For the last 13 years, I’ve relied on alternative transportation. It didn’t start out of any high-minded ideals, simply economic reality. I was living in Toronto, having moved from Banff, and owned a 4×4 pickup truck. For the first year, I drove the truck on weekends and to run errands because it was there. I drove it so infrequently that it was often ticketed for being parked on the wrong side of the street (many neighbourhoods in Toronto have a bi-monthly schedule dictating the side of the street for parking). After that first year, at the end of the lease, I returned the truck to the dealership and started walking, riding my bike, taking the bus, subway and streetcar, and renting cars when necessary. I found myself looking for apartments near transit routes and not taking jobs that would have required travelling out of good transit areas.
It’s a little more challenging in Saskatoon, but it’s been possible for the last seven years; it just takes some planning. This is where mindfulness comes in. I walk, ride or take the bus to work, downtown, coffee, pints, the doctor, the dentist, the mall, yoga. Most of my friends live within my transportation area. We carpool with Dad to get groceries. I’m mindful of my activities and what it will take to accomplish them, and what else I might do while I’m out.
With a car in the driveway, it’s easy not to think about where you’re going, what you’re going to be doing, or how long it will take. When I owned a truck in Banff and drove into Calgary, I only ever made sure I had my keys and my wallet—whatever else I needed I could drive to and buy and would fit in the truck. When you’re walking, what you need to pick up probably doesn’t fit in your pocket, and you might not be in a position to walk all the way to it. So you plan, but you also have a lot of freedom.
When I walk downtown to the movies, it takes me 20 minutes. But I don’t have to worry about gas, maintenance, accidents or parking. I can also have a beer at the movie or afterwards and not worry about drinking and driving. Sure, I have to walk home again, but a little fresh air and exercise, especially after sitting for two hours, never hurt anybody.
I know people who drive downtown from the suburbs and complain about the traffic, the parking, the cost of parking, the cost of maintaining the vehicle, the risk and cost of accidents, and yet never consider that there might be an alternative. There probably is.