I've been enjoying reading about one Mum's attempt to go car-free for a week in North London. She's chronicled her struggle against the default option of taking the car, and highlighted the mental switch required. But there's also the environment to deal with - although the two are inter-related, with the choices made about schools and activities rather profoundly shaping your transport options.
All of which makes me realise how lucky we are - living fairly happily as a 4 person car-free household. We would love a car for getting out of the city and exploring more, especially when we have visitors, but in our day to day activities, we're not suffering.
From our home to the nearest public pool is under a 1/2 mile., the nearest public library is only 1/4 mile away. School is 3/4 mile, even if it is up hill, and nursery is a pleasant 1/2 mile stroll (although we did spend 3 years doing a 6 mile roundtrip to the eldest's nursery...). Our longest regular journey is 2 miles to dance classes - most of which is along the canal. The spanner in the works tends to be unpredictable things like birthday parties - especially from the nursery kids who seem to come from miles around.
But unlike subversive suburbanite we rarely agonize about our transport choices, which makes it easier. The kids know that if we have to get somewhere, they have to saddle up - they've never known anything different. I've not yet had had to force them kicking and screaming on to the bike - despite seeing too many parents struggling to strap kids into their car seats.
If we're going into town, we get a bus and if the weather's really vile - gale force winds for instance -- we'll call a cab, but that's pretty rare. It helps that other parents are very kind about offering lifts when needed, but also that I don't think we're seen as particularly unusual. We're certainly not the only family in the area without a car, and even those who do have one often choose not to use it.
If it really were difficult to live without a car, we'd probably have buckled down, sorted our licences and joined the car club. But when the inconveniences only surface once or twice a year, and the benefits are manifold, it's actually pretty easy to stay car-free.