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  1. #1
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    CarLess in Calgary -- Documentary

    Here’s a documentary on several couples testing the carless lifestyle in Calgary by becoming bus and rail dependant. These families choose to live in suburban communities away from transit rich cities to become carless and I applaud their attempt.

    However, you and I can see the mistake they are making.

    1. Not using transit effectively --- In the movie, it was taking 3 or 4 times the amount of time to travel instead of using the car. If they were timing the bus and rail, it should have taken 1 or 2 times. This has been my experience in timing the buses and trains only doubles my commute time at worse. I get the feeling they did not use the bus schedule at all in planning their trips.

    2. They did not make use of human powered machines --- In the movie, you’ll see one woman dragging a Burley Travoy to complete her shopping but where’s her bicycle? LOL. It was sad seeing how desperate the situation looked as they had to lug home groceries and even a Christmas tree on foot.

    Why not multimode commute with a bicycle using the bus or train to complete the trip? How about taking a folding bike or a folding adult kick scooter instead of waiting for a transfer bus? Heck, why not use Roller blades or a skateboard? Why not attach the Travoy to a bicycle making the trip is 5 minutes to the grocery store instead of 20? Why not bike commute or use a taxi? The whole experiment was designed to fail.

    It just seems to me that being carless in the movie was all about sacrifice and suffering. I did not pay for the full length movie due to the fact it was being done wrong. I don’t consider myself carless because that is the wrong way to look at it. My life is not LESS by not owning a car.

    Quite the contrary, I’m carfree which is an empowering word meaning I’m no longer dependant on costly personal motorized transport for survival. I do not sacrifice or endure hardship in no manner what so ever. My choice of occupation, transit rich community and use of human powered machines have given me the same freedoms of the motor centrist.

    There's a 22 minute primer here:
    http://vimeo.com/search/page:3/sort:...deos&q=carfree


    http://vimeo.com/ondemand/carlessincalgary
    Last edited by Dahon.Steve; 12-11-14 at 10:26 PM.

  2. #2
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    1. Not using transit effectively --- In the movie, it was taking 3 or 4 times the amount of time to travel instead of using the car. If they were timing the bus and rail, it should have taken 1 or 2 times. This has been my experience in timing the buses and trains only doubles my commute time at worse. I get the feeling they did not use the bus schedule at all in planning their trips.
    If I lived in the 'burbs here, I would probably own a car. I know there are many on BF who commute every day of the year. But I'm more in the group that commutes 90% of the time. When we have a foot of snow on the ground, I'm taking the bus. In the 'burbs here, that's not much of an option.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    If I lived in the 'burbs here, I would probably own a car. I know there are many on BF who commute every day of the year. But I'm more in the group that commutes 90% of the time. When we have a foot of snow on the ground, I'm taking the bus. In the 'burbs here, that's not much of an option.
    Maybe so.

    I was thinking who buys a $250.00 dollars Burley Travoy and lugs it around by hand? I think the director of the documentary was trying to make it look harder than it really was. It's obvious if the woman was using a bicycle to carry the trailer, it would have made the shopping too easy for the film.

  4. #4
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    A question for you Dahon.Steve ... have you been to Calgary?


    Just a couple comments ...

    I am quite sure that the buses don't have bike racks on them, the Calgary Transit website doesn't mention them at all. The C-Train does allow bicycles outside of peak hours, but the C-Train route is not extensive.
    https://www.calgarytransit.com/getti.../bikes-transit


    Also, Albertan cities are not particularly good at clearing streets in the winter. Some of that has to do with the weather systems that come through, in particular the Chinook, where the there are thaws and freezes all winter. That leaves the roads very icy and rutted. Then they don't tend to clear right down to the road ... they tend to leave a few inches of packed snow and ice on the road.

    I could cycle year round in Winnipeg where they cleared right down to the road, and where there weren't any chinooks ... but when I moved to Alberta, it became very difficult. Cycling on slippery rutted snow and ice is really awful. I started putting my bicycle into the car and driving out to the highways, because they were usually relatively clear, just so I could get rides in on the weekends.

