Car-free living

I originally titled this post “Life without car” but thought a more up-beat title was better.  However, that all depends on how I’m feeling on a daily basis.

Living in centretown Ottawa I certainly don’t NEED a car.  My husband and I both walk to work (my office is just 2 blocks away).  Everything I could possibly need is right here in the downtown core: groceries, health food, recreation, entertainment (not that we ever go out) . . .  Centretown’s got it all.  And what it doesn’t have, I can certainly take a bus to a place that does have it.

So why do I long for a car?

There are a few reasons:

– access to the wilderness, or as we used to call it back home in Sudbury, “the Bush”.  It’s hard to get outside the city without a car, and sometimes I long for more nature in my life and my kid’s life.

– cheap groceries.  Hartmann’s is sooooooooo overpriced.  Less central grocery stores have much much better prices, but it’s pretty hard to wrangle a 2-year-old and a week’s worth of groceries onto a bus.

– farm visits.  Pick-your-own berries, fruits and vegetables.   Meet your meat.  Introducing my girl (not to mention myself!) to where our food actually comes from.

– other interesting entertainment.  Yes Centretown has everything, but there’s even MORE in the ‘burbs.  A wave pool or two, water parks, a giant indoor jungle gym . . .

So what’s holding me back?  

Partly it’s finances.  We are concentrating on paying off debt, and until that is done, it would be backwards to take on more debt.  

But more importantly it is because getting a car is much more of a want than a need.  Yes, some of my car ownership dreams involve super-great grocery deals, cost-free healthy hours spent hiking in the Gatineau and hauling home crates of berries to turn into jam.  But water parks and wave pools?  It’s the thin edge of the wedge.

Overall the costs  involved in owning a car (including gas, maintenance, insurance, and parking) would certainly outweigh the grocery savings.  By a long shot.  And as a new-car-owner friend said to me, “Once you can get out to all those big box stores, you go shopping a lot more often.”  Everything’s cheaper and more accessible . . . and isn’t that what drives our consumer economy?

So I’m sticking with my car-free centretown lifestyle.  I walk 90% of the places I have to go, cycle to another 7%, take the bus to maybe 2%, and for the other 1%, I have a generous brother with a car who is willing to drive me around in exchange for dinner once in awhile.

And comparing Hartmann’s mark-up to the costs of car ownership makes their over-inflated prices look reasonable in comparison.


6 thoughts on “Car-free living

  1. I keep toying with the idea, and we might go for it, but only after we’ve paid off the line of credit.

  2. I am car-free also.

    Don’t supermarkets in Ottawa deliver? They do here. You can even order groceries online from IGA. We get groceries delivered every month or two — that’s when we stock up on big or heavy stuff.

    I also would like better access to nature and farm visits (not entertainment — obviously with no kids I’m looking for different things than you!). I would consider a car-sharing program (it’s called Communauto here) but I don’t actually know how to drive!

    Many of my co-workers also do not own cars, and some of them rent a car for the weekend occasionally, just from Budget or whatever. (It’s far cheaper to rent on the weekend than during the week.) They group together all car outings for that weekend, so that the Ikea trip is the same weekend as Aunt Julie’s birthday party in the suburbs.

  3. We find that Vrtucar lets us get out of town, but also lets us get a lot of errands done in a short time. We are a family of four, living downtown and we love the freedom of having a car when we really want one without the trap of having a car in the driveway and being tempted to use it for silly trips.

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