Car-free family life in Waltham Forest

Lizzie's partner and children
Published: 21 May 2024
Filed under: Stories of the Forest

In June, climate charity Possible is challenging everyone to take on the Going Car Free Challenge - swapping out a car journey (or multiple journeys!) for walking, cycling, kick-scooting or public transport instead. 

When you sign up, you'll be entered into a prize draw.

To find out more and sign up to the challenge, check out Possible's website at the link below.

Waltham Forest resident Lizzie spoke to us about how she and her partner make family life work without a car. 

“I live in Leytonstone with my partner, Aarash, and our two children, aged seven and five. We’re both doctors – Aarash works at Whipp’s Cross in respiratory medicine and I work at the Royal London Hospital in Paediatrics.  

We moved to Leytonstone before our children were born, and we’ve never owned a car while living in London. I wanted to describe our life without a car, in the hope that more families might consider ditching theirs. I know a lot of families don’t own a car, either by choice or due to financial restrictions. However, in Waltham Forest 58% of households own at least one car or van, and London-wide that figure goes up with greater income. When people have children, they are much more likely to own a car. 

I’ll outline our average week. One of us drops the kids at school in the morning, on foot, and we both cycle to work (though I often leave my bike at the tube station!). When we’ve worked at hospitals further afield, in Chelmsford or Romford, we’ve taken bikes on the train or just used public transport.  

We walk or cycle to swimming or piano lessons on two days after school and make sure we have good wellies and raincoats in the winter. On weekends we have lots of options: the W19 bus to Wanstead Park, the overground to Barking Splash Park or Hampstead Heath, the 97 to the Feel Good Centre or the Fellowship Square Foundation, the 97 or cycle to the Olympic Park, or the tube into central London or out to Epping forest.  For weekends away, our lovely neighbours often let us borrow their car and we use pay-as-you-go car insurance. Otherwise, we hire a car, making use of car-sharing apps, which have proved easy and cost about £120 for the weekend. We store the children’s car seats at home. 

There are also great options for car-free weekends away and day trips. Margate, Ramsgate, Whitstable and Southend are all easy to get to by train from Stratford if we fancy some sea air or rollercoasters!

Being car-free can help to make you more active in your daily life. Even the short walks to the bus stop or tube are something! Our children are now just getting old enough that we can take them on quiet roads on their bikes, with both of us supervising, and we make use of separated cycle lanes – we can get all the way to the Olympic Park on car-free paths.  

For us, being car-free has meant being healthier, free of the responsibility and hassle of a car, more resourceful, more connected to the local area, and maybe even better off financially. You’re also doing something to improve the environment and the wellbeing of people in Waltham Forest and beyond.” 

Lizzie and her children on the DLR