    And winters can be very long ... easily 6-7 months of the year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    Here’s a documentary on several couples testing the carless lifestyle in Calgary by becoming bus and rail dependant. These families choose to live in suburban communities away from transit rich cities to become carless and I applaud their attempt.

    However, you and I can see the mistake they are making.

    1. Not using transit effectively --- In the movie, it was taking 3 or 4 times the amount of time to travel instead of using the car. If they were timing the bus and rail, it should have taken 1 or 2 times. This has been my experience in timing the buses and trains only doubles my commute time at worse. I get the feeling they did not use the bus schedule at all in planning their trips.
    I think it depends on where you live. In my area, it takes me 3x as long to take a bus as to travel by car. And I time my bus schedules pretty carefully.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    1. Not using transit effectively --- In the movie, it was taking 3 or 4 times the amount of time to travel instead of using the car. If they were timing the bus and rail, it should have taken 1 or 2 times. This has been my experience in timing the buses and trains only doubles my commute time at worse. I get the feeling they did not use the bus schedule at all in planning their trips.
    Sorry but your experience can't tell you anything about commuting by public transit in Calgary. It's not uncommon for a 15 minute drive to take over an hour by transit, an hour and a half wouldn't be unheard of.

    This city has one of the biggest footprints per capita of any city in NA, it covers more square km than most cities with 5 or 6x the population. Add to that the transit system is very ineffective.

    This is a car-centric community in the heart of oil country and most everything is built around fossil fuel powered transportation. While I believe it's getting better, Machka is right in that most buses don't have bike carriers and you can't always take your bike on the train.

    That being said we do have a huge pathway system but it is largely ineffective fro commuting unless you live near the downtown core, it's mostly meant for recreation.

    Your second point is on the money though, if you are inclined you can actually get around here by bicycle but motorists are generally unfriendly to cyclists and on road cycling infrastructure is largely non-existent (one short separated lane and less than a dozen painted bike lanes in the whole city). It's not for the faint of heart.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Buglady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    Hereís a documentary on several couples testing the carless lifestyle in Calgary by becoming bus and rail dependant. These families choose to live in suburban communities away from transit rich cities to become carless and I applaud their attempt. ... It just seems to me that being carless in the movie was all about sacrifice and suffering. I did not pay for the full length movie due to the fact it was being done wrong. I donít consider myself carless because that is the wrong way to look at it. My life is not LESS by not owning a car.
    Carless in Calgary for ten years in April, can confirm they are Doin It Wrong. I have used bus, train, bike, walking, and sometimes cheated by borrowing friend's cars, but I always come back to bike and train as being the best options for me. I do not like driving. I find it stressful. I'd FAR rather ride my bike, even in -30, than drive.

    I have had to take these factors into consideration when choosing where to live and work; but that's life. In exchange for living closer to the center of the city, in a smaller space, I have freed up hours of commuting time and thousands of dollars in costs. (Not that I had thousands of dollars to begin with, but that's also life...)

  8. #8
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buglady View Post
    Carless in Calgary for ten years in April, can confirm they are Doin It Wrong. I have used bus, train, bike, walking, and sometimes cheated by borrowing friend's cars, but I always come back to bike and train as being the best options for me. I do not like driving. I find it stressful. I'd FAR rather ride my bike, even in -30, than drive.

    I have had to take these factors into consideration when choosing where to live and work; but that's life. In exchange for living closer to the center of the city, in a smaller space, I have freed up hours of commuting time and thousands of dollars in costs. (Not that I had thousands of dollars to begin with, but that's also life...)
    I was thinking of you when I saw this thread.


    That was one point mentioned in the video. One lady said something along the lines that she figured any hope of going car free was gone, once they moved out to the suburbs. And in order to get the nice house etc. etc. (which I gathered was a priority for her husband/partner) they had to move out to the suburbs. I sort of got the impression that she might have been just as happy doing what you've done.

