Imagine a world where gas prices have only a marginal impact on your family budget, fresh air and exercise are intrinsic to your daily routine and the morning traffic report does not apply to you.

A lifestyle based on alternative transportation requires certain preconditions.  Sidewalks are integral to walking, especially with young children.  Accessible public transit routes are certainly useful.  And, unless you are training for a descent down the champs d’elysees, a certain geographic proximity to where you need to go is a must.  While I used to dream of a two acre property on the outskirts of town, complete with a 4000 square foot home, riding lawn mowers and inground swimming pool, I now realize that this arrangement leaves one trapped in a never-ending abyss of mortgage payments, rising gas prices, and chained to life as a chauffeur mom.  Instead, I hope to instill in my children the importance of an active lifestyle and empower them with means to travel even before they obtain their drivers licenses.

Tess' jogging stroller is our favourite set of wheels

One of the most popular posts on matriarcade to date has been The Quality Time Commute (January 2010) and I am thankful that parents are sharing their stories related to alternative transportation.  I have heard tales about parents opting to walk or wear their young children to visit friends and family.  Others have acquainted themselves with their local transit system and carted their kids along for the ride.  And one crusader – my inspiration – gets his son to daycare on snowy days by strapping skis to his Chariot and gliding across snow-covered bike paths.  These stories have been truly inspiring, and I feel compelled to continue this discussion by sharing my own commuting plans once I return to work this spring.

Going carless has required some careful planning, particularly in selecting a daycare for Tess.  While safety and comfort with our daycare provider topped our selection criteria, being without a car made location of central importance in our search.  I traced the most direct route to my workplace at city hall and began the search to find daycares along this path.  I interviewed several providers noting (along with their menus, program and facilities) proximity to my preferred work route and access to local bus routes.  As luck would have it, I found a wonderful woman to care for Tess a half a block off my route, 5km from our home and less than 2km from city hall.

The scenario has opened a world of commuting options.  The first option makes good use of my jogging stroller: the 15 minute walk from work to daycare provides a great warm up for the 5km trek from daycare to our home.  Or, if I’m feeling less ambitious, I can put Tess in her baby carrier and take public transit since our daycare is located on two bus routes including our own.

I also want to make the foray into cycling with kids and buy a bike seat for Tess this spring.  Granted, I am apprehensive about traffic and may reluctantly stick to the sidewalk on the busy stretch of the route.  I am also mindful that cycling won’t be an option if and when I become pregnant again.  Though I know other women who have done it with no problems, I am clumsy at the best of times, never mind when I’m pregnant and off-balance.  Particularly if I’m with Tess, I’ll have to rely on other ways to get around.  But I hope that cycling will be a mainstay in our transportation repertoire as long as I’m not pregnant and my kids are old enough to sit on their own.

My newest obsession is the Madsen cargo bike (pictured under Minivan Redefined).  Once we have our second child I am adamant that this will be our new family vehicle and my primary mode of transportation to daycare and work.  Imagine how this invention – or any other form of ‘kid friendly’ cargo bike – could change a family’s life from a traffic obsessed, drive thru bound crew of malcontents to freewheeling members of the cycle nation, just like the chic carefree woman pictured pedaling her daughter across town.  If the image horrifies you, rest assured that the bucket comes equipped with seat belts and helmets are mandatory for my family.

This is my draft transportation master plan and, truth be told, devising this scheme has helped me cope with the thought of returning to work.  As excited as I am about returning to my job, I know that there will be days when I miss Tess so much that I will lock myself in my office and sob hysterically.  I find solace in our mode of travel: I can get to Tess quickly regardless of traffic or car trouble, expose her to the benefits of being outside and make the most of every minute we have together.

Who knew that rethinking how we get from A to B would have such a profound impact on our quality of life?

How do you get around?  Join the discussion and share your transportation master plan….

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