- Gas prices are going to continue to rise.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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: