Obituary: Chris Bradshaw, ‘Car-lite’ philosophy advocate co-founded Vrtucar

A celebration of life will be held next May 20, the 75th birthday of cycling, walking and “Car-lite” philosophy advocate, Green Party activist and municipal worker Chris Bradshaw, who died earlier this month.

Born in Vancouver to a Canadian father and American mother, Bradshaw’s family moved to Dover, Ohio when he was a child.

As he writes in an online blog, his first “full-time” year as an adult in his native land was in Centennial year, 1967, the year after his graduation from Ohio’s Oberlin College with a degree in political science.

As was more common in those times, and perhaps a harbinger of his later activities as a co-founder of both the OttaWalk group and the Vrtucar network, he hitchhiked in.

Like it was for most visitors, Expo 67 was a life-changer for Bradshaw, particularly Moshe Safdie’s iconic model community, Habitat 67.

“In thinking back,” he writes in his 2017 blog, “The Safdie exhibit in Montreal was probably biggest influence in my life.

“I was drawn to housing and planning and transportation ever since, although with quite a bit of interest in freedom of information, electoral reform, and futures thrown in.

“And I guess my second equally short — and final — (employment) with General Motors may have helped me consider a new role for cars, à la Vrtucar carsharing.”

Leaving his GM job in 1969, he joined the Company of Young Canadians in Ottawa in 1969, also the year he “eloped” for a Wakefield wedding to his sweetheart Maryann Bradshaw, whom he’d first met on his earlier travels, and they moved into an apartment in the Glebe.

Over the years, he became executive director of the Canadian Organization of Public Housing Tenants, before joining the then-Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, where he served as community relations specialist for 22 years, retiring in 1995.

Five years later, Bradshaw co-founded the Vrtucar car-sharing service with one car and four members. Today, the network has dozens of locations across the national capital and partnerships with services in Quebec, Paris and Halifax. Bradshaw sold his share to a partner in 2006.

In retirement, Bradshaw’s passion for “Car-Lite” living hit high gear. Having been in on the ground floor of the OttaWalk group in 1988, he was a co-founder of PedNet and cited by the America Walks group in 2001 as the “father of pedestrian advocacy in North America.”

His life in politics began with a run in the provincial election of 1999, collecting more than 1,200 votes for the Green party in Ottawa Centre. He represented the Greens in a number of federal and provincial elections over the years, frequently posting respectable numbers in the party’s early years.

In 2001, the federal Green Party board named Bradshaw the party’s interim leader, and he was elected to the post a year leader on the understanding a new leader would be elected in 2003. In 2003 he was responsible for moving the party’s head office from Toronto to Ottawa.

Bradshaw is survived by his wife Maryann Bradshaw and daughters Laura (Ian Carter) and Karen (Cameron Nelson) Bradshaw, as well as grandchildren Gryff, Declan, Soren and Marae.

He also leaves his siblings Michael, Greg, Judy, Jerry and Dierdre.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Bradshaw’s honour to the Elisabeth Bruyère Hospital (palliative care) or Cycling Without Age



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