LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News Vol 1 no 4 Summer 1993   ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Two Toddlers and No Car

by Sally Lewis

Sally Lewis is a town planner by profession - Thinking Globally and Acting Locally.

When we bought our house in Summer Hill (8 kilometres west of the city of Sydney) several factors were important to us. We loved the size of the house, even though it was a total wreck, and we wanted to be close to the railway station. Not only is the house close to the station, it is also close to shops, the bank, doctors, and so on. As we had had experience living in the suburbs of Campbelltown (50 kilometres south-west of the city of Sydney) where we relied heavily on our car, and also close to a rail station in Bankstown, we knew what a difference being close to transport and shops made. The full implications of our decision became obvious over the next few years when I had to manage with two small children and no car.

Shortly after moving to Summer Hill we sold our car. Our first child was still only eighteen months old and our second baby had just been born, our house was a mess and I definitely did not want to return to work. We found we just could not afford to run the car anymore. I had never liked driving, and in fact had not driven our car for about four months before we sold it, so it was no wrench for me. We were lucky - my husband leased a new, comfortable car from his employer which we did have access to, but only after work hours.

After the car was gone we felt terribly relieved. We did not have to worry about it breaking down or crashing or filling it with petrol or paying the rego or insurance. In our precarious financial position this feeling was wonderful.

I began to make use of all the facilities within a two year olds walking distance from home. I shopped at the local centre, we went to the doctor directly across the road from our house, we used the local hairdresser, the local bank, the baby health clinic two doors down and the accountant on the corner. I took the children to the local community centre for Playgroup and dance class. I joined local women's groups and Nursing Mothers. I regularly visited the local park. As a result, all of the friends my children and I made were living within our local area.

If an event was important we always found that there was someone who would be happy to give us a lift, and my neighbours occasionally lent me their car. Sharing cars like this makes good sense, and if carried out on a larger scale would have benefits for the environment and people's bank accounts. I did try to reciprocate in the evenings or on weekends whenever possible.

As you can imagine, there were things that I could not do with two babies and no car. For example, weekly expeditions for fruit and vegetable shopping are now done by my husband on his way home from work or during his lunch hour. I don't go running around paying bills but instead pay by mail or by phone and then reimburse my Bankcard at the local autobank (a one minute walk away). I can't go to the supermarket every week so we rely on the local butcher for our day to day food needs. We may get to Franklins every four to six weeks, when we stock up on cleaning goods, dairy products and dry goods. Because we are not exposed to a lot of the goodies at the supermarket or mall, we don't buy, saving money and the planet, too, I suppose. There are some social events that the children and I have missed out on, and we have not been able to take the kids to all sorts of classes held during the week outside of the local area. Some friends, classes and destinations have just had to wait until the weekend.

I can honestly say that I do not feel like I have missed out on anything. The children have lots of friends nearby that they can visit easily, without the need for elaborate arrangements or long travelling times. They have gone to Playgroup with the same children that they go to Kindy with, similar to growing up in a country town. We have had many extra hours of time together that might have been spent shopping, running errands, or in the car. All this and we have the satisfaction of knowing that we are supporting local business and community activities, and protecting the environment.

A big contributor to my satisfaction with our lifestyle without a car is the nature of the area we have decided to live in. Its high density means that activities are close enough to walk to  something we could not manage to do in Campbelltown. Also, our area is full of families with small children like ours, so there are good facilities and family orientated facilities nearby. I have not missed the opportunity to try lots of different doctors, shops, Playgroups, Kindergartens or schools because I've always been happy with what is locally available.

I am now working part-time and we could afford to run a car, but we don't really find it necessary. I don't think we will ever own a car again. As my children have grown older and needed to travel further afield to activities such as swimming they have also become old enough to travel safely in a taxi. Using taxis once or twice a week is still cheaper than buying and running a car. My kids really enjoy going on trips on the bus, train or ferry, and I believe their familiarity with public transport will result in them being more independent as they grow older.

Living without a car and with small children is possible in the right area, and, for us, has resulted in a more relaxed pace of life and a beneficial sense of belonging to a community.

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