and childcare plans that were already in place meant that we couldn’t complete the move for a couple of months after closing. In the meantime we living in two places, splitting time as best we could and preparing the kids for yet another move. The upside was that it gave us time to figure out what the move meant for our transportation setup. My commute before was ~40 minutes, entirely by bike. From Vashon it’s a 20 minute bike ride to the ferry terminal, then a 25ish min ride on the water taxi to downtown Seattle, then a bike ride to daycare for Little T and then to my work. The Packster is not water taxi friendly and the Load works but it’s tight and difficult to maneuver in the space available onboard the boat. So we ordered a GSD and are eagerly waiting for it to be assembled. It’s small enough to fit very nicely on the water taxi and will still have the climbing power I need for the hills on either side (I climb Capitol Hill on the Seattle side and the first mile off the ferry in Vashon is a 400+ ft climb. It really is uphill both ways, thank goodness it doesn’t snow much). The GSD will also be able to carry both kids when needed and will give us a more car rack and light rail friendly cargo bike option when we need it. Currently we aren’t planning to sell the Packster because we see it still being very useful for a lot of car-replacement things on the island (I hauled 5 bags of mulch home one weekend) and for bike camping. Time will tell if we use it enough to make it worth it.

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The best part of bringing mulch home by bike is delivering it directly to the part of the yard you need it in.

Given how recently we sold our car we’re more committed than I expected to staying car free after the move. Part of this is because now that the car is gone it’s much easier to see all the costs that come with owning one. Part is because taking the ferry with the car is a stressful and time consuming process compared to taking it on foot or by bike. But an important portion is that living without a car has changed the way we see ourselves and our city and we don’t really want to go back. It might be a few months before we end up buying one. It might be years. I do know that whenever we do go back to it it will be with a very different view on cars and our culture’s focus on them.

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