Gospel of the car ad: “Going Shopping? Get a Car”

Okay, the eye-popping reality first: nobody needs a car to go shopping.

Oh, people may say they need cars. They may think they need cars.

People who run the zoning department think people need cars. People who run the stores seem to think people need cars. Toronto Councillor A-damn Giambrone, the “cyclist’s friend,” (he chairs the city’s cycling committee) is working to ensure there’s ever more parking along Bloor Street, above the subway line (thanks to Martino’s Bikelane diary for the tip).

But the fact is, in the case of “main street” stores the parking space out front is taken, nine times out of ten, by the owner of the store.

At the mall, folks may be willing to run over grannies in walkers to get the place by the entrance, but when that place isn’t available they willingly walk, sometimes for miles, from the car to the store (and to the next store, and the next). And then they walk, sometimes for miles, sometimes carting a back-seat-full of truck, back again to the parking spot. Where the hell did they park, anyway?

No, no one uses their car to shop, strictly speaking.

Strictly speaking, the only thing people do with cars is park them.

Now, if you want to talk about a street with great transit; somewhere like Toronto’s Spadina Ave or the Danforth, it’s the wise shopper who eschews the problem of driving, parking, paying for driving and parking, walking the round trip from parking space to store and back; it’s the wise shopper who jumps out of the streetcar in front of the restaurant they’re meeting a friend for lunch, walks a block to the housewares store where they buy the table napkins, crosses the street to the liquor store for the nice bottle of wine, hops back on the streetcar for a ride down the road where they can get art supplies, and then (let’s say) back on the streetcar (two miles from that first restaurant) for the ride home, purchases neatly tucked under the seat. Nice time for a snooze.

You can’t do that in a Volvo. You’d crash.

In your Subaru (after trudging back to it) you’re cursing because you misread the sign and you’ve got a $30 parking ticket or worse, your damn car’s been towed.

In your red Cherokee pickup you’ve lost your sideview mirror somehow, (it’s dangling from the wires that control the tilt and yaw), and the car in front’s parked so closely you have to wait for the person to come back in order to get out. You wait 43 minutes exactly. You have to put more money in the meter.

In your Mercedes, when you hike all the way back up the road carrying the crap you’ve bought, your sweat-soaked back sticks to the leather seats and you get a chill that lasts two weeks to the day.

Hey but folks who don’t own cars don’t need to be told about sweat.

Folks who ride bikes, for example, have vented underarms in their windbreakers. They strap the purchases on the back rack, and ride from one ring-post to the other, to get their shopping done. Do they sweat? Yeah, but then they stop at a great restaurant and have a big, delicious meal. People who ride bikes everywhere can spend their gym fees eating out instead, and their sweat smells of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

At the grocery store they fill up a shopping cart with $124.32 worth of groceries, enough for almost the whole month if they stretch it right, and for an additional $3.50 the store delivers it. It’s on the front porch when they get home.

Who uses a car for shopping? Losers.

While it’s generally acknowledged among cycling advocates, pedestrian advocates, and transit mavens that a car is extraneous to a satisfying consumer existence, what’s less well-known is that car-dependent types generally eschew the car for shopping as well.

It’s time to remind store owners and managers of the facts.

Next time you go shopping, tell someone you took the subway. Let them see your bike helmet. Ask them to call a cab for you. Tell them you don’t need a parking chit: what have they got for you instead?

And when you hear about the proposed bike lane on Bloor/Danforth, the Tooker Memorial Bike Lane, don’t worry about the parking.

People know where they can park their cars, after all.

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