Cameron and I live car-free, for the most part. We rent occasionally. I’ve never owned a car in my life. Extreme greenness? Okay, it’s very green of me, but it has more to do with the financial type of green than environmental. There’s the initial cost of a car, plus insurance, gas, and maintenance. Ouch. In discussions on single parent bulletin boards I’ve come to the realization that this is r-a-r-e, to be able to get by without a vehicle.
In the past I have been a dedicated cyclist, commuting 24 Km round-trip for work. There are showers there, and I worked in an environment where I could just wrap on a skirt over my cycle shorts, tie my hair up in a ‘tail and get to it. Vancouver has made some pretty major strides when it comes to bike-friendliness. To get to work I have a choice of two bike-preferred corridors, plus another bike-friendly route. Now? Hauling a screaming child (he hates the trailer) halfway to work in a trailer just doesn’t have that appeal. Work does have showers, but my typical attire has changed more than slightly. We’ll see, biking may happen more when I get a back seat for my bike instead of the trailer.
How do we get around and manage. Uh, we take the bus or we walk, is my typical answer. But we live in a city where this is possible. Along the main corridors express busses come every three or four minutes. Sometimes they’re packed full, but at that rate, you rarely have to wait more than fifteen to catch a bus. Groceries? We have five major grocery chains in reasonable walking distance, and I tend to buy a few days’ worth at a time, not a week’s. Getting to our family doctor is a pain in the rear, involving the skytrain and seabus and several busses, but if there’s something pressing we have a walk-in clinic close by. The lack of bathrooms on the way can present challenges. I’ve learned to ditch my shyness, and let it all loose on the bus – I sing to Cameron when necessary. I meet some of the most fascintaing people on the bus. Doing job interviews while using public transit was challenging. Parks? Walk or bus or bike. Swimming? Beach? Bus or bike. Out of town trips and adventures? Friends, plane, or rent a car.
The major challenge here is the weather. It rains a lot in Vancouver. By a lot, I mean we live in a region that is classified as rainforest. While an umbrella will keep me dry on the walk to the bus, I often arrive at work somewhat damp. You see, my son doesn’t stay under the umbrella, and he sits on my lap on the bus. UGH.
We vary our trips home to keep things interesting. The quick-and-easy is the main corridor between work and home. It’s the fastest, but there are others. One route gives us a longer walk after the stop, but the walk takes us right past a great playground. Another takes us downtown and onto the sky train. Best of all are the sunny evenings (and sometimes not so sunny) where we ditch busses partway through and take a boat. This means playtime on the beach, maybe a stop at Granville Islands’ market. Two companies run water ‘bus’ or taxi services up and down False Creek, giving us a nice break from the routine. Typically these are warm and fun times for us, fresh air and sand on the beach, exploring and playing, then snuggle-close imagination and chatter time on the boats.
Would I buy a car if I had the money? Or would I continue to live this lifestyle? To be honest, I’d probably buy a car. Easy is the name of the game for me for now. Driving to and from work would cut my commute time down drastically on most days – I love the days where Joanne drives us home from daycare as it means extra time at home in the evening.
Maybe once Cameron is in the daycare at work, which could reduce my daycare expenses considerably, I’ll be able to afford it. I’d miss our boat trips though.
Beth Terry (aka fakeplasticfish on twitter) is challenging her readers to go one week without a car. Now, this was easy for us as there is nothing to give up! She’s doing a roundup post that is part of Blogher’s car-free carnival in a few days, and I’ll update here with a link!
Edit a few days later – here it is! I also added some links to favourite posts that involve travel without our own car.