I suppose this title may not be completely accurate, but I wanted to analyze my dear friends here in Copenhagen a bit. The family I am staying with here moved from Seattle last summer for a job opportunity with the World Health Organization. It has been fun staying in this nice neighborhood filled with embassy employees and ambassadors, and just five train stops away from the city centre.
I am always curious about how people's travel behavior changes when their environment is altered, so I thought it would be fun to document some of my observations and quotes from the family. I think the Merchants are a fine example of how an American family can completely change their travel habits when placed in a new community with great integrated transport. Just like many Americans — they are a family of five, juggle sports and activities schedules among the three kids, like to travel on the weekends, saw the need to have two cars and a motorcycle to get around Tacoma, and have more Starbucks mugs that anyone I know (even one with the original mermaid logo). And now this family is living in Copenhagen with no private car and a garage filled with bicycles!
Perhaps it is Denmark's 180% tax on car purchases that deterred them from getting a car here; or maybe it wasnt worth the hassle to ship their cars oversees; but it seems to be that they simply didnt see the need to have a private automobile.
I found this fascinating and asked each member of the family their thoughts on living car-free:
Robb (parent) — Hated being so dependent on their cars in Tacoma but felt that it was too difficult to do things like grocery shopping without one. Says if they move back to America that living somewhere where they dont need a car would be a priority.
Julie (parent) — Loves the fact that all the walking she does as part of her daily routine keeps her in great shape! Walking Julian to school and walking to the grocery store are just two things that she does car-free now.
Garrett (15 years old) — Despite the freedom of mobility that the trains give him, he wishes they did have a car so that he could haul around large objects instead of walking with them. Though his mother says he never complains about it — and since you cant get your license until age 18, all of his peers also ride the train everywhere.
Nicole (13 years old) — Really enjoys not owning a family car. Not having a bike in Tacoma, she loves toting around Cupid (her pug) in the front basket of her new, metallic-pink bicycle.
Julian (7 years old) — While sitting on the S-Tog tonight with Julian I asked him if he missed having a car to which he replied, I like riding the train. I am going as a supervisor on his class field trip to Dyrehavn tomorrow, and all the kids will be boarding the train to get there.
I think the Merchants are a great success story for transportation and land use planners!
This article is part of the Exploring Transportation in Europe series.