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June Action of the Month: Trying out the car-free lifestyle

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The idea of relying less on your car or even going without one entirely might be a scary prospect for some, but test-driving the idea for a month during these unprecedented times could prove a very worthwhile and profitable option! It might even convince you to opt for a car-free lifestyle.

Did you know that 30% of Quebecers live fewer than 5 km from their workplace*? And yet, every Quebecer who is old enough to drive owns 1.06 vehicles on average. It’s not a stretch to say that for many of us, opting for a different way of getting around is possible.

Here are four good reasons why many of us have already chosen to go car-free, and aren’t looking back.

1. It’s good (it’s REALLY good) on your wallet

That may seem like a no-brainer, many people far underestimate just how expensive it can be to own a car. A 2018 CAA survey showed that two of every three Canadians underestimate their vehicle costs and that, in most households, transportation ranks second in monthly expenses. That’s huge!

Imagine how your personal finances would benefit if transportation ranked 4th or 5th instead. We’re talking about savings of thousands of dollars a year! On average, car ownership cost Quebecers $10,000 per year in 2018. Gas, insurance, maintenance, repairs, licences, registration, vehicle depreciation… many people neglect to factor in some or all of these things when calculating their monthly expenses.

Curious to know how much your car actually costs you? Check it out using CAA's Driving Costs Calculator.

2. A nice boost for your health… and the health of others!

Fewer trips by car likely means a greater focus on human-powered (active) transportation to get to work each day or just to get around. The physical and mental health benefits of biking, walking and running are plentiful.

Numerous studies have revealed myriad benefits of active transportation for cardiovascular health, productivity at work, anxiety/stress levels, sex life and mood, not to mention the reduced risk of many types of disease. But in all likelihood, none of this is news to you...

What you may have underestimated, though, is that these benefits for your health can also translate into health benefits for others. That is, if enough of us decide to go car-free.

According to Health Canada, 15,000 Canadians die each year from the direct consequences of pollution. Quebecers account for a quarter of these deaths. Globally, it is reported that this pollution costs $114 billion a year in health care and disability payments. 

3. A different way to discover your city or town

Montreal and Quebec City recently announced exciting plans to redevelop their urban spaces to make more room for pedestrians and cyclists, helping the residents of both cities to play tourist in their own backyard this summer!

And as the public health crisis could significantly reduce car traffic, it should be possible to do so elsewhere in Quebec as well.

Seek out new paths, discover urban art and visit areas, parks and neighbourhoods that you’ve never explored before. From Hochelaga-Maisonneuve to Baie-Saint-Paul with stopovers in Matane or Saint-Sauveur, venturing (or shall we say cycling) off the beaten path can redefine your relationship with your community. And beyond!

4. It’s climate-friendly!

This argument should come as no surprise. But it bears reminding that in Quebec, 40% of GHG emissions are from the transportation sector. Pierre-Olivier Pineau, who holds the Chair in Energy Sector Management at HEC Montréal, put it this way: "le nerf de la guerre est en transport”.

Solo driving is not solely to blame, but where there are alternatives that can be incorporated into our daily lifestyle – with all the associated benefits – why not give it a try?

Too radical a change? Well, how about leaving your car at home a couple of days a week? It would give you a taste of what going car-free would be like. If everyone used their car even 20% less often, think of the difference it would make!

BONUS: Ready to say goodbye to your car? It’s possible to donate it and benefit your favourite environmental organization! ;)

If you’re ready to take the leap and you choose to donate your car rather than selling it, you could do so while at the same time helping Équiterre fulfil its mission. The Car for the Environment program was established by the Fondation de L’Association des Recycleurs de Pièces d'Autos et de Camions du Québec (ARPAC) to support environmental organizations.

The concept is simple: when you donate your used vehicle to the program, they’ll give a sum of money to the partner organization of your choice. The sum will depend on the age of your vehicle. Talk about doubling your impact!

Doing without a car is impossible for you? Fair enough

If going car-free is not an option for you, as is certainly the case for some (no public transit in the area, living very far from work), there are alternatives.

Équiterre is working hard to encourage the government to promote public transit and human-powered transportation in Quebec.

In the meantime, driving an electric vehicle could be your best bet. To book a test drive, visit the Running Electric website, which will help you make an informed choice.