This is a guest post from Steph Robinson a full time mum, part time worker in Auckland City Centre fringe.
I love my car but there must be a better way…
Goodbye long, long, long school holidays. I’m not bitter about our school having what seems to be an extra week off over other schools. But school – my kids really (yes really) need you back in their lives, for the sake of sanity for all mums, dads and other blessed caregivers.
Firstly, I want to commend my car for getting me through the early child life stages and the summer holidays. The ability to move faster and longer than walking distance at no notice, just marvel at the convenience and laziness of it all. It packs up humans and many, many possessions that I could ever want or need in one space. No physical muscles required (apart from lifting things and small people and a heavy right foot), almost endless audio entertainment along with snacks and insulated beverages to go, go, go.
With all this holidaying and less people on the road I seem to have temporary amnesia as to how busy our roads are. It all hits me like a bang! 22 minutes from Waterview to Nelson Street on the helpful traffic information board. That’s after a slower time getting to the motorway entry from my suburb of Glen Eden, then joining the crawling 1 person in vehicle queue lane on the on-ramp. We’ve all been there and some reading this still maybe there. It’s ok if you can handle it but – there must be another way and I’m in pursuit to find it.
PETROL FREE ALTERNATIVES?
Let’s start with the take-off of electric bikes and those retro foot powered ones. Wow, I like it – just watch them speed past the motorway queues. Actually, you could be on a kids scooter and still moving faster than cars at peak time. My husband tells me of the great satisfaction it gives him as he zooms through alongside the Western Motorway on his non-electric bike. It’s great for him but the distance and confidence on the road with these things is just not feasible for me. I’m also not sure about lumbering these things onto the train and finding space during those busy times.
It’s great! When it works as it should and bus/train timetable’s marry up like a horse and carriage I like it. But let’s face it when you’re committed to be at work for a certain time and for school pick up, well it’s a bit of a tight time gamble and leaves me not quite working my required hours. The school drop off and pickup times mean that I travel just outside of peak hours, so buses and trains are just not that frequent. The unforeseen cancellations also happen which lingers in the back of the mind only to breathe a sigh of relief when the actual train you catch will be arriving on time according to the digital real time display units.
Having said that I’m really up for embracing it and using it as much as I can, when I get the chance. While working during the holiday period and having Tim to look after the kids – the chance to just walk catch the train, grab a coffee with no school run to worry about was a luxury to me. As I only work 5 hours a day I can go and come back at my leisure and miss those busy times.
Now it’s getting a bit interesting for me. It’s something I’ve only just started considering with sight of Lime Scooters and travellers with their own e-versions around. Is this just grown-ups trying to be the cool kid again (if they were before) or is there something I’m missing? Well I’m now slowly realising I am missing something. It’s what’s known as a good first and last kilometre option. Commuters who want to cut out the hassle and boredom of walking to and from the station can have the fun on mini wheels. So if I can join this small wheel gang, combine it with the train travel and zip along the footpaths to my destination, it makes the option of trains come alive once again. To be honest I’ve not yet seen a mum do this. Please reader let me know if you do or know of anyone with this travelling habit. If you can make it work then it’s a great option.
And the downsides? Well I’ve discovered with all good electronically minded things there’s a bit of a price tag. That is if you want something well-built and a joy to ride. I’ve been doing my own research (thank you google) and have narrowed down some good lightweight-ish and not too much feel the bumpy path options. I’ve then gone about a North Shore tour of bike shops that stock the brands I’m interested in. So off I go, (wobbling to start with) around their car parks to try and work out the one I’m most comfortable with. Great fun! But I’m not sure I can justify the $2k for the one I’d be happy with. I’m also wary of weight and the clunkiness of folding them down for trains. So what else?
Turns out I’m keen to try something that actually requires mobility from me. So my current thought is a decent Micro kick scooter. The build quality is the same but take out that heavy battery and motor and you have an adults version of what kids enjoy riding for less than a quarter of the price. So it’s time to figure out if I can do this without breaking out too much of a sweat. Maybe walk the uphill part, enjoy the freewheeling downhills and casually punt along the flat.
So there you have it. I will update on my progress and in the meantime I’d love to hear from you commuting parents of young children. What are your options? If you are a car driver, what would make you leave the vehicle behind? I’m keen to leave the clogged motorway party – what about you?