Four Wheels or Two? – Living Sustainably In The City – blogUT

A recent article released by the Toronto Star states that the air quality in Toronto might not be as bad as we all think it is.

This may seem hard to believe, considering the extreme density of the downtown core.  Ironically though, it is the suburbs which we should avoid.

The mid-20th century boom of the suburbs in the GTA was supposed to be a Renaissance in urban development and infrastructure. However, another Toronto Star article indicates that the typical infrastructure of the suburbs is what causes high levels of CO2 emissions. The greatest amount of the emissions in the GTA comes from the town of Whitby at 13.02 tonnes per year. Where do they place the blame? Distance from the sidewalk. Apparently, living in a house that is set well back from the sidewalk makes one more inclined to ride around in a large, gas-guzzling SUV. But is it worth risking our environmental well being to get to and from soccer practice, the corner store, or even through the long lineups at McDonald’s (which consequently makes us fat) by driving a gas-guzzler?

So why should we be living in the city? The answer is actually quite clear. Public transportation is much better in the city and the sidewalks are closer to retail buildings and housing. Getting around is just easier. No one has much need for a car, except for Mayor Ford, who continues to pick fights with the ‘evil streetcars’. But that brings me to my next point. Not everyone can afford public transportation in the city; $3 a ride adds up.

Much to the pleasure of many, the bicycle has made a miraculous comeback. Everyone is using bikes. Children, adults, professors, students, hipsters… just about everyone scurries to one of the many bicycle shops in the GTA to get the latest one speed, skinny tire, weave-basket-carrying bicycle. Biking is no doubt the best way to get around the city, especially with the numerous picture-esque tree-lined streets and bike paths (another enemy of our beloved mayor). Even many of our adored professors at U of T, including Professor Brym (Department of Sociology) take their bikes wherever they go. It is almost impossible  to avoid cyclists on the St. George campus, especially the ones that we almost run into while jaywalking across St. George Street to get to Sid Smith.

Recently, downtown Toronto was introduced to the BIXI bike system. This system allows anyone to go to the one of 80 BIXI stations and pay the small fee of $5 per day ($40 per month, or $95 per year) to use a bike and go their merry way.

However, there are some downsides to the program.  You still have to find a station, pay a security deposit with a credit card, and there is no discounted rate for students. Despite these obstacles though, there are still many stations on campus for students to use.

In this day and age,  I truly believe that our generation has the power to make an environmental change. We don’t have to make the same mistakes our parents did, driving around in gas-guzzlers.  Instead, we should make sure to utilize the numerous ways of being environmentally  conscientious so that the next generations can enjoy the earth too. As the centre of research for our ‘true north, strong and free’, the students of U of T should join together in a revolution against irresponsible automobile use with the same enthusiasm as Louis XIV and Napoleon – on our bikes, ready to take on CO2 emissions (and succeed).

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