Monday, November 18, 2013

Get That Small-Town Feel: Walk or Bike

I recently read an article that made me think. The title gets the main point across nicely: Capitalism Getting You Down? Then Ride Your Fucking Bike. I don't agree with every point in the article, but the last bit near the end of the article hits home for me:

Recent studies have shown that new car ownership among the prized consumer demographic of 16 to 34 year olds has decreased over the last ten years by a jaw-dropping TWENTY-FIVE percent! That’s real money we’re talking about, and the collective marketing genius of the auto-industry and Wall Street are scrambling to rebrand this massive youth revolt as merely a passing phase. Recently, Ford Motor Company chief sales analyst Erich Merkle made a comically desperate prediction to CNN: “They might be able to hold off for a period of time, but at some point they will have families, move to the suburbs, and they are going to purchase many, many new cars.” What generation does this guy think he’s talking about?

This isn’t a phase, this isn’t a market trend, it’s a radical shift away from the oppression of the land and our lives that the petroleum paradigm has wrought. As Portland’s own Community Cycling Center’s motto so perfectly articulates: ‘The bicycle is a tool of empowerment and a vehicle for social change.’

One of the many parks in our neighbourhood
We are a few years older than the demographic he's talking about in the quote above, but it fits us well. We don't own a car & when we had kids we didn't uproot & move to the suburbs. We stayed put, here in the city, where we can walk, bus or bike to everything that we need. We could probably be entirely car-free if our families hadn't moved out to the suburbs. The main reason we use Modo car share vehicles is to visit family in Coquitlam, North Vancouver & in the Okanagan.

I like living near lots of shops, cafes, libraries, pools, community centres, parks & all the other things here in a relatively dense urban environment. I don't really like malls & try to avoid big box stores most of the time, so my neighbourhood, with its plethora of independent businesses, makes shopping local very convenient.

My favourite part of living in this neighbourhood is probably the connections I've made because of that density. I think the idea that big cities are cold, that you are anonymous there is based on commuter culture--people driving in to work or go to nightclubs or hockey games & then driving out again at the end of the day.

I'll be honest: haven't lived in a small town for a long time, but I remember my mom saying that what she missed about living there was how she knew lots of people & it seemed friendlier. I feel I have that small town feeling in my neighbourhood. Despite the fact that we're in a big city--Metro Vancouver includes some 2,463,700 people--living in our walkable neighbourhood (check out the WalkScore here) & actually walking or biking most of the time means I'm on a first-name basis with many of the shopkeepers who run the small businesses within a kilometre or two of my home. I can't leave my house without recognizing someone at the store, the park, the library, the community centre. I'm not sure I'd know so many people in my neighbourhood if I lived in the cul-de-sac suburban neighbourhoods outside my city, driving to most of my errands & shopping at big box stores & shopping malls.

What do you think? Do you agree that how much you drive & how far afield you go for daily errands makes a difference in how connected you feel to your community?

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