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‘Car-less’ living

March 1st,2023 | Environment

Linda Miller and Nathan Curry. Anna Robertson photo

Living without a car in a big urban centre is one thing, but a Wakefield couple has intentionally shaped their lives around what they like to term a “car-less” existence in the village.

For the past 18 years, musicians Linda Miller and Nathan Curry have made intentional decisions to facilitate this choice, including the first big one which was to move from Chelsea to the village of Wakefield “so we could get rid of the car,” they explained.

Both Miller and Curry agreed that Wakefield is a much easier village to live in without a car. Chelsea is much more spread out, they commented, noting that from their Elmdale home they can walk to the hardware store, pharmacy, grocery store, library, post office, doctor’s office, dentist office and even the hospital just up the hill.

They do their banking online. “It’s perfect,” Miller commented. “Everything we need is here.”

Miller also acknowledged that they are lucky. They were able to find a place to live just a ten-minute walk away from her job at the Wakefield General Store. Curry is a luthier who made and repaired instruments and taught music lessons from his home studio.

Now retired, the couple also has time for the extra organization sometimes required to make their lives without a car work.

Miller said she has “become an expert at planning my route so I don’t have to stand out in the cold for too long,” but added that the bus system, with seven buses a day going from Wakefield to the city, “is excellent” and she often even sees commuters bringing their bikes back and forth from the city on the bus. The couple also uses the “awesome” Transcollines taxi-style on-demand service on occasion as back up.

Ideally, Miller said she would love it if more buses travelled through the village and past her door, instead of leaving from the community centre, but otherwise they have no complaints, even noting that the evening and weekend buses have returned since reductions in service during the pandemic.

“I wish more people knew about the bus,” Miller said, remarking on the economy of being able to get from Wakefield all the way to Kanata where her daughter lives for just over six dollars.

They save money by not owning and running a car, and since they usually have to carry their purchases, they have also become more intentional about what they buy.

“It’s been easy and positive for us. We buy less. We have saved money,” Curry noted, adding that their choice, which often involves walking, has resulted in more connections with their neighbours, a strong sense of community, and overall has only added to their quality of life.

Miller said that people are sometimes surprised and curious about their choice not to own a car, but the couple has noticed that the awareness around the climate crisis, a longstanding concern for them, is growing. They said their choices have “inspired a few friends to give up their cars.”

“There are other things that override convenience, like the climate emergency,” Curry commented. “If it’s [a climate] emergency then we should be acting like it is one.”

Miller said she has witnessed more and more people ditching their cars for bikes and boots, especially in the new Elmdale housing development behind their house where residents walk with their groceries, cycle and chat with their neighbours.

The couple cites choosing smaller vehicles, car-pooling and combining trips, using public transit when possible and sometimes making do with less, as options for people who aren’t ready to give up their cars but are still interested in reducing their personal carbon footprint.

“We don’t expect people to give up their cars and we know we are in a good situation to make it work,” Miller said, but she hopes that over time people might choose to be if not “car-free,” then perhaps a little more “car-less” as they go about their daily lives.

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