Torontonians may not be not as environmentally conscious as they think.
According to a recent census by Statistics Canada, Toronto commuters are beginning to choose alternate methods of getting to work aside from their cars. The reason, however, is not necessarily to help the environment.
John Sewell, former mayor of Toronto and longtime bike enthusiast, said that he thinks the reason people choose to walk, bike or ride public transit to work is because it is simply more convenient.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with health or the environment,” Sewell said. “It has more to do with ease of getting around in the city. More and more people are realizing that riding a bike is not only the easiest solution, but perhaps the only way to get around Toronto.”
The study found that between 2001 and 2006 the total number of drivers in Toronto has gone up, but the number of people using those cars to get to work has dropped slightly.
Nubo Hoferica, owner of Cyclemania on Danforth Avenue, said that bicycles are quicker than walking and more reliable than public transit.
“Sales are always going up,” he said. “But people are not just buying new bikes; they’re dusting off their old bikes and getting them fixed.”
In addition, Hoferica said that teenagers are no longer rushing to get a new car once they turn 16. In fact, Hoferica said that he has noticed a definite increase in the number of young people coming in with their parents to buy a bike.
“Bikes have changed in past few years,” he said. “You have a lot of choice now, not like it was 20 years ago. You can choose a style that looks like a motorcycle and young people want something different than what their parents had,” Hoferica said.
The Stats Can census covered all areas of the GTA, revealing that more people living in the suburbs are finding work closer to home rather than commuting to Toronto. However, the majority of those people still drive to work.
David Stokell, a sales representative of Ajax-Pickering Nissan, said that car sales have continued to rise over the last few years. This January, he noted, was the biggest January in the business ever.
“There is no rhyme or reason as to why people buy cars,” he said. “We don’t really have a transit system out here in the suburbs, so there really isn’t any other choice.”
Stats Can also revealed that people living outside of the city are relying on cars more than ever before. But with gas prices rising, most people are likely to buy a smaller more economical vehicle.
“Smaller cars are on the rise, there’s no doubt about it. As long as the car gets good mileage, they’ll buy it, because that’s all people care about these days,” Stokell said.
As for the new environmentally friendly hybrid cars, Stokell does not see them lasting. In five years he has sold only five hybrids because, he said, they really are not worth the extra money.
“You’ll get 1,000 km a tank in a hybrid,” he said. “But in my Honda Civic I’ve gotten as high as 800 km. So for that 200 km would I spend the extra $9,000 for a hybrid? No!”
Some people reason, as Stokell does, that they can buy a lot of gas with the extra couple thousand dollars they save by choosing a regular vehicle instead.
Stokell said that the only realistic way to get people out of their cars is to make the transit system better. Those in the car business are not pushed to sell environmentally friendly options and opt for the more expensive vehicles for better commission.
“It’s not our job to be their conscience,” he said.