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Car free

photo by rabbit.hole from Vancouver Observer Flickr page

A few weeks ago, I gave up my car. This has been a mostly liberating, occasionally euphoric, and sometimes daunting lifestyle shift.

The car had become like a second skin in the three years I'd leased it. It was a second skin that contained me, my two boys, our dog, Pookie, a heap of roller blades, bike helmets, tattered hoodies and socks.  It was a patient beast always waiting.

Yet for most of my adult life I'd lived carless.  And I love walking. Walking makes me happy.  One of the greatest free pleasures I know is walking while hooked into music, seeing what's up in the city or on the land.

The presence of the blue Jetta in space 150 in the underground lot was a seduction away from walking. It was a well-tuned, highly equipped invitation to burn through tanks of diesel.  It was an invitation to drive.

Along with driving came the inevitable relationship with my iphone in the car.  Should I risk getting a ticket to answer the sweet sound of the harp signaling an incoming call?

Should I risk my life and possibly dozens of others to text and email and read the Huffpo while idling in traffic?  Of course not. But I found sitting at traffic lights boring and yet oddly stressful. Sitting, sitting, sitting...

Until I stopped doing any of it.  Driving, texting, phoning, sitting in traffic all seemed part of the same anxiety-provoking not-fun problem.

I had such a great car and such little resolve that I'd stopped walking to get where I wanted to go.  I wasn't a couch potato, but exercise had become an activity I had to find time for in my increasingly over the top schedule. I was barely able to squeeze in time at the gym. 

Meanwhile, my lovely boys were growing up.  And as they got bigger, they got better at avoiding getting out and running around outside. Even getting them off the couch away from their various electronic devices grew challenging. I explained to them that they had "getters": arms and legs on the ends of their bodies designed to take them from place to place and help them retrieve what they needed and/or wanted.     

They got exercise at school and my older son played soccer, but it didn't seem enough on a daily basis. It didn't seem natural to spend so much time butt-down on a car seat or a couch or in an office chair. My older son was already a transit user, cruising city streets on his long board to the bus and then riding to school.  

But mainly, my sons lived like two princes with a chauffeur, and the more I drove them, the wearier I grew of the stalled traffic, the conversations with my younger son chattering behind me, as if I had a face in the back of my head. I'd tired of the way my hips and ass mushed into the car seat like they'd melted right into it.

It wasn't my car's fault. Not exactly. It was my lack of resolve as long as the loyal Jetta awaited me.  I'd plan to bike or walk, get diverted at work and wait to the last minute. I'd think, walk, or drive and I'd calculate the minutes. The car would be there to assist timeliness. But ass down in traffic, I'd watch bikers dressed in tight black gear with  bright yellow jackets whiz past and I envied them. 

 I envied the way wind blew into their faces, their rosy cheeks, their bodies in motion.  I envied that they were getting into shape as they got from place to place.  

I had a lot of reasons to give up my car, reasons you might call pink or purple, but definitely not green.

On the other hand, my decision to go car-less was not entirely UN green.  I live a block from the Canada Line. I also live a block away from a parking lot filled with Car-Coop vehicles.

I figured, if this single mother can't go car-less with all that, who can?

And I did. I gave up the car. I walked away from it with nothing but my purse. And it felt good.

So, join me on this new adventure. I'll be charting my life as a car-less single mom right here. I'll crunch the numbers on living car-less and compare them to the cost of owning a vehicle.  I'll decide whether to join Zip Car or join the Car Co-op and do the analytics on what each have to offer.    

I'll be on foot some of the time and on my bike at other times.  I'll rent a car or two. I'll frequent buses and ride the Canada Line.  

Stand with me under my new big umbrella and come shopping with me for essential car-less rain gear.

I'll give you tips about navigating YOUR life as a parent without a car.

I'll be discovering new stores that I previously didn't notice as I whizzed past in my car. I'll be meeting new people and making new friends on my walks and rides.

It's all part of the story of going car-less in one of the most beautiful cities on this gorgeous planet earth.

A joyous story some days. A deeply grim one on others.

Laugh with me. Weep with me. Walk with me. Bike with me.

Getting there isn't half the fun; it IS the fun. 

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