Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bicycles are faster than cars...

Toss this one out on this side of the pond. From Copenhagenize.

""...The model American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car. He sits in it while it goes and while it stands idling. He parks it and searches for it. He earns the money to put down on it and to meet the monthly installments. He works to pay for gasoline, tolls, insurance, taxes, and tickets. He spends four of his sixteen waking hours on the road or gathering his resources for it.   

The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour. In countries deprived of a transportation industry, people manage to do the same, walking wherever they want to go, and they allocate only 3 to 8 per cent of their society’s time budget to traffic instead of 28 per cent. What distinguishes the traffic in rich countries from the traffic in poor countries is not more mileage per hour of life-time for the majority, but more hours of compulsory consumption of high doses of energy, packaged and unequally distributed by the transportation industry..."

Of course,  its easy for those snooty Europeans (who, as a snooty American, I usually agree with) to ignore the profound changes that occurred in the U.S. since the building of that first suburb, Levittown. We sprawled and they didn't. It made sense to most people back then. It only dawned on (a few) Americans as the century wore on, OPEC started tightening the screws, and more folks read corollaries of Hubbert's paper on Peak Oil (here is a second link) that this lifestyle is not sustainable over the long haul.

But frankly, most Americans still lull themselves into thinking that somehow we can just keep feeding gas into Old Belchfire and do so without negative consequences to the environment or our balance of trade. How else can you explain the evolution of modern cars? Modern family cars and Shopping-Utility Vehicles can almost match the acceleration of '60's muscle cars. A zero to sixty time of 10 sec. is considered unacceptably slow in Consumer Reports. We traded environment-friendly fuel efficiency for ego-boosting raw power.

But the financial and energy costs of car+oil dependence discussed in the Copenhagenize blog are pretty accurate-and getting more troublesome all the time. I did those same calculations a decade ago in Honolulu and they were pretty much the same, corrected for inflation.  So while our love affair with the car paid the salaries of a lot of auto workers and "drove" the U.S. economy, even that is moot as much of the auto industry has gone elsewhere. Nowdays, auto-dependence helps fuel the national debt.

The handwriting is on the wall. The One Mile Solution is the least we can do on the short term. Over the long term, anyone who fantasizes about continued car-dependence as we know it is living in a dream world. Those who start replacing short car trips with non-auto trips right now will at least have a leg up on the rest of Americans in thinking about how to adjust to an oil-frugal world.

Life is more complex than a blog post, but one cannot ignore reality.The reality is, change will be hard. We better get started on it pretty soon.


Steve A said...

"Life is more complicated than a blog post."

Indeed it is. If it were not, Andy Cline would not need to tout "the one mile solution" and motorists would not be driving out to their mailboxes to pick up the mail.

Jon said...

Sometime back, somebody on, I think the ICEBIKE list, mentioned a friend who had installed a device that counted total time his car's engine ran. When he sold the car, he divided the odometer by this device's reading: 17 MPH. That included plenty of highway miles.

I spent an entire day off the hill last week getting the car worked on. Need to go back for another round.

Khal said...

My friend John Goody in Honolulu often quips that a good carpenter has more than one tool in his tool box. For if all one has is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

The One Mile Solution is in keeping with Mr. Goody's thoughts.

brigadecar said...
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