One year of car free living here.
Two years of car free living here.
Has it really been 3 years? It sure doesn't feel like its been that long. 3 years of getting around this winter city primarily by bike? Honestly, I am amazed at myself.
When I moved to Calgary from Vancouver back in 1998, the very first thing I did was to buy a car. Granted, my new job required the daily use of one but it was still the primary mission upon landing here. I needed a car even before an apartment. Not long after that I bought into the narrative that Calgary is a car city, full stop (you need to have a car in Calgary...it is so spread out...transit sucks...how would you get to the mountains...).
I never rode my bike in the city, in my regular clothes back then except perhaps, to the pub. I did ride bikes a lot for recreation - road racing, mountain bike racing, free riding, cyclocross, all the training rides - but to ride to the grocery store was just not considered. I'd hop into my shiny new (to me) car and promptly arrive at the Safeway parking lot after about 5 blocks - voila! Need a coffee? No sweat. Just drive the 3 blocks to the Tim Hortons. Slice of pizza for lunch? Easy, it's only 4 blocks away. I was living the Calgary Dream! Drive everywhere, for everything, it's only 20 minutes max to everywhere, right? From that time till the time I gave up my last "daily driver" vehicle 3 years ago I drove close to 500,000 kms - about 50,000 per year, every year. I also gained a lot of weight and my blood pressure went up so high I needed meds.
Kinda feels like another lifetime in a way. Now when I drive a car it feels kind of odd and scary. When I am behind the wheel I am more cautious than ever, usually drive at or below the speed limit, and (thanks to Mia Birk) try really hard to stop for all the people I see wanting to cross the road.
Nowadays, getting around by bike is very much second nature. Life has a new rhythm, a new pace, and new perspective that is so very opposite from the "daily grind" of car commuting in my previous lifetime. Daily life in general is a little slower, requires a little more planning, is a little more interesting, a little bit (physically) harder, a little closer to home, and a little bit happier.
Notice I didn't talk about " a lot" of anything - it isn't a lot harder, it isn't a lot slower, it isn't a lot colder or hotter.
The only thing I can say there has been A LOT of is more money in my pocket!
I am more content than ever. I am eating better. I am in the best shape I've been in for at least 10 years. I love my city and community more than I could have contemplated before. I feel more connected to my city, in a really good way. I am showing my son a way to live happily in this city without wasting money on car ownership. I am ready for at least 3 more years of this for sure!
So, the question now is - What are you waiting for?
Full disclosure - I do own a vehicle - a 1981 Chev 20' RV,
affectionately named Putt Putt, that sees about 3000km/year added to its
odometer during summer camping trips. It is never driven for anything
except road trip adventures or the odd cyclocross race weekend.