Staff writer – July 3, 2012 01:00 AM

Dear Editor,

CFS2012byAlexDunaeNot taking action on an issue is a form of action. Many people don’t agree with the way that transportation dollars are spent in our community.

A Car Free Sunday event is unique from other events because it intentionally asks us to think about something that we take for granted - the unimpeded ability to travel, as pleasantly as possible, from one location to another. Fair enough if you’re in an automobile, but not so for other forms of transportation….

And other forms of transportation do make sense. Car Free Sunday is a chance to recognize the merits of these alternatives. I hope my Council always remains open to the dialogue of being car free - that is, free from being a slave to cars and car culture. If well planned, and well communicated, Car Free Sunday can be a tool for community education about the role of automobiles in our society, which isn’t insignificant.

Consider this logic:

- People need to walk like fish need to swim: Our bodies are meant to move. We need to find helpful ways to incorporate activity into our day to day activities. Even taking simple steps like taking the stairs or parking once and walking to all locations within 500m are a step in the right direction. An additional benefit is that when you depend on your body, you take care of it. This is a healthy attitude to have towards oneself.

- Some cultures are experiencing inactivity, obesity and chronic disease epidemics. Health Canada and its research agencies have been begging Canadians for years to get more exercise. The issue is particularly important in childhood development when young bodies grow quickly and need a good foundation. And yet we’ve been failing in how much activity we get as a nation, including our children, and the word epidemic is now used to describe the state of our health. But do not despair. People have been moving around for thousands of years, only recently by vehicle. Many towns today are still pedestrian and cycling oriented, and have many pleasant qualities because of it.

- It turns out that there is a correlation between automobile dominated communities, and the ‘plesantness’ of a place. There is a reason parts of the Comox Valley look like a ‘tangle of big box stores’ that are not worth stopping by - because it looks and feels like places that have been designed for cars. Ask urban designers what they think of what the predominance of the automobile is doing to our ‘urban fabric’. For one, they’d say Transportation mode is a key factor in land development patterning and therefore distribution of physical infrastructures, both public and private. They’d remind us that communities built around the automobile experience a feedback loop wherein because the environment has been designed to get around by car, most people, unless they don’t have the means to, will choose to ‘opt in’ to using a car because it is the only convenient choice.

This creates demand for more car infrastructure. Coupled with growth (which we are experiencing at 1100 new cars a year in the Valley according to ICBC’s regional numbers), this pattern begets itself. - Urban sprawl, cars, and infrastructure deficits are all intertwined. We are bankrupting our communities, and our natural capital by investing in a land pattern that is too energy consumptive. It is a colossal waste, the amount we spend on car oriented infrastructure in our community. Much research has been published on this. For one, our energy consumption creates our energy dependence. Dependence makes us vulnerable.

- And for those who value the environment it can be one of the most compelling reasons of all. Oil proliference and growth have fueled the 6th mass extinction on the planet.

True, ecosystems come and go, but this time it’s because of us. Some of us want the CHOICE to not participate in that way of life, and we support Car Free Sunday as a conscientious living simple ethic.

Whether you are interested in incorporating a little more activity in your life, would like to see more humane or more pleasant forms of settlement patterning, whether you are concerned about the dependence on oil and cars we are perpetuating, the cost we’re incurring, or the ecological wealth we are loosing, Car Free Sunday provides a chance to explore the logic that is being proposed by communities around the world.

If you have anything you’d like to say about the event, we encourage you to write to Imagine Comox Valley at

David Frisch – Car Free Sunday Volunteer Coordinator Courtenay

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