Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oil Hits a High; Some See $4 Gas by Spring


I guess its a good thing that the bike lanes on Diamond Drive will be that much farther along by the end of this year. Perhaps the price of gas is finally going to go high enough to induce an increased mode split between driving SOV's and alternatives, and we in Los Alamos will be better prepared for such an event.


Neale said...

I always get a chuckle out of people who assert that when gas hits a certain price, people will suddenly abandon their cars. Gas is already $9 a gallon in England and people are still driving cars a lot. Cost isn't the reason people are driving, convenience is the reason. Gas needs to become prohibitively expensive before people start to care. I'm talking $20 a gallon. Until that happens I'm going to keep pressing the health and environmental benefits, with economic being a secondary incentive.

Khal said...

They don't drive the junk that Americans drive, though. The mode split in the UK was 8% for bicycles vs 1% for the US in 1996 and the UK car mode was twenty points lower than the US. Don't have time right now to look for newer numbers. Of course, that is probably different for a variety of reasons, not cost alone.

I concur, though, that convenience is a huge driver. Cliff Slater has that argument nailed. But with improvements in the bike lane system to make it convenient and "safer" and the bus system making multimodal use possible, I think one can make a host of arguments to increase the mode shift.

As of this morning, oil was up to $102 per barrel.

Khal said...


Apparently that link did not wrap.

Neale said...

Okay I'll grant you that higher gas prices may provide an additional incentive to people who were already considering cycling, walking, or taking the bus. In this wealthy and physically-active community I suspect that the addition of bike lanes more than any particular gas price will be the impetus.

The gas prices I think are more likely to be just another thing we bicycle commuters can pat ourselves on the back about. In fact, my family recently sold our second car because of the new county bus system and our willingness to bike and walk. The savings have been far beyond merely gas.

Khal said...

Then you saved the entire cost of car ownership rather than the incremental (per mile) costs. Thats a big difference.

Cliff Slater's columns are here.

And here is something else funny.
link text

Joe M said...


Nice link. Just a thought on gas price vs. car purchase. What if we required new car buyers to purchase fuel for a fixed amount of *miles* to be driven in the form of a gas card up front?

Just use the current, average price of gas appropriate to the vehicle as published by DOE. I think 10k or 20k miles sounds about right. You want to purchase an 11 mpg pickup? You'd have to purchase a gas card as well, capable of fueling the vehicle for the first 20k miles.

This would immediately show the consumer the additional economics involved. You could waive/reduce this requirement for hybrids or other advantageous features which benefit society.

Just a random thought...

Joe M.

Anonymous said...


Hybrids do not benefit society. The current hybrids get worse mileage than my Honda. They are a marketing gimic.

The whole Al Gore crowd has it wrong. It's not about finding ways to make our current life style have a smaller impact. The issue is changing our way of life. It's a moral crime to have a population our size use a third of the world's resources. Especially when the use of those resources hasn't improved our level of satisfaction in life. It's only contributed to the ubiquitous self storage sheds.

Khal said...

I think it would be really difficult to find a way to have our current lifestyle have a significantly smaller impact. The "ubiquitous self-storage sheds" says it better than anything I have ever heard. That is priceless.

Anonymous said...

Boy do we need bike lanes. As I rode home on the third-world Diamond repaving project by the high school, some yahoo blasted his car horn behind me and all the way past me. Scared the beejesus out of me. Who would want to ride a bike in this town when there are people like that in cars.

Jimbo said...

Yahoos with horns is precisely why I prefer the trails as my two-wheel commuter route wherever possible.

Khal said...

I had three close calls this morning with being sideswiped. Two cases the SUV and Pickup were slow enough that I knocked on the passenger side door and hollered "five feet". Was useless.

One of the reasons I have been on a small jihad over the James Quinn incident is that I CONSTANTLY see motorists pass me in the oncoming lane while running oncoming traffic onto the shoulder. One of these days, we are going to have a James Quinn incident in this town. You can bank on it. That gentleman from White Rock complained about this bitterly--blaming us for it. It ain't my fault someone breaks the law. I'm doing my part best I can.


Joe M said...

Ditto the concerns about Diamond at the High School. I've also had a few Horatio Hornblowers let me know that laws be damned, that lane is theirs.

I know many here don't care for sidewalks, but they are an option at certain times and certain places. I use the curb cut on Diamond to jump to the sidewalk where the bike lane ends just north of the old Junior High (Pueblo to Jimbo and I).


Khal said...

