We live in a pretty good place for living the car-free life. The kids know that they should expect to be car-free as they grow up here, and thereafter as long as it makes sense for them. So we feel like it is our duty to help them learn–early–how to get around using bikes, the bus, BART, and various other systems in place here.
We got a big head start on this when my parents came to visit last spring. They didn't rent a car. We still made every day an adventure with them, carting ourselves and all 5 kids on BART, bus, Rail, Muni–you name it. We got lost in the city and hoofed it, too, more than once. After their week-long visit, we felt ready for anything. We decided it was time to turn the older kids loose.
It didn't happen very quickly, and in fact it is still happening. There have been setbacks. It's hard to teach them new routes because for now I feel like I should accompany them once before I let them go it alone, and that means having someone else watch the littles or taking them all with me (and back).
Last week we had a major fail when the two got into an argument and subsequently became separated from one another in the BART station. One came home, the other asked for help, but both were looking for each other and scared out of their wits. In the end all was well, thank God. I guess this was a good kind of scare, where no one was hurt but everyone learned a hearty lesson.
Once of the major advantages to our location is proximity to BART. Karl and I usually buzz one station over on date nights, happy to have a glass of wine without worrying about driving home. Tristan and some friends have used BART to get to plays downtown. But the biggest and most regular trip the kids are learning is the trip to their fencing club. With a fencing-0obsessed family comes many fencing classes and tournaments, and I am glad to be building systems that reduce my driving time.
Local folks should look into getting their kids reduced-rate clipper cards. It took a bit to figure out and apply, but now they have cards that look like and load like any other but are only charged the child or teen rate on the bus and train.