21st Century Dad
One Dad's Thoughts, Ideas, and Feelings.
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Downsizing to 1 Car

September 10th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Illustration: Elliott Kim

One month ago, we made a family decision to downsize to one vehicle. We took inventory of our needs and our expenses, and it made sense to get rid of one car. I am glad to be free of life’s most inconvenient convenience.

We’re not disadvantaged with the lack of one car due to our circumstances. One parent stays at home with the baby and home-schools the older child. I’ve learned how to use public transit and I ride my bike whenever I can.

The prevailing attitude in South Florida is that a car is a necessity. The lack of a car would be a hindrance. I have not felt that hindrance. Did I miss the meeting? Did I not get that email? I’m supposed to feel stuck! Why has an overwhelming sense of liberation come over me?

  • I’m not a believer in multi-tasking, but this is as close as it gets. I’m getting recreation, exercise, and transportation at the same time.
  • Riding the bus gives me opportunities unavailable to me if I’m driving. Try reading or watching a video podcast while driving. Oh wait, this is South Florida. I wouldn’t be surprised if people did just that.
  • Riding the bus insulates me from the bad drivers. Everyone thinks the drivers in their city are the worst. South Florida drivers really are among the worst in the nation.
  • Riding my bike is a much more intimate interaction with the aforementioned bad drivers. I choose my bike routes accordingly. I’ve discovered some great scenery because I’ve had to find alternates to major thoroughfares.
  • I eliminated $600 of monthly expenditures.

My current work situation allows me to carpool with a friend of mine. Beer is cheaper than gas now, so I buy him a 12-pack once a week, and I even get to drink 2 or 3 of them.

Sarah Palin is keeping all you fact checkers very busy, so I’m going to save you some time. A 12-pack of Heineken works out to be about $9.70/gallon. Okay, so in Europe, I’d be right. However, the amount of gas I’d burn in one week commuting costs significantly more than the beer used to fuel our friendship.

The point is, (I find myself saying this a LOT to the resident teenager) there are alternatives to the automobile. My bitter and contested divorce from conventional wisdom has allowed me to explore the options I am currently using.

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Riding My Bike To Save Money

April 25th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad
Riding My Bike To Save Money
Illustration by Elliott Kim

I live in a neighborhood that allows me to accomplish errands on bicycle and has good access to public transit. It is something I have done intermittently in the past, but have recently stepped up my efforts. Even if gas prices weren’t where they are now, I would still look for opportunities to walk, ride my bike, or take public transit.

I have a spotty record as a crunchy eco-warrior, but I do what I can. In the days leading up to and since Earth Day, I have taken advantage of several opportunities to run some errands on my bicycle.

Frugal Dad is now a bicycle commuter. I did it a few times a week. I find it silly to get in my car for anything less than 2 miles away, unless I’m hauling a large volume of stuff. Some of the easy things I’m able to do on my bike include:

  • Picking up small items at the store
  • Go to the post office
  • Prescription drop off and pickup
  • Go to the library
  • Pick up movie rentals at Blockbuster

There are times when we do need to run out to the store for just one item. These are the times when a bike ride is ideal. It does take a little longer, but you’re supposed to be fitting exercise into your day, right? Why not double-dip and accomplish both tasks?

When I maintained a gym membership, I found one close to home. I biked the 4 miles each way. The 30 minutes it takes to ride my bike to and from the gym was my cardio workout. If I drove, that was 20 minutes that I was accomplishing nothing toward my fitness goals. I combined part of my workout and travel to and from the gym. This is a case where the slower form of transportation saves time.

It’s not easy to be a bicyclist in South Florida. The suburban landscape is on a scale more appropriate for cars. Anything smaller than a Ford Taurus is invisible to most drivers. Drivers here are bad about yielding to pedestrians and cyclists. If motorists aren’t watching out for you, then you need to take care of yourself on the road:

  • Wear a helmet (I know, I need to take my own advice).
  • DO NOT listen to an MP3 player while cycling. If you absorb only one piece of information from this article, make it this one point. Your ears are like another set of eyes. If you are riding in the street, you are technically operating a motor vehicle and bound by the same laws as automobile operators. Listening to headphones is expressly forbidden while operating a motor vehicle in many, if not all states.
  • If you ride in the evening, you must have a headlight for the front and a light on the back. Check with the laws in your state or municipality. I know it’s the law in Florida.
  • Wear light colored clothing. You’re only slightly less invisible. You get bonus points for wearing a reflective vest and a safety blinker.
  • Do not let items hang from the handlebars. If you are doing your grocery shopping on bike, invest in a set of panniers and a cargo rack.
  • Ensure your bicycle is in good working order. Inspect it before every trip.

There are downsides to cycling too, but the benefits are realized quickly, sometimes instantly. I feel great knowing that I’m taking care of myself and our planet.

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