The case for going car-free in Vancouver

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      I, Anna Dueck, am similar to many others in Vancouver. I grew up somewhere else in Canada (Calgary, Alberta), moved here for school, and stayed for the water, mountains, and the relatively warm winters.

      The only wrinkle was that I didn’t bring a car with me to Vancouver. I was on a super-restrictive student budget, and couldn’t afford to purchase one (let alone pay for the gas, insurance and any repairs).

      But while having a personal vehicle would’ve helped me explore outside the city, I’ve learned you don’t really need a car in Vancouver. Transportation here is super accessible compared to ‘Cowtown’; you can’t get around Calgary on a bike, unless you live downtown. Here, we’re pretty lucky that everything is so close and connected.

      By using my bike for cruising, the bus for getting home after a night out, and a car-share to grocery shop or travel around the city, I adapted quickly to my new life in Vancity. And if you haven’t made the switch already, you might want to follow suit.

      First and foremost, using other means of transportation has a hugely positive effect on the environment. A Berkeley study found that for every car2go on Vancouver’s streets, approximately seven to 11 private vehicles are removed. That means less busy streets and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

      It’s also nice not to have to stress about the financial burden of insurance and gas. I get my bike tuned up every few months and add new parts when needed, and only pay for the bus or car-share when I use it.

      Even something like parking can add up. When friends have cars, finding parking can actually be such a disruption to our day. We often end up planning where to go based on whether there’s parking nearby, and there’s the added stress of adding money to the meter every hour or so. With a car-share, you can park it and forget about it.

      What I like most about using these services is that I feel like I’ve become part of a greater community. When I hop on the bus, I can watch the city around me and engage with strangers on a daily basis. It’s like getting a glimpse into other peoples’ lives. It’s the same feeling when I get into a car2go; I find myself thinking about other car2go members and their stories. It’s like we’re all contributing to the same goal of making Vancouver a greener, more connected place.

      There are certain situations when I wish I had a car: too many groceries to carry, transit not running early enough to go to the airport, struggling to find a cab when you need it. When they arise, I just reserve a car-share.

      When I signed up for car2go as a student, the biggest upside was how affordable short trips were. You’re charged by the minute, and if it gets over the hourly rate, you’re charged for the hour; it’s the same with the day rate. The system lets you to take your time, find a vehicle whenever you want (there are over 1,100 cars in Vancouver), and feel comfortable riding home.

      Having graduated from SFU a few years ago, I now work as a dance instructor and amateur food blogger. Buying groceries for breakfast or lunch may be easy, but a 20-kg bag of flour is a bit more difficult. In those times, I’ll grab a car after work or on my way home, stop by get my baking supplies and groceries, and park in any of the resident-permit parking spots along my street.

      Looking back, ditching the personal vehicle has been sort of a blessing in disguise. It forces me to ride my bike, it forces me to participate in more sustainable means of transportation, and it’s helped me settle in and feel connected to a new city.