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Why this Toronto family of four ditched their car for good

Alex and his wife Joanie Gringas sold their seven-year-old trusty grey Toyota Yaris and now rely on the cargo bike to tote around the two kids, bags of groceries and whatever else they need.

Joanie Gingras, Alex Nolet and their two daughters Florence Nolet, 2, and Chlo�, nine months, replaced their car with a cargo bike that fits both kids.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Joanie Gingras, Alex Nolet and their two daughters Florence Nolet, 2, and Chlo�, nine months, replaced their car with a cargo bike that fits both kids.

Two-year-old Florence Nolet pulls on a bright yellow Schwinn helmet as she settles into her special seat on the family's cargo bike.

"She's got to have her helmet. It's not us who tells her; she knows," says dad Alex with a laugh.

Florence and her baby sister Chloé are getting used to their new ride. They've had it since July, but just last week their parents decided to lose the family car for good.

Alex and his wife Joanie Gringas sold their seven-year-old trusty grey Toyota Yaris and now rely on the cargo bike to tote around the two kids, bags of groceries and whatever else they need.

Nolet, a road-safety engineer, said losing the car while raising two young kids has made life more complicated, but their daughters are also the reason they wanted to ditch it.

"For me, the main thing is to show a different lifestyle to the girls," he said. "You can be active even when you're getting from point a) to point b), which is kind of different than what we've been doing for the last 50-60 years."

The couple takes the girls on short trips, no more than five kilometres, using side streets to be as safe as possible. They also use a car share about once every two weeks and have their own regular bikes for getting to work.

They're still on the hunt for a baby-size helmet for nine-month-old Florence but have had trouble finding one that fits her.

Despite the upfront price of these kinds of bikes — they retail at Curbside Cycle for about $3,000 — Nolet said they're saving lots of money on car maintenance and insurance every month.

Gringas said she doesn't miss the car yet but admits it's only been a week.

"Now we need diapers, so we'll have to plan," she said. "I'm still a bit wary of this in the winter, but I think it will be OK."

It was a long process, said Nolet, to switch four wheels for two. It started with moving closer to transit, from Etobicoke to near the Donlands subway stop.

So far the reaction has been "awesome" from people who see them passing by, and Florence loves to wave from her perch.

While it might be too early to call it a trend, Aaron Enchin, a manager of Bloor Street W. bike shop Curbside Cycle said they've seen "quite a bit of an uptick" in mostly downtown families wanting to give up their cars for a cargo bike over the last couple of years.

"Parking's a challenge, driving anywhere is a challenge and insurance is expensive — and it just makes economical sense, even if you're spending a bit more up front," he said.

At the shop they import a lot of models from Northern Europe, where they're so ordinary they're "almost as interesting as a toaster," Enchin explained.

Nolet said they might have to go back to car living when the girls are a bit older and doing things like playing sports across town, but for now, it's working.

It also helps them squeeze in workouts, which they had less time for after having kids.

"Going up a hill on this thing, it's not easy," added Nolet with a laugh.

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