Jan 2, 2013

Car Free in Calgary, 3 Years On

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.