Test driving the car2go: convenient, fast and fun
The car2go North Vancouver expansion launch this past Saturday finally presented me with the push I needed to get my butt off the bus and into a car2go.
As usual, our family car was being used to transport soccer players, balls and equipment (along with untold amounts of mud, grass and granola bar wrappers) to a soccer game. So I did it: I joined car2go.
For a very encumbered soccer mom like myself, car2go has two great features. The first is there’s absolutely no space inside a smartfortwo car (that's what they're called) for a soccer team. That means when I take car2go, it’s only about me and the passenger of my choosing.
The second feature I love, love, love is how absolutely commitment free it is. I don’t have to reserve a car ahead of time (but I can if I want to), I don’t have to return the car where I found it, or come back with the same car I came with. Best of all, I don’t have to fix it, clean it, or put gas in it. I just walk away when my trip is over.
Becoming a car2go member was relatively painless and easy. I filled out the online form then called ICBC to send over my driving record (the ICBC person was actually efficient and cheerful). Whenever I hit a snag in the sign up process, I just called car2go’s customer service and some nice person helped me to the next step.
On the Friday night before the big event, I received my member card and went through the car2go tutorial. In hindsight, I probably should have paid more attention.
Saturday morning, I made sure to wait until just 15 minutes before leaving to look at the map on the car2go website showing where the available car2go cars were parked. Sure enough, there was one only a half block from my apartment building.
The little blue and white smartfortwo was easy to spot and I swiped my member card over the card reader on the windshield to unlock it. The activation light turned green, the locks popped open and as I opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat, a man’s voice was said: “Welcome to car2go.”
I surveyed the car’s interior and was surprised at how spacious it seemed. There was plenty of leg room and the passenger seat folds down for transporting objects or moves all the way back for attaching a car seat. The controls were relatively simple and the car was spotless.
I was anxious about picking up my colleague Anja on time, so I pulled the key out of the slot on the dashboard and put it in the ignition to start the car. I turned it and nothing happened.
So I tentatively released the emergency brake and put the car into reverse. The car moved back. I braked, put the car in drive and pressed my foot on the accelerator. The car slid back some more and was now gently nestled into the bumper of the brand spanking, shiny new car parked behind me.
By now, I had attracted the attention of a group of twentysomethings making their way to Saturday morning hangover breakfast. Finally, I pressed the SOS button on the console for help.
A serene sounding woman’s voice came over the intercom. When I explained my predicament, she said, “You need to enter your pin number on the dash.”
Sure enough, the second I entered the number, the ignition started and I flew out of that parking spot.
The radio was set to CBC Radio Two and the operatic voice of Maureen Forrester accompanied me on my drive down Broadway.
My initial fears of the smartfortwo being too light and accelerating too easily and braking too abruptly proved unfounded. The car handled like a much larger vehicle and felt solid.
I reached Commercial and Broadway a little early and had to circle the block a few times. On the first time around I figured out how to turn off the heat. On the second time I figured out how to open the windows and on the third time I figured out how to close the windows. I never did figure out how to turn off the radio. I spotted Anja in the crowd of dreary transit takers and honked, stopped and threw open the door.
Anja jumped in with a giggle and stretched her 5'10 frame comfortably in the passenger seat. I navigated down busy Commercial Drive and we were soon zooming along the Iron Workers Memorial. I had felt nervous about driving such a small vehicle over the Second Narrows. I worried the smartfortwo would be bouncing around like a scrunched aluminum can in the wind amidst the barrelling transport trucks.
But as we cruised across the bridge admiring the brooding clouds hanging over the expanse of water, cityscape and shoreline, the car was completely steady, and the drive felt free and cathartic.
Once in North Van, we realized we knew the address but forgot to get directions on how to get there: a great excuse to try out the GPS, which helped us find our way there. As we descended Lonsdale, the weather worsened dramatically, but our little smartfortwo remained unperturbed amid the pounding rain and gusting winds, and steadily stayed the course without skidding or shaking.
On the return trip, I really wanted to take a different car2go back -- just because I could. There was a different car2go parked behind the one we arrived in but when I swiped my card across the reader on the windshield, it wouldn’t activate. I then noticed a power tool sitting in the seat and realized the driver was just making a “stopover.”
Back home again, I parked my car2go in the permit parking across from my building. About ten minutes later, I noticed the lights go on again and it sped off to a new destination with a new passenger.
I’m already planning all the new trips I can make in my car2go. Trips to Ikea with my other tall gal pal; over to the Westside for coffee, downtown to movies or restaurants instead of taking a cab (it’s cheaper) and of course, now I can even get reacquainted with my long lost friends who live over on the North Shore.
For more, see the Car2go website.