How viable is living car-free in Metro Vancouver?

Living car-free isn’t new but how easy and sustainable is it? Sarah Chew talks to two people who don’t own a vehicle and an expert who suggests even if everyone stopped using cars, the impact on total carbon emissions would be minimal.

Living car-free in Metro Vancouver isn’t new, but how easy and sustainable is it?

Tess Zevenbergen has lived without a car her whole life. She says she didn’t feel comfortable driving in Vancouver after she got her license, and public transportation works for her.

“I’m single, I have to pay rent now and to have a car and pay all the fees that come with a car like parking, insurance, car payments – I would rather use that disposable income to do other things, like travel, at this point in my life.”

Zevenbergen is far from the only one living car-free. Richa Dwor says she commutes from Vancouver to New Westminster regularly for work without a car. She says her family doesn’t want to add another car to the road.

“We invested a lot in our e-bike. It’s the biggest expenditure I’ve ever made. But compared to the cost of buying and maintaining a car, it’s nothing,” said Dwor.

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Unfortunately, an ecological economics expert says individual actions don’t have much impact on the climate crisis.

“In the world as a whole, automobiles contribute only about seven or eight per cent of carbon emissions. In North America, it’s probably twice that. So even if you give up a car, even if everybody gave up their automobiles, the best result possible would be a marginal reduction,” William Rees explained.

He says we’re in a state of overshoot, where too many people are consuming and polluting too much on the planet, and that’s something only governments and people in power can address.

“We need much less consumption of energy and material, which automatically means much less production of waste. And we need far fewer people.”

Dwor and Zevenbergen say living car-free isn’t for everyone, but it definitely is manageable in Vancouver.

“I would say that within a city, I think it is possible to do grocery shopping, to get to childcare, to get to recreation on a bike,” said Dwor.

“I know the price of transit is going up, but I think transit is still cheaper and more sustainable over the long run than driving a car into the city every day,” Zevenbergen added.

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