Today is World Carfree Day! I don’t believe we mark this day with special events in Metro Vancouver, but this shouldn’t stop us from taking the opportunity to reflect on how we can become less dependent on automobiles and continue building communities where walking, cycling, public transit and other sustainable modes of transportation are our region’s top priorities.
Earlier this month the City of Vancouver released the Transportation 2040 Phase 1 Consultation Summary, which is good reading for World Carfree Day. This consultation phase occurred between May and July 2011 and was “a chance to educate, inspire, and engage a broad range of citizens and stakeholders, to better understand barriers and opportunities around changing travel behaviour, and to generate discussion and debate about what kind of ideas could work in Vancouver” (p. 2). The City will use the information gathered in the Phase 1 Consultation to prepare a draft of Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 plan (note that this is different from TransLink’s Transport 2040 Transportation Strategy).
Take a look at the transportation survey slides from this consultation phase, which reveal why many Vancouverites continue to choose driving over walking, cycling and public transit. The survey results also address the barriers that prevent drivers from moving to more sustainable modes of transportation.What I find interesting, but not at all surprising, is that there is a significant focus on convenience, speed and time. This made me think of Carl Honore’s In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed (2005). For those of you who may not be familiar with this book and Honore’s appeal for us to slow down our lives for happiness and health and other reasons, his TED Talk provides a good overview:
Having lived without a car in Vancouver for over six years now I would rarely indicate “lack of time” as a challenge to car-free living. When it comes to transportation I’ve simply slowed down. I can run most of my errands in my neighbourhood and don’t need to go all over the city getting this and that (although I arguably still cover more ground in Vancouver on foot or bicycle on a given day, particularly on weekends, than many of my friends who drive). Kevin and I regularly walk all over the city and it gives us quality time to talk and listen to each other and to get to know the ins and outs of our city as we move through it at a relaxed pace. I also view time spent walking and cycling as an investment in our long-term health (for walking inspiration check out Christal Levy’s story, parts 1 & 2 and her ongoing success with CBC’s pedometer challenge).
Personal travel aside, the Transportation 2040 Phase 1 Consultation Summary also indicates that participants suggested creating car-free or pedestrian-oriented spaces in the city for special events, markets and other occasions and areas where people gather. In addition, some participants indicated an interest in having a car-free public square downtown and Robson Square is provided in the summary report as the example for this. We don’t yet have this and if you feel this would be an important addition to Vancouver’s public spaces then please continue to communicate this to the City by emailing email@example.com. Even though the 800-block of Robson Street has now re-opened to vehicular traffic it’s a good idea to keep up the pressure on this issue to hopefully effect a change as the City moves forward with drafting the Transportation 2040 Plan.
Why not make a pledge on World Carfree Day to get out of your car more often? Here are a few activities to help get you started:
- There are quite a few cycling events happening this weekend, including some connected to the 350.org Moving Planet Day on September 24th. See the Velopalooza calendar for September for events and details.
- Register for the Crazy Sustainable Commute (Thursday, September 29th). You don’t need to limit your commuting options to walking, cycling or transit! Get creative about how you can travel to and from work sustainably.
Finally, make your voice heard on transportation issues in Vancouver: Read TransLink’s Moving Forward plan for transit expansion and answer the online questionnaire to provide feedback on the plan and how it should be funded. The questionnaire will be available online until Friday, September 23rd. There will also be a Special Transportation and Traffic Council Meeting at City Hall on October 4th at 7:30 p.m. on this issue. City transportation engineers will report to Council on the Moving Forward plan at this meeting and there will be opportunities for Vancouverites to share their views on the plan and the future of public transit at this meeting. Keep an eye on the City Council meeting schedule for more details and take a moment to find out how to speak to Council. Show your support for growing public transit in Metro Vancouver!