The Good Life – Without a Car

When our family decided a couple of years ago to go without a car, we made the decision for a number of reasons, including finances and physical and psychological health. Between maintenance, loan payments, gas and parking, driving in Vancouver can be an expensive proposition. Also, the numerous incidents of road rage and just generally discourteous driving that are continually encountered can cause some emotional wear and tear by the end of the day.

I won’t say that it was a no-brainer decision, though. Unlike my husband, I happen to really love driving. Growing up in southern Alberta farm country, I have been driving tractors, snowmobiles, dirt bikes and unlicensed pick up trucks since the time I was about ten years old. I got my first drivers license the day that I was old enough, and bought my first vehicle as soon as I had a job that paid enough for me to afford the few hundred dollars that the rusted out old Honda cost. To this day, my idea of a perfect vacation has nothing to do with sitting on a beach sipping margaritas and burning in the sun. It involves sitting behind the wheel, with good music playing on the tape deck, and with miles and miles of highway in front of me leading toward good friends and relatives I miss and cities I haven’t seen yet. In the fifteen years we’ve been together, Bill and I have traded driving shifts right across Canada, and explored nearly every corner of the United States. I think this is something we will continue to do, courtesy of rental cars.

As for the in-city stuff, like being involved with school field trips and heading to the local mountains for a day of outdoor activity on the weekends or a short camping trip, we have the Cooperative Auto Network. It’s a car sharing service that allows us to book vehicles whenever we need them for a cost of about one hundred dollars per month, as compared to approximately four hundred dollars per month to lease or own a vehicle. So far, it’s something that’s worked out tremendously well.

One of the biggest things that gave us pause before turning in our car keys was the fact that our daughter attends grade two at a French Immersion school that is nearly a one hour walk away from where we live. There is an elementary school that’s only two blocks away, but Jessie told us, with no trace of uncertainty, that she was not willing to switch. We really didn’t want to start taking the bus every day, either, which is pretty costly, and not a pleasant way of getting around. So, we would have to ride or walk. And guess what? It’s turned out to be one of the very best things about our new lifestyle. One hour there and back–that’s two hours a day for at least one of us to spend real quality time with our child, telling stories, discussing the events of the day, or just feeling the wind in our faces as we’re riding our bikes. Believe it or not, like the trouper she is, our daughter would actually rather walk or ride than drive or take the bus. Maybe it’s because she’ll actually be able to tell her own kids someday that she walked five kilometres each way to and from school. I don’t think it’s up hill both ways, though…