During my years in Mainland China, I was virtually “car-free”. Public transit was great, and I often got to ride my bike everywhere. In 2008, during my first year back in Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories, North Turtle Island (Canada), I enjoyed getting around by bus, Skytrain, running, cycling and walking. Unfortunately, I moved into the suburbs and began driving again.
Alas, Car-Free Days are here again! My car broke down last month, and I am determined not to get it towed to a mechanic and fixed. I put my car into storage and began cycling, walking and bussing more, despite the winter weather. In fact, it doesn’t get too cold in Vancouver, we simply have to put up with rain, rain and more rain.
So I have actually been enjoying the transition. Every day is more of a challenge, but I see it as a pleasant challenge. Indeed, it’s more like an adventure. You never know what’s going to happen.
You could say the same for driving. However, when you are locked into that metal shell, you are cut from the world, lost in your music, your thoughts, your phone calls or your illegal text messages or Net-surfing. What’s going on around your vehicle is not important, only the road ahead of you.
When you cycle, walk, run or bus it, you become aware of your surroundings more and more. The speed of your engagement with the world really makes a difference. When you drive, what’s to the right or left of you is simply a distraction to be avoided. When you slow down, your context becomes all the more precious to you.
Around the world, despite the masses purchasing and driving for the first time in places like China and India, there are others, like me, who are turning on to a car-free lifestyle.
The Wikipedia entry on the “Car-Free Movement” defines it as follows:
The car-free movement is a broad, informal, emergent network of individuals and organizations including social activists, urban planners and others brought together by a shared belief that cars are too dominant in most modern cities. The goal of the movement is to create places where car use is greatly reduced or eliminated, to convert road and parking space to other public uses and to rebuild compact urban environments where most destinations are within easy reach by walking, cycling or public transport.
Then there’s an activist magazine called “Carbusters”:
Carbusters aims to serve as both an information source and a call to action, providing a full range of content from direct action skills to the latest research developments, feature articles on topics ranging from Driving as Addiction to Ecocity Visions, world news and even cartoons poking fun at the car and oil industries.
The magazine shares information, ideas and resources within the movement and informs a broader audience of transport actions and campaigns happening around the world. In this way Carbusters can inspire new activists and nurture current ones.
Out of Carbusters grew the World Carfree Network:
Who We Are
World Carfree Network is the hub of the global carfree movement, which promotes alternatives to car dependence and automobile-based planning, and works to improve quality of life for all.
The idea is to build a decentralised, structured network in which anyone agreeing with the goals of the network can take an active part. The network aims to provide a voice for its members at the international level, and to create a framework for its members’ international projects.
The network grew out of the activities of Carbusters, an international organisation within the carfree movement founded in 1997 (the name Carbusters continues to be used for Carbusters Online.)
This website gives a clearer idea of what the “Car-free Movement” is:
What is the Carfree Movement?
World Carfree Network uses the term “carfree movement” rather broadly, to refer to:
- those promoting alternatives to car dependence and car culture, including alternative modes such as cycling, walking and public transport;
- those promoting carfree lifestyle choices, within either a car-dependent, car-lite* or carfree local context;
- those promoting the building of (usually mixed-use) carfree environments# on either brownfield or greenfield sites (usually sited to ensure easy access to a variety of non-automotive transport modes);
- those promoting carfree days, using the events as tools to bring about long-term on-the-ground change in infrastructure and priorities (example: Bogota); and
- those promoting the transformation of existing villages, towns and cities (or parts of them) into carfree environments.#
* Car-lite – Either a person or place that is not completely carfree, but uses or allows for a variety of alternative transport modes in addition to the car. (Car-lite environments tend to still devote at least half the street space to the automobile, with street widths usually similar to those in car-dependent environments.) The New Urbanists – an influential North American group of architects, developers and planners – are an example of people who promote and build car-lite environments, expressly stating that the automobile must be accommodated.
#Carfree environments – Places that do not accommodate (permit the entry of) automobiles. (An “environment” can be a an entire village, town or city; a portion of a village, town or city; or a place such as a resort, intentional community or university.) Some carfree environments allow motorised vehicles for deliveries and emergency services; other such places use non-motorised alternatives for some or all of these purposes, which is preferable if feasible. Some carfree environments have peripheral parking, and are thus still somewhat car-dependent; therefore solutions should be sought to avoid this. Some people take things a step further and work to encourage local use of local products, thus reducing the dependence of their carfree environment on long-distance goods transport and supporting the local economy over the transnational economy.
Well, I’m sold on this now. I was grudgingly driving for the past couple years, but NO MORE. I have joined the ranks of the Car-Free Movement!
We have a Car-Free Movement in Vancouver. If any of you peeps live around here, then join me in joining the movement. Also, find out where a Car-Free Movement hub is near you, or if there isn’t one, then join with some friends and start one!
3 Cheers for the Car-Free Movement worldwide!
Downtown Vancouver with no cars . . . Imagine!