Thursday, September 22, 2005

[Biketopia] Happy World Car Free Day!

Today two events drive home the advantages of going car free. As millions flee Hurricane Rita traffic jams many miles long are choking the highways and are often resulting in average driving speeds of less than one mile per hour. People are waiting three and four hours for gasoline, and the scene is one of general chaos. Those evacuating on bicycle, by comparison, are unimpeded by any slowpokes, and probably passing gas stations with big grins on their faces. Yeah, it's 162 miles to Austin, so bring along a tent.

The other problem which bikes easily solve is the nationwide rise in gas prices. Peak oil is here, OPEC has lifted all production quotas, yet still cannot meet global demand. The sad fact is that we, as a society, haven't even admitted our oil addiction is a problem, much less taken steps to mitigate the damage to our civilization that peak oil will bring. Food production and distribution is totally dependent on cheap oil, but we whine and cry that jack-rabbit starts and SUVs are our birthright.

I've been car free since 2000 and it's the smartest thing I've done. I'm healthier, happier, and richer because I've kicked the car addiction. I spend about $30 in gas per year, reimbursing friends for the occasional time when a car is needed. The Automobile Association of America estimates that the monthly cost of owning and operating a modest, relatively new sedan is $480 a month. I spend about $100 on bike-related expenses, and that's because I'm a bike freak; yet I'm still way ahead of the game. A normal person could easily make do with probably $15/mo. in bike expenses, so it seems like a no-brainer.

So why do so many people drive cars everywhere? Why do they blow so much of their hard-earned cash on such a wasteful luxury? Because they think it's a necessity. Since birth we are indoctrinated by our car-centric culture to identify cars as an extension of ourselves. We are what we drive, and we become filled with rage if we feel "we" (our car) has been disrespected. Well, Peak Oil will change that, along with many other assumptions about the "American lifestyle". Stay tuned.

"I biked Hubbert's Peak" bike stickers will be available from MBS soon. If you are car-free, or even if you own a car but mostly bike, let me know and you'll get a free sticker. (Offer only good in the Moscow area unless you are willing to cover postage and handling costs) I should have the stickers ready within a month.


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