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Tips for a car-free lifestyle

Greetings citizens of the world! As you are undoubtedly aware we are in the midst of a MAJOR ELECTION. Of course, I'm talking about the Saskatoon municipal election (vote Oct 24!)

This will never not be the best election story ever. Did you know it's based on a book? Also equally excellent/much more interesting than most actual real-world elections.

So, lots of candidates are talking about improving the transit system and encouraging people to go car-free. Grossly, this has led to some really angry comments on Twitter and on blogs from people who are like "Why talk about the transit system? Nobody uses it anyway". Sometimes I want to SCREAM people are so misinformed.


Here's the thing: I don't drive. You shouldn't either. OK, one or two of you maybe should so I can get a ride every now and then. But if you're thinking of driving less, I present to you my PEDESTRIAN MANIFESTO:

The Shopping Detox Pedestrian Manifesto

What qualifies me to write this? Well, seeing as I have never had a driver's license, and grew up in a functional household that didn't have a car (by choice), I know what I'm talking about here.

Note: going car-free will mean adjusting how you do things. But, just like eating healthier or working exercise into your daily life, or living barefoot or whatever, you can't make a big change like this and keep going like you usually do.

1. Grocery shop European-style
I didn't even notice I did this, until I went grocery shopping with a car-owning friend. I buy just as much as I can carry, enough for a meal or two, and make more regular stops to the grocery store. Car-owners, from what I understand, make one big trip every week, or a few times a month.

HEALTH BENEFIT: buying less groceries allows you to eat more fresh produce, since you're just feeding yourself for a short time before stuff can spoil.

FRUGAL BENEFIT: if you're limited by what you can carry (or bike, or bus) yourself, you'll buy less stuff.

EXPERT TIP: don't use a shopping cart. That will make you buy too much stuff. Just grab a hand basket, and when it's full, you know you're done. Or, if you need more stuff, invest in a bundle buggy. They're not just for old people anymore!!

2. Headphones are your friends

I mentioned this already somewhat controversially in my post about how to bike commute (**note: don't listen to podcasts while cycling if you're on streets with lots of cars!!**), but walking and taking the bus? They are so great. If you get carsick and can't read a real book (or an eBook, or your iPhone) on the bus, you can also listen to audiobooks on the go.

BONUS: Listening to audiobooks, podcasts, or even music on the bus keeps people from talking to you! Or even just put on headphones for the same effect. (**Warning: does not work on all people)

EXPERT TIP: Get free audiobooks from your library using the Library2Go service! It's available at most North American libraries these days.

3) Dress in layers, especially in fall and spring

Here, it's suddenly started snowing despite being mid-October, so it's less autumn and more aut-ter. Wintumn? But the temp can vary wildly. When you drive in a car, you can put on sandals and a sundress in the winter, just running from car to office and back. When  you're going by foot, bus, or bike? Layers are crucial. Check out my tips about layering fall fashion or bike commuting fashion for specific details on this. Basically, wear a zip-up jacket or sweater so you can take it on or off easily; bring along gloves because your hands get cold even if the rest of you doesn't and WEAR COMFY SHOES OH MY GOD. I've had to forsake my love for insane heels for my pedestrian lifestyle, but it all balances out for me.

HEALTH BENEFIT: walking and biking is exercise, so you can skip the gym for the day if you walk for your errands or to/from work!

FRUGAL BENEFIT: you wear your clothes more, which makes them cheaper per use.

EXPERT TIP: several clever companies like Lululemon and American Eagle have gloves with fancy fingertips where you can use your touch-screen devices without taking off the gloves. Great for commuting!

4) Don't trust cars. Cars are the enemy.

For real: cars are not your friends. I hear car-driving acquaintances be like "Ahh! I hate cyclists! I hate pedestrians! They keep jumping into the road dangerously and randomly! And buses! They slow down traffic! Why can't everybody drive cars! Ahh!" This is obviously untrue, but it's good to know this is the misguided thought pattern of the car-driving people. They think, despite you being much more exposed, healthy, cute, and environmentally friendly than them, that you are DANGEROUS and will somehow mess up their day.

This means (unless you live in Halifax NS, the only place in the world that cars are nice to people) you need to check and DOUBLE CHECK and the TRIPLE CHECK both ways before crossing the street. Even at clearly marked crosswalks. Even at crosswalks with flashing lights where you've hit the button. Wait until you see the car ACTUALLY STOP before you cross. Make eye contact if you can.

You know, and I know, that you're following the laws. But that's  no consolation when the car driver is found guilty and you're heinously disfigured from being hit by a car.

5) Taxi!
Make like Blake Lively-Reynolds if you need to go somewhere further than the bus can take you, or faster than the bus can get you there, take a taxi! Come on, even Katie Holmes is doing this. And paying for a taxi every now and then is still cheaper than owning a car. Or so I hear.

Do you have any tips for wannabe pedestrians? I get that it's hard to do in small towns, but honestly? I'm pulling it off in Saskatoon. So it's def possible!

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