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Living a car-free lifestyle
June 5, 2021 | James Lin
Image by robinsonk26 from Pixabay
I am in my late thirties and have never owned a vehicle, never even rented one nor used a car-share service, despite having lived in several car-centric cities including Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal. I wish to share my car-free experience, and how it allows me to live a fulfilling life. For disclosure purposes, I have a driver’s license and am single with no dependents.
The first reason I am car-free is financial. Let’s say the annual cost of maintaining a car, excluding the purchase price, is $5,000. According to the Big Mac Index, that is enough to buy 738 Big Macs in Canada (bypass surgery not included; also this is Canada and we have free health care).
The second reason is independence, which may sound weird at first. I am not beholden to gasoline prices, have never been ripped off by a mechanic or car insurance company, and never had to exchange information with an angry driver while our dented vehicles block two lanes of rush hour traffic.
The third reason is health-related. I am an avid walker, walking to and from work every day under normal circumstances (remember those?), and will often go on therapeutic hour-long strolls when I have nothing better to do. Some people drive to the gym to use the treadmill, while paying for both activities; I walk outdoors for free.
And the fourth reason is environmental. The average car produces 4,600 kg of CO2 every year, several times the weight of the vehicle itself.
So how do I do it? I plan my life around not owning a car, which is easier than one may think, and can be as simple as choosing an apartment near certain grocery stores. I often play ultimate and badminton at locations all over Edmonton (again under normal circumstances). This required researching transit routes on Google Maps ahead of time, boarding the bus or train, and, well that’s it actually. And during my rowing days I would bike to and from the rowing club 10 times a week (a 30 minute round trip).
It’s not all rosy though. The Edmonton Transit System has major flaws including the archaic cash-only ticket machines. They are so ancient that they dispense tickets via a steampunk crank handle. That last sentence is not true, though hearing it out loud I now kinda wish it were. Of the three cities mentioned at the beginning, Edmonton has the least developed transit system, is the most spread out and least densely populated, and yet I am still proudly car-free.
I do occasionally get rides from friends though. In normal times this happened once, sometimes twice a week.
So there you have it. I consider myself to have an active social life and (normally) play lots of sports despite not having a car. Or because of it, since the financial savings go towards those other activities. One last reason I don’t own a car is I don’t enjoy the stress of driving and prefer to avoid it. That is until I get behind the virtual wheel of a Koenigsegg One:1 in Forza Horizon 3.
James is the son of INZ founder Charles. He has a PhD in economics from the University of Alberta, and his day job is with Alberta Energy. The views expressed on this site do not reflect those of his employer.