by Sarah Bradley
The second edition of Sustainable Transportation Week (STW) is coming to Ottawa. This year’s edition runs from September 16 to 22, and will have plenty of opportunities to ditch the car for a week and try active and collective forms of transportation like walking, cycling, taking transit, carpooling, and car-sharing. Save time and money, get moving, and show your support for streets designed for all road users.
Centretown is the perfect neighbourhood for using sustainable transportation: there are Bixi stations, VRTUCAR locations, bicycle lanes, plenty of OC Transpo options, and dense, tree-lined main streets that make for a great walking experience. That’s not to mention all the great bike shops, bookstores, cafés, and more that are easily accessible without using your car.
The first step is signing up for the car-free challenge at infostw.org/ottawa, where STW is offering prizes to encourage people to try leaving the car at home for a week, and making a commitment to use sustainable transportation instead.
Once you’ve entered the contest, follow the bike-bus-car race to see which mode can navigate through rush-hour traffic the fastest. If you’re keen to share your ideas on how to make Ottawa’s streets friendlier to pedestrians, sign up for the public seminar, which will be held Wednesday, September 19, at City Hall.
Why leave the car behind? According to a recent study by GPS manufacturer TomTom, levels of traffic congestion in Ottawa have increased since 2011, and we now rank 10th on the North American Congestion Index behind cities like Los Angeles and Toronto.
Driving is stressful and inefficient in these conditions, plus idling in traffic releases CO2 into the environment, which pollutes our precious air and water. That’s not to mention noise pollution, time wasted, and loss of productivity. In Canada, roughly one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the transportation sector. Our individual transportation choices do add up to make a difference!
Councillor Katherine Hobbs (Kitchissippi) recently sold her car, extending her initial two-month car-free challenge beyond the one-year mark.
She has made a public commitment to walking, cycling, and taking transit to show it can be done, even with a packed schedule. Another cycling advocate in Ottawa, Lana Stewart, who blogs at modalmom.com, finds that living in Ottawa car-free is actually very easy to do and just takes a bit of planning. Contrary to popular belief that driving is convenient, she finds that, in most cases, driving isn’t the right tool for the job.
Here are some ideas to shake up your transportation routine:
•Use a BIXI bike to get to your next meeting instead of spending money on a cab.
•Walk your kids to school.
•Join your workplace’s carpool group, or use Ottawa Ride Match to find carpool partners.
•Enjoy some fresh air and go for a weekend family bike ride on the NCC trails.
•Heading to Elgin or Bank Streets for the night? Take the bus for affordable and convenient travel.
•Don’t own a car but need to travel a long distance? Rent a VRTUCAR for the day.
Be sure to check out the full program of events at www.infostw.org/Ottawa. There’s something for everyone, regardless of which mode you choose