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  • Writer's pictureDavid

Becoming a carless family

Within a year of moving to Vancouver, it became evident that our car was spending most of its days parked and completely unused. My 13 km (each way) work commute turned out to be faster by my bike most of the time, and a lot less stressful. Lacey walked or biked the 3 km to City Hall. We were mostly using the car on weekends and for the occasional out-of-town vacation. Without knowing the term, we were living “car-lite”.

Our goal over the next few posts is to document our family’s carless journey. This post will serve as background and we’ll follow up with lots of actual data and analysis.

Lacey and her bike in a field on Bowen Island
Our first car-free trip to Bowen Island

We suspected that we could save a lot of money (among other advantages) by going car-free. At one point, we put the car up on Craigslist and had an interested buyer. But our trusty 1997 Cavalier still worked just fine and we decided to keep it until it was unfit to drive any longer.

Lots of memories in our Cavalier, including Gros Morne

Meanwhile, we planned what we wanted our life to look like if we gave up our car. We also moved near the Canada Line just before it opened in 2009. The Walk Score for our neighbourhood is 94, which means groceries, entertainment, etc. are all within walking distance.

Then in early 2011, our family grew from 2 members to 3. Now we had to consider what giving up our car would look like with kids.

Finally, in 2012, our car bit the dust: the idle speed control went haywire in 2012 and our engine started seriously leaking oil. So we said our good-byes and scrapped it for $291 (and lots back in pre-paid insurance). At 15 years old, our car served 3 generations of my family well and had been driven across Canada twice.

At this point, we had a 1-year-old and knew that occasional driving was helpful. Within 4 days, we had joined Modo, a local carsharing co-op. We appreciated having car access, if needed, but using one was always a conscious decision (and never our first choice). Bonus: many of the stresses of owning and operating a car were minimized.

For our second arrival, Modo was there

In 2013, our family grew to 4 members. At first, we didn’t make any changes beyond the required second car seat. We didn’t bike with our newest member until she was 8 months old and that’s when we upgraded our bike trailer.

Lots of memories being made in the double trailer

Our transportation options have also continued to grow. We occasionally use car2go for date nights or errands (e.g. taking old paint to the recycling facility). A roomier one-way carshare called Evo has also proven useful on occasion, e.g. for trips to the airport when we have too much luggage. We may even sign up for the new bikeshare, though we’re not sure how often we would use it given we all have our own bikes.

When you consider where we began — immersed in car culture, living in rural New Brunswick and Nova Scotia — it definitely feels like we’ve come a long way.


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