Parent Spotlight: Josh Rudow

A big motivation [for switching to an electric cargo bike] was climate change. We wanted to not only decrease our carbon footprint but also inspire others to do the same.

The part that we didn’t realize was how much fun we would have together.

Josh Rudow, @carfreewithkiddos

Five years ago, Mueller resident and father of two Josh Rudow swapped one of the family cars for an e-bike, and never looked back. Below, he shares what inspired the decision and tips for fellow Austinites curious about making the switch.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I grew up in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina and moved to Austin for graduate school at UT in 2009. I graduated in 2016 and instead of searching the country for teaching positions, my partner and I decided to stay in Austin, where we now live with our two kids (ages 4 and 6). I currently work for the City of Austin in the Housing Department, where I help fund and incentivize affordable housing developments. In my free time, I love to ride bikes with the kids, cold plunge, and do breathwork. 

How did having young kids motivate your decision to downsize to one car and purchase an e-bike? What impact has this shift had on you, your family, and/or your community? 

There were several reasons that we decided to downsize to one car. A big motivation was climate change. We wanted to not only decrease our carbon footprint but also inspire others to do the same. Electric bikes use exponentially less energy than even electric cars, and they require much less parking space, making them much kinder on cities. 

The part that we didn’t realize was how much fun we would have together. We’ve taken hundreds of bike adventures and found parts of the city that we never knew existed. 

As someone who works in affordable housing for the City of Austin, can you give us a quick 101 on how transportation policy intersects with issues of housing equity and affordability?

The normal benchmark for housing costs is no more than 30% of household income (before taxes), which in Austin’s housing crisis is a real challenge. Many community members have to find more affordable housing options on the outskirts of Austin, but this then greatly increases their transportation costs. Housing and transportation costs should be viewed together and be less than 45% of a household’s income. People looking to save by living further out of town may still be cost-burdened because of the higher transportation costs of owning and maintaining a car, not to mention the lost hours spent in traffic.

For a more equitable and affordable city, I always advocate for an “all of the above” housing approach. The Mueller Neighborhood is a great example of this because of its “missing middle” housing types. Yes, we have single family homes and apartments, but there are also lots of garage apartments, four-plexes, six-plexes, cottage courts, and other options so people can find just the amount of housing that they need and that fits their budget.

My family wasn’t able to afford a single family house as our first home, but we found a wonderful townhome that has plenty of space. These housing types also create more walkability and bikeability because the increased number of residents can support more businesses nearby.  Once you have a diverse and healthy housing supply, community members will eventually pay less for their home and have decreased transportation costs. The ultimate win-win. 

Photograph of dad Josh Rudow and his partner with two kids in their cargo bike in a grassy field.
Josh and his family with their cargo bike. Photographs by Rob Bergman.

For parents who might be e-bike curious but not sure where to begin, what are some tips for getting started?

It’s an incredible time for electric bikes, especially cargo bikes, with more options now than ever before. We ride an Urban Arrow Family, which has so many attachments for both cold, rain, and even Texas summers. The kids love it because they are protected from the weather and also get an amazing view of the city around them at a speed in which they can take it all in. 

There is also significant cost savings when you don’t have to own a second car. We found that we saved at least $5,000/year by not having another car payment or needing to pay for gas, registration, and major repairs. There are also Austin Energy Rebates that can get you back up to $600 if you purchase an e-bike. I like to encourage people with two cars to try using just one for a month and you’ll often find that it’s easier than you think, especially with more people working from home. 

What are a couple family-friendly rides you’d recommend for beginners?

Austin’s bike network is good and getting better by the day. We live in Mueller and love biking on the hike and bike trail in the neighborhood. I’d also highly recommend riding through Cherrywood to the Boggy Creek trail, which can take you all the way to Town Lake. This will give you access to downtown and Barton Springs. There are lots of ways to stay out of traffic and in the shade. 

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