Nothing but the truth

  1. Gas prices are going to continue to rise.
  2. In 2000, the US Census ran a supplemental survey to ascertain the different modes of transport Americans take (n=58,000). From that survey, the Census estimated between 411,000 and 750,000 people over the age of 16 commuted by bike (1).
  3. Population in the US was 291,421,906 in 2000 (US Census), meaning a scant 2.6‰ (notice thats a per mille) of the total population commuted by bike in 2000 (2).
  4. There will be an increase in that number in the next few years, but not anything substantial.

I find myself continually disgusted by those statistics, and even more so by the numerous commercials which ‘commiserate’ with hapless drivers who have to drive because there is no other way. Give me a break.

We here in the USA are obsessed with the technological fix idea. That’s what lead to the enormous dam building boom in the 1930s by the BLM, and the increasing myriad of prescription drugs to address almost anything, extant or not (I must concede here that it also led to lots of good such as the Moon landing, nuclear power, and sliced bread). The same can be said of our transportation crisis. Here in America’s Heartland, I am berated with commercial after commercial which treat biofuels as our Lord and Savior, claiming they are the answers to everything from our dependence on foreign oil to disposable coffee cups. But lets look where biofuels are taking us (or rather the undeveloped world). People are !starving! on our account just because we would rather put corn in our gas tank than in a hungry mouth. How is this even acceptable in a country with such a high moral standard? Yes, I realize that we are not actually responsible for exporting corn to the hungry peoples in other countries, but we have driven the price of corn up dramatically with the push for alternative biofuels. This rise in corn has caused a rise in other staple crops like rice and wheat as well. How can we call biofuels sustainable when we are starving the people it’s supposed to sustain? I am appalled at the USA’s corporate (meaning collective) nonaction. Hence why I ride my bike (at least one of the bigger reasons).

Now consider this. What if we could truly come up with a sustainable fuel source, reduce pollution and emissions,  and help world hunger. Does your mind automatically think of some new radical technology, perhaps some space station or satellite which harnesses energy from the ionosphere? The majority of our trips are to some destination less that three miles from home (still looking for that source, sorry, but take a moment and consider your life and see if it isn’t true), yet we take our cars. Our cars produce the most pollution upon start, so these small trips are far worse for the environment than longer trips. The answer is not biofuels, it’s not a hybrid Tahoe (give me a break), for trip to time efficiency, it’s not even walking!

Ride a bike. It is low impact, has enough torque to carry heavy loads, and will make you live longer. Why aren’t we considering this as a viable option? Why is only a small portion of the US population doing this now? I see NO downsides to this solution. Yes, you have to eat, so the what about the food crisis you say? First, you tend to eat healthier, and more local when you consistently ride a bike. This means that food costs actually drop (our bill certainly has, and we even eat better than we did before) because you are not paying to truck it cross country to your mouth. Second, you tend to start dropping those processed food, which require much raw material and energy, just to strip any health benefits away. I think it is obvious that the energy trade off is a win-win.

I want to mention, I still see a use for cars, freight trucks, and things that use combustible fuels. Though I may consider riding to St. Louis to visit family, it is not for everyone. Then the car comes in gladly. Cars are not inherently evil, it is how we currently use them that is. We still have goods that need to get from one end of the country to the other. Trucks and rail are excellent at this. But tell me one viable reason why we need SUVs and I’ll tell you you are wrong. A light truck or minivan will do the job of a SUV better and more efficient in every case.

What I am proposing here are not big changes, though due to commercial slavery, common perception, and a perceived personal weakness akin to addiction, society is going to have a rough time with this one. Consider my opinions here and now, and see if truth doesn’t ring in them. Maybe you too can start to make some of these changes, improve your quality of life, and help change the world.

After making it through all that, here is my gift to you…I think it sums it up nicely:


13 responses to “Nothing but the truth

  1. Beautiful sense of resentment there my love. I agree wholeheartedly with you, but that isn’t going to stop the love affair that most Americans have with their cars and SUVs now. Give it time and your cartoon will no longer be funny because most folks will have been on a bike for longer than they can remember… kind of like you.. been riding full tilt since you were about 10 werent’ you?… maybe a tad older, at least utill you and Diane found each other.
    Love ya

  2. Tagged “soapbox.” Now that’s funny.

  3. And sliced bread sucks.

  4. Okay, actual comment: you’re spot on with everything except the assertion that these are not big changes. There are cities, and I happen to live in one of them, that have developed structurally entirely within the age of the auto and as a consequence are built on automobile scales. There are multitudes of people who commute (x > 3) miles to work each way day, and pretending that getting them to bike in instead isn’t a big change is inaccurate. Ideally we’d all have commuter rails and the like, but again, those are big infrastructural changes, not little deals at all.

