gasoline addiction

Car-free in River City (Part 1)


It’s been four years since we sold our last remaining vehicle.

We did it primarily for environmental reasons. I know, I know, making choices based on morality is boring and irrelevant these days. Convenience and “luxury living” are kings. Regardless of the trend, we felt deep concern about the unfolding environmental crises, and we were willing to make changes to our lifestyle to reduce our share of the damage. And let’s get real, the single most destructive thing that humans do is buy, drive, and maintain private vehicles.

So we got real. We sold the old van and waited for the impending doom that must certainly accompany our decision. We have been amazed at the results.


Four years on, we are thrilled with our decision to break the shackles of car prison. My car-free friend Wendy Allsop, a big inspiration for our decision, said it well in this Edmonton Journal article:

“There is this image of these overburdened granola-eaters making all these difficult choices that make their lives so much work. That’s not a correct view. It’s much more freeing and lighter than people could ever imagine….There are so many things we do because it’s available to us and, as humans, we’re not good at putting restrictions on our own activities. Not having a car is one way of having an extra boundary put on your lives that makes you live better.”

She’s talking about limits, of course. Throughout the industrial revolution we have strived to break through more and more of the limits that energy constraints imposed on us. Now we are experiencing the downsides of having so few limits. The physical and monetary downsides are obvious, but the lifestyle ones are tougher to pin down.

The “limit” of not having a car makes our lives better in these ways:

  • 90% fewer minutes sitting at traffic lights and in traffic. Less dead time.
  • A slower life. This one is huge. It’s super-easy to say no to that event or activity halfway across the city that might be 4% better than the one three blocks from our house.
  • No more “what’s that sound” sinking feeling. You know, the one where your car is trying to tell you that it’s time to open your wallet again.
  • No more car accidents. We’ve all been in one right? Did it make your day better? More convenient? Did you get where you were going really fast?
  • More bike time. We love to ride our bikes. You used to when you were 11. What happened?
  • More time of all sorts. If you convert your time to money, and consider that it costs roughly $7000/year to run a car, we save a huge amount of time by not having one.

Our life is better without a car than with one.

Next post, I’ll write about some of the tricks we’ve learned on how to live car-free.

Richard Heinberg's Edmonton Talk

I don’t think that anyone explains the predicament that we humans are in more clearly and intelligently than Richard Heinberg. I was disappointed to miss his Edmonton talk in February, but lo and behold, the entire thing was captured on youtube for our viewing pleasure (by no less than the City of Edmonton itself).

I watched all six 9-minute videos, and I recommend them to everybody.

Heinberg tells it like it is:


You Want the Cold? You Can't Handle the Cold!



I took this picture from my kitchen window one morning last month. The trick is to look at the little numbers on the inside. That’s right, –30 degrees Celsius. It gets cold in our beloved river city.

You’re a Hawaiian in an Edmontonian’s body though, right? An island-dweller stuck on the frozen tundra of Alberta. If only nature would understand your needs. Oh well, the only thing to do is hunker down and stay inside for six months a year except for that dash to your idling car. That’s why our merciful Creator invented remote car starters, isn’t it?  read more... »