    And perhaps if the experiment were longer than one week, the participants might have been inspired to look into a variety of methods of transportation, perhaps including bicycles. For me, it would have been interesting to see the challenge go on for a couple months ... maybe August/September so that there's a good variety of weather conditions. In the first week, everything is new and difficult and challenging, but by the end of the first month, people sort of settle in and start to discover "the tricks of the trade".


    Still, I figure if they were able to walk to get groceries, that means that those sorts of facilities aren't too far away. And I liked the cart one of the other lady's was pulling with the closed, almost suitcase-like bags on it. I would have loved that when I lived in Winnipeg!

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    They should have found people who are already successfully carfree and focused on them.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    Maybe so.

    I was thinking who buys a $250.00 dollars Burley Travoy and lugs it around by hand? I think the director of the documentary was trying to make it look harder than it really was. It's obvious if the woman was using a bicycle to carry the trailer, it would have made the shopping too easy for the film.
    One wonders if GM was their uncredited sponsor...
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
    RUSA #7498

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    They should have found people who are already successfully carfree and focused on them.
    It was a contest or challenge ... and they invited people to participate in the contest/challenge, especially those who were not already car-free.

    My impression is that the point of the contest/challenge was to show that Calgary needs to improve their public transportation, and possibly other transportational options (i.e. walkability, cycleability, etc.). They are showing that people in Calgary's suburbs can lessen their dependence on motorised vehicles, but with the current public transportation system, doing so become quite time consuming and potentially frustrating.

    However, if the city of Calgary were to heed the message in the video, they might be inclined to take a good look at the public transportation system ... and potentially make some improvements.

    Whether or not contest/challenges and resulting videos like this will be successful will remain to be seen.



    If they had done the contest/challenge with people who are already successfully carfree and focused on them, I think the message of the video would have been lost.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    They should have found people who are already successfully carfree and focused on them.
    +1

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    They should have found people who are already successfully carfree and focused on them.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    +1
    Why?


    If you're trying to make a plea for better facilities in order to allow people to go car-free or car-light .... why would you use people who are already good at it?


    Of course, the answer is ... you wouldn't. You would use exactly the type of people they used. You wouldn't use someone like Buglady because she's too good at it. If you made a video of her commutes and errands and then tried to present that to the city of Calgary, they'd just pat themselves on the back for providing adequate facilities for those who don't want to drive.

    But the point of this video is to show that there is work to be done. So they are going to choose the most unlikely people, and get them to try to be car-free for a week. And they are going to discover that it is difficult to be car free in the suburbs of Calgary. And they will (hopefully) present the video to Calgary and request that they step up the game and provide better facilities.

  14. #14
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    It was a contest or challenge ... and they invited people to participate in the contest/challenge, especially those who were not already car-free.

    My impression is that the point of the contest/challenge was to show that Calgary needs to improve their public transportation, and possibly other transportational options (i.e. walkability, cycleability, etc.). They are showing that people in Calgary's suburbs can lessen their dependence on motorised vehicles, but with the current public transportation system, doing so become quite time consuming and potentially frustrating.

    However, if the city of Calgary were to heed the message in the video, they might be inclined to take a good look at the public transportation system ... and potentially make some improvements.

    Whether or not contest/challenges and resulting videos like this will be successful will remain to be seen.



    If they had done the contest/challenge with people who are already successfully carfree and focused on them, I think the message of the video would have been lost.
    The "carfree challenge" is trite and overdone, with hundreds of videos and articles taking the same tack since long before the Age of the Internet. They get some idiot (usually the reporter or filmmaker) to swear off their cars for a few days or weeks. Of course, the clueless idiot is a miserable failure, and the foregone conclusion is that "being carfree is impossible" in whatever city they are in.

