Douglas Bay, Isle of Man Photo Credit: Jim Weir
Winter at 54.5 degrees north of the equator means some short days and long nights. The longest day this summer was 17 hours and the shortest this winter will be 7 hours and 20 minutes. Dramatic windy and wet storms have rolled in several times this fall (see photo above) and I was caught out in a light shower of hail the other week.
We are feeling a strong urge to hibernate.
We are also feeling the downside to not having a car.
The truth is that while Douglas, Isle of Man is quite walkable it is not as convenient as our former neighbourhood in downtown Vancouver. It’s a good 25 minute walk each way into town from our flat on the Promenade. The closest indoor play area is a 20 minute walk away. Even most of our play date friends are a good 20-30 minutes away. We love our ocean view and the proximity to Chris’ work (a 12 minute walk) but we pay for it with some distance from friends and amenities.
Obviously it would be more convenient to get a car for the winter.
But we’re holding out. Chris thinks I will be the deciding factor. He figures he will still walk to work most of the winter and grab a cab on exceptionally wet and windy days. I’m the one out and about during the day and if it gets to be too much, if the rain cover on our stroller, my knee high wellies and my Mac rain jacket aren’t enough cover to get us out in bad weather, we might get a car.
But I hope not.
The beach is across the street for afternoon fresh air and exploring. Henry gets out and plays with other children at least 3-5 times a week. I connect with adults during the day at least 2-3 times in the week with more outings/visits on the weekend. I know that we’re happiest with a balance of social engagements, one or two drop in classes and activities a week and quiet time at home. The question is if we will start skipping those outside the home activities because the weather is just too daunting.
I’m also trying to use the bus more. There is a stop just across the street and for a pound we can be in town in under ten minutes (and stay mostly dry).
The real cost of not having a car.
We’ve actually made no effort to cut corners or put limits on transportation spending here. If it’s made sense to get a cab we have. If we want to take a bus to Peel (very cute town a thirty minute drive away) we do it. My mom just visited for a week and we paid for her taxi to and from the airport. This is not an exercise in deprivation but rather a lifestyle choice. We like all the perks of not having a car. And 95% of the time we walk. It’s our preferred mode of transportation.
Here’s what we have spent on transportation since arriving in the Isle of Man five months ago. This doesn’t include bus fare to the airport for our family trip to Dublin or my trip to Toronto (we take that $ out of our vacation/travel spending account).
Total: £380 ($609 USD or CDN)
Monthly Average: £76 ($121 USD or CDN)
Included in that total is £100 GBP for train passes (which were actually a gift from my MIL) and £40 for horse tram passes. The rest was spent on buses, cabs and a few train trips before we got our season passes. Not included is the £3-£5 a week we spend on grocery delivery. We could include that but… I think I would get grocery delivery even if we did have a car. Everyone else I know on the island that uses grocery delivery (mostly expats that rave about it) has a car but like the ease and convenience of online grocery shopping and delivery.
What would a car cost us? I’m not sure (which means I don’t want to do a lot of math right now). What I do know is that gas here is £1.45/litre which for US readers would be $8.76/gallon (quick check says the US average is around $3.74/gallon) and for Canadian readers it would be $2.36/litre (quick check shows a big range in gas prices in Canada but I saw an average of $1.24/litre).
Those fuel numbers alone make me think we are doing just fine with our bus, cab and train costs.
As with most of our lifestyle changes I am loathe to say this is forever. It’s not. It’s for now and it works and when it doesn’t work for us anymore we will come up with a new plan.
Could the new plan involve a bike? Maybe.
Car-free isn’t for everyone but car-lite could be.
I connected with Stacy from A Simple Six a few weeks ago. I was immediately fascinated by their journey to reduce their vehicle use. This is a family of six with four children ranging in age from 2 to 9. In the spring of 2011 they decided to go car-lite and sell their car, keep the family van, and invest in a fleet of bikes. They bike as a family to school and haul groceries home with a trailer. They drive their van about 20 miles a week.
This is doable. For a lot of people.
It’s not easy, it’s taken a lot of strategy and trial and error, but they are making it work and, most importantly, enjoying it. As a family they have created a schedule that allows the kids to still have play dates and take classes. Stacy even takes her kids to dentist appointments (on Halloween no less!) by bike.
If you’re considering giving up your second car or only car head over and have a read at A Simple Six. They even detail cycled, bus and driving mileage for the week on their blog. Inspiring stuff.
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