By Jim MacDougall
Sointula, January 2020
Several months ago I was loading a small box of recyclables into my truck for the weekly trip to the local drop-off depot, when it hit me how ridiculous it was to be doing this good thing in a carbon- spewing vehicle. That was the moment I decided to take a critical look and find out what was necessary, and what was something other than necessary.
At the time, my wife and I were a two-vehicle family. One vehicle was my 2004 pickup truck; the other was a brand-new 2019, very fuel-efficient passenger car. I had really wanted either a full electric or a hybrid but, unfortunately, the batteries for a full-on electric vehicle are not sufficient when you live 200 kilometres away from a city, as we do. Not to mention that a heater is required much of the time when driving. A hybrid, on the other hand, would work around town, but on the highway they actually burn more fuel than a low–mileage gas guzzler.
Living at the north end of Vancouver Island, it’s difficult to be green when it comes to transportation. Heck, sometimes it can be difficult to be “transportation green” no matter where you live in Canada. The distances that some people have to travel can be an issue. Also the lack of good public transit systems. Then there’s the fact of having a busy life.
Still, I think there are simpler reasons for why it’s so difficult to be green when it comes to transportation: Convenience. Complacency. Attitude. These days it’s almost too easy to finance a new vehicle; it’s also easy to ‘justify’ buying a luxury 4×4 truck over a smaller, more fuel-efficient alternative. In fact, you don’t even have to actually purchase a vehicle; you can lease it, and it’s only a few dollars more per month to have any vehicle you want.
Plus let’s face it: a new car is really nice, and smells good too. And don’t forget the flashy ads to convince you that having a big tough 4×4 truck is an absolute must; it will make family life wonderful, and when you need to tow something big, like a house, you’ll be prepared. Once you have that really flashy, always available vehicle, it becomes very easy to simply jump in and go to the post office, the grocery store, a few miles to work, or ….
When it comes to transportation, going green is a conscious choice. It takes a little planning and a commitment to reducing your carbon footprint. My truck was convenient, yes—I used this second vehicle almost every day—but not very environmentally friendly. Was there something else that would give me the convenience without the negative environmental effects?
I began investigating electric cycles; one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had sold my truck and ordered a (very cool) fat-tire electric mountain bike, complete with trailer.
My new purchases arrived a week later. Riding an electric “pedal assist” bicycle was a little different at first, but with some careful practice, I was soon doing everything I’d been doing before. Most importantly, I wasn’t burning fuel and spewing emissions. But the really astonishing revelation? I was having a crazy amount of fun!
Even if it’s raining, I can’t wait to get pedalling. I would rather take the bicycle to the grocery store than use the car. I’d rather see how much I can safely transport in my bicycle trailer than use the car. I’d rather cycle to the post office than use the car. The car is new and smells great, but riding the bicycle smells better.
Yes, that’s me cruising by, with a big grin on my face.