    The message is that being carfree is so ridiculously difficult that only an idiot would try it. If they focused instead on some of the millions of successful carfree people, the message would be that it is practical and enjoyable to give up the carbon breathing beast.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    In my suburban home I have space for multiple bikes and trailers. I don't bother with side bags or side baskets because the trailers can hold more and they're cheaper. In a downtown apartment I would probably have one bike loaded up with utility accessories.
    Don't get butthurt. Ride a recumbent.

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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    If they focused instead on some of the millions of successful carfree people, the message would be that it is practical and enjoyable to give up the carbon breathing beast.
    "Millions" of people who enjoyably gave up their cars in order to be successful carfree people? An interesting concept and would be quite a story especially if that story could be documented, especially if the story could be focused on millions of people somewhere other than NYC. The story would be even more fascinating if it could demonstrate that these millions of people who have voluntarily converted from owning cars to being successfully carfree did so without significantly altering their lifestyle such as moving into assisted living facilities, or no longer participating in social activities or travel due to the limitations of their new status.
    Last edited by I-Like-To-Bike; 12-19-14 at 10:41 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Why?


    If you're trying to make a plea for better facilities in order to allow people to go car-free or car-light .... why would you use people who are already good at it?
    Some people want to see constructed drama, others want to see solutions.

    I didn't learn anything watching that documentary and things we already know. The carless experience was a failure and drama sells product. I happen to believe this is what the director wanted.
    Last edited by Dahon.Steve; 12-19-14 at 11:30 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buglady View Post
    Carless in Calgary for ten years in April, can confirm they are Doin It Wrong. I have used bus, train, bike, walking, and sometimes cheated by borrowing friend's cars, but I always come back to bike and train as being the best options for me. I do not like driving. I find it stressful. I'd FAR rather ride my bike, even in -30, than drive.

    I have had to take these factors into consideration when choosing where to live and work; but that's life. In exchange for living closer to the center of the city, in a smaller space, I have freed up hours of commuting time and thousands of dollars in costs. (Not that I had thousands of dollars to begin with, but that's also life...)
    Good post.

    I was on the Calgary transit site and could not find a complete daily bus/rail schedule! The site tells you when the next train/bus arrives but I would still like the option to see when the buses are leaving for the entire day. I think this could be the problem because you'll have to carry a notebook computer to know when the next bus or train arrives.

    I also found out that property values are much higher along the Lightrail lines in Calgary. Who would have thought? The beauty of this is you don't have to live a block away from LTR to take advantage of them. I suspect if all those interviewed in documentary moved within a mile of the LTR we would have seen success stories.

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    Pedalin' Erry Day lasauge's Avatar
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    Many good points in this thread. Going car-free for a week as an experiment does seem doomed to failure - that's simply not enough time for the participants to fully explore their options and adapt to the changes. How many people here on LCF suddenly woke up one day and decided to get rid of their car? That's certainly not how it worked in my case, it took about 4 years for me to transition from driving everywhere, to starting to ride places, to finally reaching the point where the car became a needless expense.

    If any future documentary producers are reading this: perhaps you could feature both a family doing the car-free experiment, but also follow someone who has already successfully gone car-free? That would allow the documentary to show both the difficulties that follow making the switch, as well as some of the solutions.
    Reach me faster by email.

  20. #20
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Why?


    If you're trying to make a plea for better facilities in order to allow people to go car-free or car-light .... why would you use people who are already good at it?
    ..
    The people who are already good at it would show what infrastructure improvements would be beneficial. With people who don't know what they're doing you'll just have random suggestions that may or may not be of any use.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    A question for you Dahon.Steve ... have you been to Calgary?

    Just a couple comments ...

    And winters can be very long ... easily 6-7 months of the year.
    And good comments too. I can validate this because I was born and lived there for many years.

    There are some parts of the world that are simply not amenable to commuting by transit or bicycle. Cowtown is one of them. There are idealists that think that if enough of someone elses (taxpayer) money is thrown at a issue, that everything will be sunshine and moonbeams. These are the folks who have to be kept away from planning roles or elected office.

