New Westminster Councillor Jonathan Cote is one of only four Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley politicians who were prepared to live for one week without their car
As part of the CityCaucus Civic Leaders Car Free Week, each participating elected official was asked to provide us with a post about their experience. Our first installment is from New Westminster, B.C. councillor Jonathan Cote.
I started off my car free challenge by handing over my keys to the Acting City Administrator, Rick Page. I wasn’t really sure what to expect in the week ahead. When I had initially signed up for this challenge in June, I thought I would be working that week. I am very fortunate that I live within a 30 minute walk (10-20 minute bike ride) to my regular work and only a 10 minute walk to City Hall. So I wasn’t that concerned about being able to complete this challenge. Yet as it turns out, I had this week off, and with two young daughters and many family outings planned, the challenge became that much more difficult.
With New Westminster being the geographical center of the Metro Vancouver region, transportation issues are always front and center. As a city, we have one of the highest percentage of transit users, but we also have the distinction of being one of the most congested cities in the region. On New Westminster City Council, we are frequently discussing transportation issues and trying to promote alternative forms of transportation such as transit, cycling and walking. This is one of the main reasons that I felt it was important to sign up for this challenge.
Opening Day Moody Park Pool
My first real test for the car free challenge came with the opening of the Moody Park Pool. I would say that the pool is about a 25 minute walk away from my house. Nothing too staggering, but with my two daughters Renee (21 months old) and Leah (4 months old) along for the trip, I had a few more logistics to plan out. This was definitely a trip that I would normally have used a car for. One of the first things I noticed was how nice it was to not have to load everything into our sweltering hot car. Yet, we were now faced with the task of walking in that same heat. Luckily my wife is an expert at planning walking trips in the shade. We found some beautiful tree cover on St. Patrick Street which was a very pleasant street to walk on. The second major thing I noticed was the lack of curb cuts in my neighbourhood. I am sure anyone who has pushed a double stroller on sidewalks without curb cuts knows how annoying this is. Despite this annoyance, we arrived safe and sound and five minutes early for the grand opening of the Moody Park Pool.