Notes from Catherine Rowett, former Green Party MEP for East of England and deputy coordinator of the Eastern Region Green Party*(UK). Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Things useful for bringing up children without a car

Living in the city!

One important thing for the car-free family is to live in town, near a station and on a bus route, preferably a bus route that takes you to the station if it's not walking distance.

We've always lived on the wrong side of the city for the station. I suspect this isn't accidental, because the prices get higher and the quality of the housing goes down the nearer you are to the station.

The explanation of the poor quality of the housing is presumably because the station was a dirty smelly smoky place in the nineteenth century, and the only dwellings that grew up there were for the railway workers. I can think of some exceptions in the grand roads near Cambridge station, but over the railway bridge on Mill Road illustrates the phenomenon I have in mind.

The explanation of the high prices now is the London commuters, I presume.

So walking distance will probably need to be sacrificed if you aren't yourself one of those well-heeled London commuters. And that's not such a terrible sacrifice, because after all, you can easily afford to take a taxi to the station whenever there's too much luggage for cycling.

Many people think it's nice for the children to grow up in the country. But actually this is just putting a noose round your neck which will eventually strangle both you and the children, certainly by the time they become teenagers. What a child needs is a locality with lots of local friends, who play in the street or at each others' houses, and the freedom to come and go from School and from each others' houses without needing to have Mum come to fetch them. Unfortunately with today's small families, it's hard to find a neighbourhood with a sufficient concentration of children of the same age, but it's much more likely in a family neighbourhood in the city than anywhere else.

And one shouldn't be seduced by the thought that the house prices are cheaper in the country where there are no bus routes. Because (as I said before) the financial cost of running a car is far greater than you would suppose, besides the very considerable cost in happiness as a result of the lack of freedom and independence that it causes in your life and that of all the family.

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