I have not used the sidewalk there, but tell you the truth, my paranoia level is increasing by the year. The thought of some moron coming up behind me in an F-250 while text-messaging on the cell phone has made me wonder if I should kick my LANL life insurance up to 5 years worth of salary. My wife at least could enjoy her widowhood.

Even I, who traditionally scorned separate facilities, am wondering whether the decline in standards has gone too far to reverse.

Neale said...

There is an allure to segregated facilities: nobody honking their horn at you--at least, theoretically. But that sword has two sides, and segregated facilities fail by making cyclists vulnerable to the crash scenarios that are already most prevalent in the United States: the left cross and the right hook (see BicycleSafe.com for images).

Both of these crash types go up when bicyclists demand segregation, because by segregating themselves from other traffic, cyclists are sending a message that yes, they are indeed inferior traffic (or maybe not even traffic at all), and must be prepared to yield their right of way at any moment.

Integrated facilities (which properly-designed bike lanes, and sharrows, can be) place bicycles in with other traffic, using the same road rules and acting in the same predictable manner. This is why, in a 1996 survey, riding in the road has the lowest crash rate per million kilometers of any transportation type: 26 crashes per million km for bike lanes, up to 59 crashes per million km for major roads without bike lanes. Sidewalks were 1026 crashes per million km.

I don't have any studies about this, but intuitively it seems that segregated facilities increase honking as soon as you cross paths with a motorist. Even bike lanes would cause honking when you have to change lanes to make a left turn (say, onto Urban from Diamond).

But honking's not so bad, really. If they honk, that means they see you. And honking is not done exclusively to bicyclists. One of the first things I saw after moving here was someone leaning on his horn in the left turn bay behind an elderly driver. Apparently the younger impatient driver was displeased with the elderly gentleman's slower reflexes and degraded vision and wanted the gentleman to put more people at risk for the sake of the younger man's convenience.

The convenience of others should always be a secondary concern, trumped by the risk of injury or death (including, nay especially your own). Let them honk as much as they want, they can go get into a wreck after they pass you.

Greg said...

I loved President Bush's press conference this week where a reporter referenced the widely quoted predictions of $4/gallon coming fuel prices and Bush went into his deer-in-the-headlights routine, saying that he hadn't heard anything about that.

What does this guy do all day? Doesn't he have an army of people who keep him up to date on what is happening outside the Presidential Cone of Ignorance?

On the segregated facilities issue, think of bike trails as the gateway drug to road biking. Kids and families use them and eventually these folks will become the road bikers of the future. Commuters will use them until they get tired of the paths and graduate to the faster and short routes roads provide.

As I have said before, every town that I have lived in that had an exceptionally strong biking community had a fantastic system of bike paths (Davis CA, Chico CA, Minneapolis MN). Yet even with all the bike paths being available, these communities see fit to configure most roads with exceptionally safe bike lanes, which is way more then I can say for Los Alamos (the West end of Canyon Rd being the exception).

Bike trails improve the quality of life of a community just as much as great shopping opportunities can.

It doesn't have to be one or the other. One feeds into a strong biking community that supports safe roadways for everyone. We want riders out on their bikes and bike trails help do that and builds that base of support we need around here.

People who use bike trails support biking in general and will vote positively on pro-bike issues when they come up.

The E. Jemez repaving job is something I think we should have stood up against as a pro-biking community, yet there was nary a peep about it at the time, as I recall. Hopefully, if things like this happen in the future we can jump on it right away and get it fixed.

Scott said...

When you think about how much work you can do with a gallon of gasoline (e.g. move 4000lbs over 20 miles), 4 bucks is still a screaming bargain. The problem is that our society (myself included) is calibrated to live with abundant and extremely inexpensvie energy.

I agree with Neale: Convenience, comfort, and status will continue to trump dollar costs for the majority of society when it comes to selecting a mode of transport.

People will cut back on new clothes, furniture, appliances, dining out, vacations, grandma's medicine, you name it, before they will give up their precious automotive independence.

Anonymous said...

I've ridden on the sidewalk on my commute home but sometimes I want to get home just like the honking car-yahoos. And what a pain it is to ride on the sidewalk with the curbs and busted concrete and dog walkers and toddler pushers.

I'm seriously thinking of giving up my road bike because of texting drivers. It's scary what people do when they drive.

Isn't it about time we all starting doing one thing at a time? Maybe then, life would seem simpler and more enjoyable.

Scott said...

Greg - Where in Los Alamos would you propose building a paved bike path that would be useful for transportation?