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Get a Car or Get a Life!
Car-Free Thoughts, Events, Links (a People- & Planet-Friendly Portal & Guide)
Aren't Cars Great? | Car Free Day & New Mobility Week | Healthy Transportation Links & Resources

(A) Aren't Cars Great?

"Cars are great! Fast! Convenient! Sexy! Freedom!"

Well, no, no, and no again.

First, cars aren't anywhere near as fast or convenient as they seem. Speed is, of course, the distance you go, divided by the time it takes. Problem is, the "time it takes" to get somewhere by car is not just the time spent driving. You also spend time – a lot of it – working to pay for your automotive habits. Insurance, gas, depreciation, parking, mechanics – and the cost of your next car. You work, you pay... and your car sits still. If you figure it out, the typical car delivers not 100, not 60, not 40 kph – but between five and fifteen miles per hour*. Some invention!

"But my car is my freedom!"

Think again. According to the Canadian Automobile Association, it costs upwards of $8,000 a year to drive a car**. Someone who earns $40,000 per year – let's say $30K after deductions and expenses – is working over three months a year just to pay for their car. "Freedom?" Free to work like a slave, more likely!

And as for "sexy", anybody who thinks a car is sexy is out to lunch. People who use cars as status symbols obviously feel they need to prove something. "The bigger the car, the smaller the..."***, as they say.

That's only the beginning. We haven't begun to talk about the health, social and environmental costs of car dependency – all of which translate directly to your personal wellbeing. Plus the thousands of deaths each year from accidents, smog, climate change, and high stress, rat-race lifestyles.

"But I need my car! How else could I get around?"

Aye, there's the rub. We've designed our communities – and many of us have designed our lives – to be car-dependent. If you live in suburbia, work downtown, and have fun somewhere else ...the choices may be slim.

But there are options. No magic bullet, no glossy advertising – but practical, doable options.

A creative combination of approaches is often the best route. Some of the more obvious ones are public transit, biking, walking and telecommuting. If and when you really need a car, look into car-sharing arrangements, ride sharing, carpooling, and the occasional use of rentals and taxis. (See the links below for all these and more.) The costs may be more "visible" – but they often add up to much less than full-time ownership. Longer-term approaches include career, social and lifestyle decisions – such as living near work or working near home – that lead your life in a healthier direction.

But it can take more than logic to escape the car gambit. Marketers have cleverly tied the automobile to our social norms and values. The car is a major symbol of adulthood and independence. Buses and bikes, by comparison, aren't considered quite "grown up". How on earth can you arrive at work in a nicely pressed outfit? And – oh my god – what if you're a little sweaty?

Cars also give us a comforting illusion of security and control. Most people feel safer in their car than they do in an airplane or a subway. Yet quite the opposite is true. Manufacturers try to build on this illusion with a variety of expensive safety devices – but with limited effect, in the big picture.

Of course, many aren't able to escape from car ownership, especially in rural areas. The answers aren't simple, and one has to be creative. But as more of us make the leap – or at least take a few steps in the right direction – things will start to improve.

You won't hear this story from the auto industry, nor for the most part, from the media they support. And you probably won't get much help from governments – who are so heavily invested in highways and fossil fuels that they can't see the traffic for the cars! But you can find help and inspiration from some truly maverick, intrepid souls, both in print and in person: see the links in sections B and C, below.

In today's world, widespread car ownership is neither healthy, convenient nor sustainable. Cars kill, in more ways than one. Isn't there something else you'd rather be doing for three months a year?

– Peter Blanchard | www.planetfriendly.net | www.peterblanchard.ca

* Net Effective Automobile Speed, by Ken Kefir – table, about 2/3 of the way down

** Automotive Driving Costs – Canadian Automobile Association figures range from $8,000 to $13,000 per year, or 40 to 75 cents per kilometer. CAA | (2) (see the tables at top of page two)

*** "The bigger the car, the smaller the ..." – ego, noggin, you fill in the blank...

This article will also be posted in the forum – go there to post
your comments, ideas and resources.

(B) Car-Free Day & New Mobility Week

September 22 is World Car Free Day, with events in Toronto, Ottawa and many other locations. Local calendars & resources:

Worldwide: WorldCarFree.net | World Car Free Day
Canada: www.CarFreeDay.ca
Europe: www.22september.org
More: Car Free Day | New Mobility Week (search)

(C) Healthy Transportation Links & Resources

Transportation Options – Green, Healthy & Sustainable
Planet-Friendly Transportation Options & Links
Greenpeace Canada Sustainable Transportation Links
Car-Free Day Canada Links | Wikipedia | Car Free Places
Transportation Issues: Open Directory | Google Directory | Wikipedia
Car-Free Links: Open Directory | Google Directory | Wikipedia

Two relatively car-free communities, one fairly mainstream, the other radical...
Ward's Island & Algonquin Island, Toronto | Twin Oaks, Virginia
More: The Community Page | Google Search | (2)

Sustainable Living & Voluntary Simplicity
Sustainable Living Links | Simple Living / Voluntary Simplicity

More related environmental groups and org's in Canada
Ontario Environment Search Guide (scroll down to "Transport" or "Air & Climate")

Articles & Analysis (see also the above links)

Park Your Ride, by Brian Smith, Alternet
Car Free Times, Sept 2004 (printable newsletter, PDF, from Trax & the EAC, NS, Canada)
Transportation Ecopolitics, by Lela Gary
Every Breath You Take, by Tooker Gomberg (2)
Aren't Cars Great?, by Peter Blanchard (at top)
Don't Pave It! – Progressive Planning for Livable Communities, by Peter Blanchard
Superstores, Big Boxes and Car Dependency, by Peter Blanchard
Transportation and Your Food – "Food Miles" | (2) | (3)
How to be Active in Your Community (various authors)

"Buy this car to drive to work, drive to work to pay for this car" – Succexy

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