For the past few years, I have chosen a “car-free” lifestyle, choosing instead to mostly get around by foot, running to and from work everyday. For me, this is a type of freedom, in that I treasure the daily interactions that I experience through our neighbourhoods, and I love the mental clarity that I get from running. However, having car freedom is also a bit of a paradox, in that for many folks, not having a vehicle in a very car-dominated city can be quite challenging.
I witnessed an example of this a few weeks ago. On one of the coldest days of the year, I had bundled up and walked over to the Cromdale Safeway. As I was psyching myself up to go back into the cold after buying a few things, I saw a young couple with a baby and a number of bags of groceries. They seemed to be quite stressed about something. It took me a minute to figure out what the issue was – they were watching for the bus and didn’t want to miss it. They couldn’t both be outside, as it was too cold for the baby, but if just one of them waited outside, they were worried that the bus driver wouldn’t wait for the others to join them. I figured that the bus driver would wait, and I told them that, but I said I’d wait outside and they could be certain that the driver would wait. In the end, they got on the bus and all was okay. But, I’d wished at that moment that I’d had a car, so I could just offer them a ride home and they wouldn’t have to wait in the cold any longer with their baby and bags.
I tell this story because I think sometimes that we forget how hard it can be to get around in this city, especially if you don’t have a car, are elderly, have mobility issues, and/or have a disability. I understand as well that I am car-free from a place of privilege, recognizing that many folks don’t choose to go without a car – for various reasons, they may not be able to have one.
So, for many, having a car means freedom, and for the odd person like me, not having a car can mean freedom. For others, being without a car can be a real barrier. Thinking about this, I’d encourage you to reflect upon the people in your communities who could perhaps use your help. If you have a car and a bit of time, why not offer a ride for someone to help them run some errands? It’s a simple enough thing, but you might just make someone’s day. And maybe yours too.
Janis Irwin is a Parkdale resident who spends a lot of her time in the Boyle Street and McCauley neighbourhoods.