History of Car Stops. A recollection and reflection by Barry Mathias

CAR STOPS were introduced about 12 years ago. My idea was to encourage people to have less reliance on their cars, and to enable older folk, who had become unable to drive, to still be able to move independently around the Island instead of being forced to leave Pender. While we have been moderately successful in the first aim, the second aim does not work as well, as the reason most people lose their driving licence is often the same medical reason that causes them to leave.

However, Car Stops have been very successful with those who don't have cars, enabling them to travel to work and to move easily around the Island. The Stops have been a winner with students and with ‘walk-off’ visitors who come by ferry, and especially with boaters and sailors. This organized form of hitch-hiking enables tourists to visit markets, shops, restaurants and galleries, and there is no doubt that Car Stops have been an economic success.

We were lucky when we first applied to MOTI, as their Island Manager for Pender was near retirement, and was generous with his time. He drove me around the Island on four different occasions as we decided the most useful sites and the safest. I wanted 29 Car Stops but was allowed only 16 on a pilot scheme, to see how successful they were. The CRD Director was very enthusiastic and agreed to cover the costs with a Grant in Aid; the Police Sergeant at that time was also in agreement, and TranSign, a company in Victoria that makes all the MOTI signs, manufactured the Car Stops after the colour was agreed with this MOTI Manager. Don Harrison composed the four-line poem on the signs ... a whimsical disclaimer that has proved to be popular, and Dave Grey collected these Car Stops and many later ones. With the help of a host of MAP members the first 16 were installed.

After the first year, I applied to MOTI and they withdrew the pilot designation, and we were allowed to increase the number of signs to 29, which over the years now number 42. Over recent years we have been well supported by the present CRD Director, Dave Howe, and by subsequent MOTI managers. After the first year, I visited other islands at their request and most of the them went ahead with installing Car Stops ... Salt Spring introduced more than 40 to supplement their popular bus system; Mayne introduced more than 30 and others lesser amounts. My concept was that people could travel around the Islands without their own vehicle and, if they were retired, without cost.

Car Stops are unique. I was lucky enough to have a student at UVic who researched similar ideas around Canada and the USA, but she found no examples of this version. Car Stops work on islands, but would not be successful, even for isolated communities on large land masses. The key to their success is community and the fact that we are surrounded by water.

We have an annual clean-up of the Car Stops, and if you would like to help, let us know!