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Leeds mums ditch their cars after challenge saw them go car-free for three weeks

Leeds families are giving up their cars after a taking part in a campaign which saw them go car free for three weeks.

Participants who took part in the Car Free Leeds campaign which ran for three weeks in February 2022 received a fee and all non-car travel costs paid for including: cycle hire, car club and e-scooter credits during the experiment.

A mum-of-three and a new mum are two of the people whose eyes have been opened to a new world of transport across the city.

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The campaign is run by Possible, a climate action organization in Leeds, and is designed to get people to question their travel habits.

Mum-of-three, Julia Kielty, from Skipton gave up her car for three weeks as part of the challenge – and is now planning to sell her vehicle and trade her husband’s to electric.

Emma Rice found going car free with her 5-month-old baby less stressful than driving

She said: “I wasn’t going to sign up at first, but it just seems that when policies are decided in Leeds that they’re not designed for families in mind and doesn’t consider busy parents’ lives.

“I thought this would be a good opportunity to get involved. It’s no good complaining about policies if you haven’t actually tried them – it was a way of actually trying it out and seeing if it would work.”

Julia has three children aged 15, 13 and 11 – she found the challenge “interesting” with children as she has to travel from East Leeds to North Leeds on the school run each day.

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She added: “It was interesting with children. My older two are at secondary school so have been catching the school bus full time – it has given them a bit more confidence and independence. It’s good that their first port of call isn’t mum and dad and they have a bus ticket so can get anywhere.

Julia said: “If at any point I would have struggled I wouldn’t have hesitated to use the car, but I didn’t struggle, I never used it. The weather made it a lot easier too. I managed to get an e -bike from the council and that was just a game changer so much so I have bought one, the kids use it now as well to go shorter distances.”

Julia claims she learned that buses are a nightmare during the campaign, she said: “I never want to be on another bus, they’re madness. “You can’t get direct buses and the few buses that don’t go into town aren’t frequent, it’s odd.”

Overall Julia said the opportunity was “really good” she claims she has found different transport options that she wouldn’t have ever know about. Although the family can’t cope with no car they are selling one of the family cars and have swapped the other to electric.

She said: “I feel that if it was just me I would be happy without a car, but as a family we just can’t. But my husband has just changed his car for an electric car which we are both going to use and I’m going to sell mine.

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Another mum who took part in the campaign, Emma, ​​from Armley agrees that although her family couldn’t give up their vehicle completely they will be reducing how much they use it and looking for more sustainable ways to travel.

Emma Rice, mum to a five-month-old, says she was “really interested” in taking part in the campaign after being sent the details by her mother.

She said: “I had only had a car for about one and a half years before the campaign, I realized how dependant I had become on it and though can I test myself on it and see if I can go back to not having one.

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“It was challenging at times, mostly because when I went anywhere with my baby I couldn’t just shove all of her stuff in the van, I was having to be a lot more organized and make sure I could carry everything.

“There was some little things I was worried about like having to feed her and change her – I fed her on the bus one day and I didn’t feel uncomfortable.

“I just ended up being extra organized which took a couple of minutes of extra time on a morning but it wasn’t that inconvenient – it meant I had less stuff on me a lot of time which wasn’t a bad thing.

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Emma’s biggest challenge was having to switch to a schedule, which made made become more on time – she claims she is usually running late. An issue she found is that the public transport in Leeds isn’t great, she said: “If I miss a bus I might be waiting for ages.”

She added: “When I have a car I do a lot more in one day, I have more freedom to do more – but actually it makes my life more stressful – without a car people have to come to me or meet in a mutual place instead and it made me really slow my life down and do one thing a day.

“Society is always running around, I just don’t think we should do so much. It made me a lot less stressed and I wasn’t stressed out from driving.

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Another positive from using public transport Emma found that her attention was more on her baby. She said: “When I’m traveling I can just sit back, let someone else drive and can interact with her.”

On the experiment overall Emma said: “I don’t think I can give the van up completely, but I 100% want to cut back. I could jump on a bike but my baby can’t but doing this has shown me it is possible to cut back.

“There was no rush hour, parking or paying for parking. Sometimes getting off a bus in the middle of town is so much easier.”

Emma also biked into Leeds city center a few times during the 3 week period, she said: “I felt safe on the bike tracks because they are separate from the traffic.”

She added: “I think its important research that the company have done, although some people struggled I do think its possible to make your life less stressful by not driving. The exercise is good too – I took the scenic routes it was just good getting off the road.”

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