It surprised me this year that an event like Commuter Challenge could help me to step back for a moment and reflect (okay, so I might have had to log my kms online!) on my behaviour, my choices, and really look at how my choice of travel mode – something that seems so basic and routine, has made a major impact on my relationships, community, line of work, health and happiness.
I tried the owning a car thing…I had a really nice red sports car with a sunroof and thought I was pretty darn cool (I was also 17, so everyone I knew thought they were pretty cool), then I got the bills: insurance, gas, maintenance, parking – ah! It only took me a couple months and I sold that baby, happy to take the bus, read a book, and sip my coffee in peace instead of being broke and stuck in traffic.
A few years later, I was a happy bus rider and working with a friend (who is now my partner) that encouraged me to try cycling to work. I was lucky to have his support each day as we rode together to teach me to ride safely on the road, and to really open up my eyes to the realm of sustainable transportation. With the wind in my hair, riding a rickety old cruiser bike, I was hooked.
The sustainable transportation piece quickly became a passion of mine, and I found our city is filled with opportunities to volunteer and work in this area.
- I joined a group of volunteers who had this crazy notion that people could share cars. Over the next two years, we spent many many hours figuring out how to launch Winnipeg’s first carshare co-operative. Peg City Car Co-op is now nearing its first birthday and has 91 members.
- I found my way to Green Action Centre and the Active and Safe Routes to School Program. We have a dream that one day we can return to the old days, where 90% instead of 20% of kids are walking or cycling to and from school. I work with a wonderful group of people who are committed to advocating for proper policy, infrastructure, education, and programming to make this a reality.
- My partner and I have the opportunity to volunteer in our community, though the local bike repair centre the South Osborne Bike Hub. At the hub, we join a group of dedicated volunteers that help people learn to fix and ride their bikes.
Today, we are able to live carfree as members of the car co-op, and still commute actively together each day. We keep it interesting by choosing between cycling, running, taking transit, and even walking some mornings along the beautiful pathways to downtown. It is wonderful to spend the quality time together each day, but it is also great for our health, the environment, and our pocketbooks.
If I could share any advice for newbies wanting to expand their transportation choices:
- My best investments have been found in proper clothing. Commuting actively means you have to face nature head on, and believe me if you are not dressed properly nature can make you pretty uncomfortable.
- Take the time to plan your routes. This can make a world of difference in your experience riding, walking, or busing to work.
- Find a friend who can help you get started. Having someone help you learn the rules of the road, and share the tips and tricks is really helpful.
- Join the community. Get involved through events like the commuter challenge, your local volunteer bike repair facility, bike to work day – the support is great for feeling like you are a part of something and to help you grow with the opportunities in your city.
- Don’t forget to smile. Even though your active commute can become just part of your regular routine, take the time to remember to enjoy it. You are doing something awesome, and it feels great all around, so smile about it wont’cha!