    Bottom line is that prior to the widespread use of hydrocarbon fuels for heating and transportation, my hometown was a remote RCMP outpost with a regional population of maybe 1,000. 150 years later, it is at over a million.

    Calgary is very spread out, due to essentially unlimited expansion potential. It has a low population density, with a preponderence of large single-family homes. Which is great because who wants to live in an apartment. I am serious - deep down, who really wants to live in a tiny box surrounded by knumbskulls?

    It has wild weather, due to it being in the crosshairs between competing arctic and westerly (warm and moist) weather systems. I experienced snow every month of the year. The weather can change from sweetness and light to a raging blizzard within minutes.

    Due to its high elevation, it experiences extreme daily temperature variations. So in April, it will be below freezing in the morning, and warm up by 30 degrees by the afternoon. So you have to carry a ton of clothing. And for 6 months a year, you have to face meltwater that freezes to ice on roads, bike paths etc. Morning bike commutes in the spring and fall are generally terrifying. Due to snow and ice buildup, and the daily thaw/freeze cycles, and the amount of gravel required to make streets passible, residential 'hoods can be impassible to bicycles for months at a time. This is not the fault of anyone; you could throw a bazillion dollars to try and clear this up; it is Mother Nature.

    Because of the low civic density, bus/transit service becomes less practical. It is already massively subsidized.

    Bottom line: the car is the natural solution in Calgary.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Mayer View Post
    Because of the low civic density, bus/transit service becomes less practical. It is already massively subsidized.

    Bottom line: the car is the natural solution in Calgary.
    What about all of that car-centric infrastructure? Isn't that "massively subsidized"?
    Smug, bicycle-riding, car-bashing, public transport-using zealot.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    Some people want to see constructed drama, others want to see solutions.

    I didn't learn anything watching that documentary and things we already know. The carless experience was a failure and drama sells product. I happen to believe this is what the director wanted.
    I don't think the documentary was made so that you could learn something. I don't think you were the intended audience at all. And yes, hopefully this documentary is indeed successful in "selling product" ... that "product" being the need for better public transportation (and other transportational options besides the car).

  24. #24
    Senior Member Buglady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    I was on the Calgary transit site and could not find a complete daily bus/rail schedule! The site tells you when the next train/bus arrives but I would still like the option to see when the buses are leaving for the entire day. I think this could be the problem because you'll have to carry a notebook computer to know when the next bus or train arrives.
    I'm not sure what you were looking at but there is a link that says "Schedules" right on the front page of the the Transit website. They changed it fairly recently, though; perhaps you were looking at it a couple of months ago.

    There's a text system that lets you get the next three bus times for a given stop (yes, you do have to look those up in advance), and a smartphone app that can give several options. I haven't used that one as I only have a dumb phone, but my sister says it works really well. Google Maps also integrates Calgary Transit information and often gives better route options.

    You can get paper printouts of specific route schedules if there are several you use regularly. They are available on the buses, at library branches, and at the Calgary Transit offices. You can write to them and have them send you the schedules and a paper map of all the routes if you want. There isn't a master schedule showing all the schedules of all the routes because it would have to be the size of a phone book.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    "Millions" of people who enjoyably gave up their cars in order to be successful carfree people? An interesting concept and would be quite a story especially if that story could be documented, especially if the story could be focused on millions of people somewhere other than NYC. The story would be even more fascinating if it could demonstrate that these millions of people who have voluntarily converted from owning cars to being successfully carfree did so without significantly altering their lifestyle such as moving into assisted living facilities, or no longer participating in social activities or travel due to the limitations of their new status.
    This post is proof of the fact that many people are ignorant of the many successful carfree people living in our country and Canada. This is precisely why it would be beneficial to film some documentaries and write some articles that attempt to lessen this type of ignorance.
    Last edited by Roody; 12-20-14 at 01:42 AM.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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