Saturday, September 24, 2005


Car-free riders not bothered by pump prices

By Rob Faulkner
The Hamilton Spectator(Sep 24, 2005) 

Randy Kay went car-free the day he dragged his Mercury Topaz -- smoking and dying -- onto the front yard of his mechanic's shop. 

"My car had a major breakdown," says Kay, a transportation activist at Ontario Public Research Interest Group McMaster. "There was smoke pouring out the front. I ran away. It was like an emergency situation." 

That was six years ago, when he ran away from car repair bills that ate into his credit union account. He dodged heavy traffic on the way to work in Mississauga, with a new job at McMaster. He bought a bike trailer for his girls. To leave town, he car pools or rents. 

But the odd thing is, as a week of Car Free Day events wrap up this weekend, even this well-known fan of bikes, boots and buses says the global car-free campaign can be too heavy-handed. Maybe "car-light" is an easier sell. 

"I think car free is a bit misleading, and alienates people who think, 'Oh, so if I own a car, it's not for me,'" Kay says. "It's really about how you use your car and the choices you make. You can have a car and feel good about yourself if you use it wisely. And gas prices may focus attention on things like idling." 

Yesterday, the volunteers who report prices to saw gas as high as $1.18 a litre. On Thursday rumours became reality as gas hit $2.15 a litre at a Pioneer station in Fruitland and $2.02 in Grimsby. 

Ironically, the day of near-brawls at gas pumps was Car Free Day. The Danes were the most devoted, banning cars for three days from central Copenhagen. Hundreds of cities joined in. 

In Hamilton, the week saw women-only bike repair clinics, historical harbour tours by bike, and a bike-in movie night at the Gage Park bandshell. It ends tomorrow with a Cootes Paradise hike led by naturalist-turned-councillor Brian McHattie. (Meet at 10 a.m., McMaster Student Centre room 229.)

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