Rethinking Rural Transit?

BY Alex Hickey

I moved home to Nova Scotia about two and a half years ago.

In Toronto, where I lived for over 20 years, I didn’t need a car. There was the subway and cycling. I was an intrepid bike commuter: one of those people in a bright yellow jacket, ringing my bike bell and making nice, crisp hand signals to indicate turns.

During all of my time in the city, I never owned a car. But moving back to rural Nova Scotia made a car feel inevitable. I didn’t want to feel isolated, the way I felt as a kid here. I didn’t want to be that person always begging rides.
A car equalled freedom and power.

So, at the age of 39, I bought my first car. For the first year I was home, it was essential. I used it to visit my Nana in Bridgewater three or four times a week. But since my Nana died, I’ve been getting more and more uneasy about the car thing: the blithe polluting, the rapid consumption of money and gas. It’s been convenient, but the cost of it, the financial and ethical costs, are weighing me down.

I’m thinking about selling my car and becoming one of the Rural Immobile.

What would it be like to stay home more? Kind of relaxing, really. This is where I want to be, at least most of the time. It’s amazing what one can acquire in the neighbourhood—produce from local vendors in the summer and from the LaHave Bakery in winter, booze in Petite. I have a big pantry that I can stock up at the beginning of the winter. I can bike or walk to the beach and the bakery, to friends’ houses. I know I can rely on my neighbours for drives, maybe even borrow a car now and then, or rent one for the occasional weekend. And who knows, our municipal and provincial governments might actually come through with a transit strategy that could give us access to reliable public transit. That would be sweet.

Of all the things in my life that I could sacrifice, my car feels like the best. I want to stay here and continue doing creative work. I don’t want to move away to the city with its lure of straight jobs and regularly scheduled busses. I don’t want to give up my Internet access, or even (I admit shamefacedly) my smart phone. I’m already eating rice and potatoes for a lot of my meals. If getting rid of my car enables me to maintain my life here, I think that’s what has to go.

It feels revolutionary. But I’m mentally preparing, and come fall, I think you’ll be seeing a For Sale sign on my little Corolla.

AlexSings.ca

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