Briana Doyle

MOMENTUM Magazine August 2001 Review


"... refreshingly frank, informative, and very quirky."


The underlying assumption here in western Canada is that everybody has a car," writes Brian Grover, author of BC Car-Free. "Even in those situations where heading out on one bus and returning by another one makes perfect sense, most guidebook authors will tell their readers to arrange to have a car left at both ends of the trail instead. Clearly some changes to the traditional mind set are in order."

Although at first glance it appears to be just another guidebook, albeit the only one that puts the needs of the car-free first, BC Car-Free is a strange little book. It is refreshingly frank, informative, and very quirky.

"This book," writes Grover in the introduction, "is dedicated to and written for those who do not want to sit around complaining about the high cost of gasoline or auto insurance at dinner parties, do not want to spend their Thursday afternoons getting a brake job, who dislike parking fines, speeding tickets and tow trucks with equal acrimony."

Only 15 of nearly 100 outdoor excursions listed in this book are currently inaccessible without a car because of the Lower Mainland's transit strike. Most of the trails are accessed by the West Vancouver Blue Bus or charter bus routes, or are on nearby islands. There are car-free routes for hiking trails, cycle touring, ocean kayaking, whale watching, spelunking, camping and more.

Along with the expected trail descriptions and public transportation directions, there are nuggets of herbal lore, history and unabashed opinion. Though occasionally tangential, the many asides have interesting and offbeat wisdom to impart. "By a weird quirk of evolution,

beavers are unable to digest the twigs, bark, and bits of wood they typically feast on," one note in the sidebar reads. "Instead, when a mass of cellulose reaches a beaver's lower intestine it is digested by a bacteria colony. Nutrients are released, but since the rodent's lower intestine is incapable of absorbing them, they are expelled in the usual way. The feces are then reconsumed to allow the upper intestine to absorb the nutrients."

In BC Car-Free, Grover wryly comments on everything from the quality of service at equipment rental stores ("the ironically-named Good Diving & Kayak, though ideally situated, offers the worst and surliest service on the coast") to the inadequacy of Vancouver's transit system ("While stuck in the interminable messaging queue [while calling TransLink for scheduling information,] think of it as practice for the real thing, waiting for buses that may never come.") Grover also covers how to pick up cheap, well-made camping gear ("For many newbies the outdoor lifestyle becomes a consumer experience. They buy all the name brand gear, head out into the outback, despise it, then after a hiatus of several years, sell off their equipment at garage sale prices. Look for these guys."). Typos and design glitches abound, but somehow this makes the self-published book all the more endearing.

Cheap gear and rodent feces aside, the best thing about BC Car-Free is that it challenges the assumption that you have to have a vehicle to escape the city. In fact, the book argues, for those who say they love the outdoors, minimizing vehicle use should be a priority to lessen their impact on the forests around us. © Brianna Doyle All rights reserved.

The End