Archive for the ‘car2go’ Tag

A Year With No Car   16 comments

Not your typical walk, but a walk nonetheless.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a full year since I made the epic decision to live my life with no car. Last November 1, my car lease was up and my insurance was due and my plates needed to be renewed and so I decided to try going without a car for a while.  I didn’t know at that time if it would be possible, especially in a city like Calgary which is hardly a pedestrian’s paradise. It’s the heart of the oil and gas industry and the city has been designed, for want of a better word, for people to drive and to drive a long way, everyday.

Because of the rapid growth of the city, these vast amounts of space that need to be driven for most people to get to work and home again typically become so congested and backed up that there’s now a terrific amount of waiting and idling and burning gas involved in the commute as well. And yet it seems most people here never even consider the alternative.

A car, or worse, a pickup truck,  is one of the many things people seem to think they are entitled to here in western Canada.  I grew up east of here in Regina, Saskatchewan and like most of my friends had my license at 16 and have had a car pretty much continuously ever since – 40 years! – without ever really thinking about it. (Except when I lived in Toronto in the 1980’s.) Last year, I spent three weeks at the Stratford Festival where I had no car. I walked a lot. I felt better. I lost some weight. When I got back to Calgary all the circumstances were in place to see how it would be to do the same here.

At first it seemed odd.  There’s a tremendous amount of convenience and a certain amount of status that comes from having a good set of wheels. And yet, when I got used to it, and started taking public transportation and accepting the occasional ride from friends, it found it surprisingly easy. By the time summer came around and I was able to ride my bike, I hardly thought of it anymore. I soon stopped defining myself from this deficit position – a person with no car – and started to look at those with cars as people who hadn’t yet seen the light.

And then, as I wrote a few weeks back, car2go magically appeared in Calgary, and suddenly, there’s always a car there for me if I feel I really need one. In this whole year, I have borrow a friend’s car twice, used car2go twice and taken three cabs, so by and large I’ve gotten by without a vehicle.

A few whimsical statistics . . .  in getting to the C Train to go to places I work and tramping back and forth to my favourite coffee shops and shopping etc. etc. I figure I now walk on average about 10 km a day, meaning I walked the equivalent of Calgary to Montreal in the last year.

This isn’t exactly true though, as I also cycled almost 2,000 km (or from Calgary to Denver), and so on the days I cycled I probably didn’t walk quite so far. Still, you get the idea.

I have to admit, especially when you cycle, it’s hard not to get sanctimonious and even militant in your view towards drivers and their vehicles.  But other than a few little scares, I have to admit that I found drivers in Calgary very respectful and courteous. (This is a rare view, I know. Other cyclists have horror stories, and maybe I was just lucky, but I have no complaints.)

After a while, your view of the city changes. You start to see the city as an endless series of parking lots joined by conduits of impatient drivers. You realize that the city was designed for the convenience of vehicles, with very little regard for human beings, let alone those of us who have no vehicles. And when you start feeling that, you start to see the whole place as a giant waste of space and time and resources.

Don’t take my word for it, try it. It will change the way you think of your city, wherever you live.

I’ve come away from the experience with a prayer: Lord, before I die, let me live in a city with no pickup trucks. Especially those driven by little shrimps trying to compensate for obvious deficiencies in certain parts of their anatomy.


Thanks for reading!

A section of the bike path I took to work in August and September. Not bad!

car2go — Here You Go   2 comments

Since I mentioned on Facebook the other day that I had signed up with car2go, several people have asked me what I think of it and some have even suggested it would be a good subject for a blog post, so here you go.

A bit of background. I gave up my car on November 1 of last year. Over the winter I walked and took public transportation. This summer, I have put some 2,000 km on my bicycle. Only once during this time have I borrowed a friend’s car. I have taken a cab on only two occasions. I live in downtown Calgary so being at a central location is handy for all forms of transportation.

A month or so ago, the car2go people set up outside my favourite coffee shop. It is a company that has put, I believe, 250 Smart Cars (just like the one in my photo) on the streets of Calgary. Once you have registered with a credit card and valid driver’s license and you have been approved, you receive a swipe-card in the mail and you are good to go.

There is an app that allows you to see where the nearest car is – in fact it tells you how many metres it is from you and how much gas is in the tank. You are given the option to reserve the car for 15 minutes, allowing you time to reach it without someone else taking it. I found one just one street away from me this morning and set out on my maiden voyage. (Sans maiden, alas, but that’s another story.)

There’s a sensor located in the windshield. You swipe your card once approved, the doors magically open. Inside, you answer a few questions on the in-dash screen, such as, if the car is clean, and if there is any physical damage. My car was in fact pristine, inside and out. I took the key from its holder, put it in the ignition, fired ‘er up and I was on my way.

My trip today was to West Hills, which is a big box shopping area in the west end of Calgary. It’s not very well accessed by public transportation (although it soon will be when the new LRT line is completed) and it’s a tough bike ride, so this seemed like a reasonable destination. I was on the hunt for some winter footwear, which I have found before at The Shoe Company. Sure enough I was in luck today and I bought my Murrell winter mocs for about $40.00 less than I have seen them in stores downtown.

I believe that the car2go I used cost me about $10.00 for the trip – it is calculated at $.35 per minutes, with gas and parking in any Calgary Smart Park locations, including city parkades, included.

It took a little bit to get used to driving again, but I guess it’s like riding a bike, it soon comes back to you. I liked driving the Smart Car. It handles extremely well, as you would expect, and the visibility is the best I have ever seen, so to speak, in a vehicle. And let’s face it, there’s a certain freedom to be out cruising around on a sunny afternoon. All in all it was a wonderful experience, money well spent.

I ended my trip at Community Natural Foods on 10th Avenue, which is only a few blocks from my apartment. I could have kept the rental active, but of course one is aware of those 35 cents slipping by every minutes, and as it was a lovely autumn day, it was a nice day for a little walk after all.

I highly recommend car2go. I think it has the capacity to change the way many people view ownership of a car. When you factor in insurance, gas, parking and everything else, owning a vehicle is a very expensive venture. Car2go is extremely economical and convenient. All in all, for a person like me who knows how to get by without a car, but would still like to use one from time to time, it’s a wonderful idea.

Thanks for reading . . .

Posted September 15, 2012 by Eugene Stickland in Uncategorized

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