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GREENINGS: Car-free parenting is not rare (Spring 2018)

May 1st, 2018 · No Comments

Toronto is busy planning for yesteryear

Mayor John Tory doesn’t think much of me. He doesn’t even acknowledge my existence. In fact, he said there are incredibly few of me.

The “me” in this case is a parent without a car.

Yet I know for a fact that I am not alone. The endless discussions at parent groups about car seats for the car-less tell me I’m not alone, yet nobody wants to acknowledge we exist. There are few car seats that are designed for parents who use them primarily in cabs and in friends’ cars.

It seems our leadership and decision-makers are largely stuck in 1960 when car ownership meant freedom and independence.

The most “portable” stage two car seat on the Canadian market comes in at a whopping 15 kilograms. There’s a lightweight car seat in the U.S. but no Canadian version. Strollers have gotten so big now that getting on transit is a feat in and of itself. Most telling though is that our mayor got up to a microphone and proclaimed that we don’t really exist in Toronto, the country’s largest city.

It seems our leadership and decision-makers are largely stuck in 1960 when car ownership meant freedom and independence. They’re still selling us the American dream that a car symbolizes prosperity and status.

Those days are long gone.

The power of oil companies and carmakers to dictate our psyche has waned and we’ve collectively moved on. Most of us recognize how disastrous car-centric communities are and few of us care to sit in the horrendous traffic that has evolved in this city.

Even those who have moved to the suburbs decry driving in the city. Nobody likes to do it.

In response, there are a lot of us who have chosen not to. Yet, despite our growing numbers, we are still largely invisible. With growing acknowledgement of climate change, the understanding of the role gas guzzlers and our personal choices play, it’s no wonder that more and more people are choosing to live low-carbon lives.

I realize that the older generation isn’t on board yet, and they might never be.

When we first moved to the Annex and decided to go car-free, my parents drove two hours every week to visit us with coolers full of food for us.

They’re terrific cooks so I didn’t complain, but it took me a while to figure out why they were doing it. My parents were convinced the only reason anyone would give up a car is because of financial difficulty and they were worried we couldn’t afford to eat!

Thankfully, my parents are not making lasting infrastructure decisions in the country’s largest city. They have no influence over how terrible the future will be. The mayor on the other hand does. Poor infrastructure planning affects us for generations. Once roads are built and tracks are laid, the undo button is exceedingly hard to push.

He’s already shown how much he favours cars. He chose the ill-advised option to maintain the Gardiner. He is fighting bike lanes in North York. The Scarborough subway is meant to be a hub for drivers. It is not a realistic option to get people out of cars. At best, it’ll slightly reduce the amount of downtown traffic, but it does nothing to create a walkable neighbourhood in Scarborough. This is an expensive option that shortchanges the health of Scarborough children.

No other level of government has the kind of direct impact on reducing green house gas emissions that municipalities do. Ours has failed, over and over. Rather than building reliable transit now, we’re going headlong into a project that has no reasonable prospect of actually getting people out of cars.

We could have invested in municipal loans for homeowners to insulate with loans tied to the home, not the owner. The next purchaser can continue to pay it as part of their taxes and keep enjoying the savings. Instead, we got commitments to keep our taxes low at an exponential cost to our quality of life.

I know I’m not alone. There are many other parents who have made similar choices for the sake of all our children’s futures. We want political leaders who not only acknowledge our existence, but also make policies that support our choices. We’re already making sacrifices in hopes of delaying human extinction.

Car-free parenting is not exceedingly rare. We are growing in numbers and we need to exert that power in numbers. This municipal election, I will be looking for candidates that support a greener Toronto.

I want leadership that acknowledges the existence of people who make greener choices. I will be looking for candidates who support pedestrian zones, stroller spaces on transit, and connected bike lanes. We are no longer beholden to big oil. Their days are over. It’s time to let go.

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy, and help distinguish environmental truths from myths.

 

READ MORE BY TERRI CHU:

GREENINGS: The science of board games (Mar. 2018)

GREENINGS: Driving fuelled by unseen subsidies (Jan. 2018)

GREENINGS: No solutions for nobody’s problem (Dec. 2017)

GREENINGS: Celebrate science not milestones (Nov. 2017)

GREENINGS: Down to the data (Oct. 2017)

GREENINGS: Reducing paper waste (Fall 2017)

GREENINGS: Taking tolls to the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway (July 2017)

GREENINGS: Lessons from Madrid (June 2017)

GREENINGS: Thoughts on hitting the 400 benchmark (May 2017)

GREENINGS: Solving the food waste problem (April 2017)

GREENINGS: Kellie Leitch was right (March 2017)

Tags: Annex · Columns