MOVE ON: Converting one trip per week to non-car could have unexpected benefits

As most gyms know (and capitalize on), New Year’s resolutions almost never stick. The problem is we are almost always too extreme.

“I am going to go from being a couch potato to running the Kneeknacker in eight months.”

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“I will lose 40 pounds by June, compete in the Tough Mudder, eat only vegetable-based foods and attend District Council meetings at least once a month. Also, I will wear a hair shirt and mortify myself for not completing the Grouse Grind in under an hour.”

Aspirational goals are super important. We reach for the stars and get to the top of the stairs. But, cough, most New Year’s goals are not even remotely achievable. How about taking a more forgiving approach and make your 2020 goal a keeper? 

A couple of years ago TransLink ran a campaign urging us to convert just one trip a week from a car-based voyage to a transit-based, walking or biking excursion. I haven’t got the stats on how successful that campaign was, but it seemed at least “do-able.” 

So how about it? This year resolve to make just one trip a week using a non-car option. 

OK, you grumble, that’s great for society at large, but what are some of the potential benefits to me?  

First, taking a different mode of transportation can make you more creative. Really? Yes, psychological research indicates that doing something different – like choosing a new mode for your journey to work or school or shopping – can increase your creativity and ability to innovate.

If you’re psychologically flexible, then you’re more likely to spot new opportunities and be willing to take them. But what does trying out a different way of getting around just once a week have to do with creativity? The theory is that changing one small thing can lead to a series of changes and surprises. Being flexible enough to embrace surprise and recognize opportunity is a key survival skill in a world where many parts of our lives change without our control. It’s a good idea to test your flexibility when you are actually in control. You’d be surprised what you find. 

Second, taking a different mode of transportation can open you up on a social level. Is Vancouver really that unfriendly? Probably the best mode for this is walking (no cell phones allowed). When you walk down the street, all kinds of interaction become more possible. Say hi to your neighbour working in the garden. Pat the dog. Help the slower person get their wheelie thing across the street. Smile at your fellow amblers as they pass by. There was a time when this was normal. It might feel strange at first. But, you’ll get used to being closer to fellow humans again – even if they are strangers. 

A rut is a rut, no matter which one you’re in. The deepest ones are of course the hardest to spot. What have you got to lose by taking an alternate way of getting around just once a week? The burning taste of road rage in the back of your mouth? That sense of guilt when you squeeze through the yellow light just in time? Those might be best left behind. Move on, North Shore tribe. Move on for just one trip a week. You’ll be glad you did. 

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