Could you go car-free?  An Ottawa family is doing just that, and blogging about their experience to encourage others. Ian and Heather Thomson and their two young daughters have been living car-free for years.  Their decision took hold in 2003 when the couple, then childless, was living in Toronto and using a car was expensive and difficult.

“When we had our first daughter Miriam in Toronto,” recalls Heather, “people said “oh you need to get a car when you have a child” and we thought maybe but decided to see how it went.”

   When the Thomsons moved to Ottawa, though, they decided to try to stick to their car-free lifestyle even when little Sylvia was born.  Sylvia is now 2 and Miriam is 6 and both are accustomed to life without a car.

“Part of our choice of where to live was decided by a walkable neighbourhood,” says Ian Thomson, “where things easily accessible on bicycle, with walking, good transit service.”

The Thomsons settled in Ottawa’s Westboro neighbourhood.  In good weather, they walk or bike the kids to school before they continue on to work.  On cold days like today, they bus.

The girls have a particular bus driver they’re anxious to see and he greets them by name as they come on the bus.

“Good morning, how are you, Miriam.”

It’s a thrill for 6 year old Miriam. 

“Because there’s a nice bus driver,” she says. Mom Heather says it is all part of the experience they would not get in a car.

“When you're on the bus, walking places, biking, the journey is part of the fun, part of the adventure of getting there,” says Heather.

The Thomsons are so thrilled with their experience; they have started blogging about it a couple of months ago.

“We started the “Car Free Quartet” blog in order to share some of our experiences and encourage other families that have gone car free or are thinking of strategies to live a little more car light,” says Ian.

Owning a car isn't cheap, according to the Canadian Automobile Association. Fuel, maintenance, insurance all add up to between $10-thousand to 13-thousand a year.   If you work downtown as the Thomsons do, you may need to tack on another $200 a month for parking. It’s also costly to the environment of course.  One car produces about 13-thousand pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

But it is not an easy sell asking people to park their cars.

“I’m sorry but no, I need a car to live,” says one woman as she hustles through the Byward Market.

“It would never happen,” says another, “I can't live without my car.” 

The Thomsons are living proof that you can.  If they travel outside the city, they use the train or Virtucar. Within the city, they travel on foot, bus or bike to take the girls to their various activities from Highland dancing to gymnastics.

“I think it's changed where we shop, the places we go out to,” says Ian Thomson, “the kind of social activities we take in. It's a very local lifestyle.”

You can follow the Thomsons blog at .