Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Consider Not Driving

There has been a lot of coverage and complaining in the Red Deer media lately about the poor state of the roads and about winter driving conditions in general. While this is not the forum to air or give credence to those complaints, it is the place to perhaps offer some ideas that can take the stress out of winter driving.

The biggest step you can take is to simply not drive. Hear me out.

Most neighbourhoods in Red Deer have a strip-mall/shopping centre attached to them. Therefore most of us live within walking distance of a corner-store. While this won't cover the major grocery shopping needs, it does put you in close proximity of the essentials like milk and bread.

Many kids in Red Deer are fortunate enough to live reasonably close to their schools; close enough that they can walk most days. Those who don't live close enough, qualify for busing. Bundle them up in their snow pants, jackets, boots, toques, mitts and scarves (and do the same for you) and walk them to their school. And, for those of you who drop-off your kids on the way to work; is there a friend in the neighbourhood they can walk with? While we do get cold winter days, there aren't many that are too cold to walk to school in the morning. Use the -20 guideline that the schools use. If the temperature (real or windchill) is above -20 degrees Celsius, your kids will be playing outside at recess and lunch. If it's warm enough to play outside, it's warm enough to walk to school.

For commuters, rather than complain about the "traffic problem" or state of the roads on your morning drive to work, consider getting out of your car. On my way to work, as I cycle up 40th Ave, I notice that most vehicles have one person in them. Surely many of you are going to and from similar locations, leave your cars in parking stalls all day and could carpool with a friend or neighbour. This would solve two issues. One, you personally wouldn't be fighting with "traffic" everyday and two, we'd clear up some of the so-called "congestion" on the major arteries.

The other extremely viable option for commuters, is Red Deer Transit. The buses in Red Deer head into downtown and exchange at the depot. For most downtown-workers living in Red Deer, transit can be a cost-effective, efficient and non-driving means of getting to and from work. Let someone else do the driving (and stressing out) for you.

Now, the big challenge. Consider being a winter cyclist. A couple of studded tires, some warm clothes, a helmet and helmet liner and you're all set. Keep to the sidewalks to avoid the sliding cars and get a light so pedestrians can see you coming. There is a group of people in Red Deer who bicycle commute year-round (me included). While the temperature is an issue, the freedom of being away from traffic (especially if you use the Waskasoo Park Trail system) is well worth the temporary discomfort of a cold day. Winter cycling not only reduces the traffic load on our roads and the pollution in the air, it goes a long way to keeping you in shape for all the fun stuff you like to do in the spring/summer.

So, rather than complain about the state of our roads, try taking action toward a more sustainable and healthy commute, and leave the driving to others.

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