    So I’m inspired and after this weekend will get the bike tuned up and going. It’s a good message, and the more people see scary numbers at the pumps, the more they’ll be forced to take your advice. But I don’t really think these are minor changes; it’s going to require quite a conceptual overhaul, and people in general, and especially Americans, don’t seem very well-equipped for such things.

    (Frank, with the food argument – it’s interesting in the realm of “is science progress?” type questions that we seem to be arriving at this sustainability crisis – resulting in these crazy prices and all – but sustainability is something we did pretty easily about 50,000 years ago. I finished a book a couple of weeks ago called “Knowledge and Civilization” that discussed this among many examples of entirely nonsensical practices in the corporate age. I think you’d dig it. Anyways, you’re right, our techno-toys may be our undoing).

  5. Hey Nyet… I agree with you and you make a wonderful point about cities designed FOR the auto craze. Just want to point out one thing thought…..

    My picture is prettier than yours —>

    See! 😀

  6. Nyet, I concede your point that these are large changes w/r/t dropping the car and commuting everywhere by bike. However, I would argue that mixed-mode transport is still a viable alternative, even in poorly-planned cities like Phoenix (and SA Town). Also, I think that the best thing we can do right now, which truly easy anywhere, is to cut some of these little ❤ mile trips by either taking a walk/bike, or just not taking them in the first place. A little pre-planning can go a long way.

    Anyway, thanks for the insight, and I am truly stoked that you are gonna take your bike out!

  7. I’m not sure I understand what you want. At the beginning of the industrial age, we were burning poor grade coal to power the factories. Then they discovered dams to supply electricity to power the factories. It was hearlded as a great step forward because it it left the air cleaner, and there was an endless supply of water. Then we discovered nuclear power, and that was even better because you didn’t have to build those ugly dams. (I always thought dams were beautiful!), But we almost had a melt down at Three Mile Island, and then there was a true melt down at Chernoble (sp), and there was the problem of getting rid of the nuclear waste. So they threw that idea out the window. Now we are burning high grade coal for the power plants, and they are using windmills whenever possible, but they don’t even make the proverbial drop in the bucket for an adequate source of power. And here in the northwest, they are tearing out the smaller dams.
    Since 75% of the CO2 that man produces comes from heating homes, and other buildings, what do you propose for an energy source?
    You seem to be down on coal, dams, nuclear, oil, and all the other sources we use, so what is your solution? The windmills look lousier than the dams!!
    I have an idea using the sun, but it would heat the earth up a lot faster than the CO2 is doing now.
    As far as autos and bicycles, the amount of CO2 you would save using bikes is almost negligible. They are fine for flat ground, but how many cities are built on flat ground? And no matter how flat it is, the older people can’t be expected to ride bikes.

  8. I agree Don. The other day I read or watched something about a man who has figured out how to burn saltwater with radio waves. It is supposedly in developement and research as a possibility for alternate fuels. It has no emissions to bother the atmosphere, and so far looks promissing.

  9. “You seem to be down on coal, dams, nuclear, oil, and all the other sources we use, so what is your solution? ”

    Don, I think you are missing my point here. No I am not saying that we do not need some form of energy production. We need to reduce our use of power. We waste too much power. Also, reread my post. I never said I am down on nuclear, in fact I think it may be our best hope for the future. Our current perception of nuclear IMO comes from propaganda coverage of Chernobyl and 3-mile.

    “As far as autos and bicycles, the amount of CO2 you would save using bikes is almost negligible. ”

    I disagree, but that gets a post all its own…

    “And no matter how flat it is, the older people can’t be expected to ride bikes.”

    Maybe so, but there are still alternatives in some cities such as Mass Transit. In fact, that is what I am trying to advocate in a way in this post. At least most of us can do a better job managing our resources.

  10. The increasing cost of fuel seems to be solving the problem. Ridership on mass trans is way up! I think they said about 30% in a lot of cities. I guess the only point we disagree on is dams. I still think they are the best thing since sliced bread.

  11. By the way – google “TATA Motors” and look up the TATA Nano. It’s an air-operated car. I didn’t look too deep, so I don’t know how much power it takes to operate, but it is supposed to be the next big breakthrough. It’s another technofix.

  12. Not quite air, but it is an interesting car:
    “- The Nano has a rear-wheel drive, all-aluminium, two-cylinder, 623 cc, 33 PS, multi point fuel injection petrol engine. This is the first time that a two-cylinder gasoline engine is being used in a car with single balancer shaft.”

  13. Pingback: Bicycles and CO2 « Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land

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