Friday, June 3, 2011

Myth Busted: Cars = Freedom

As of tomorrow, I will have been car-free for about two weeks, with two exceptions (both visits from a family member who needed my assistance driving around town). I've gone to the hardware store, the music store, grocery shopping, the library... The truth is, I've been all over town.

In the space of two weeks, I've realized that I really want to get rid of my car entirely, and I don't want to be in a situation where I'm forced to own a car again. Perhaps when I get old and infirm I will change my mind, but in a town this size (which I think is just the right size for me) I can't see myself missing my car. Perhaps inclement weather will change my mind, but so far I've had no troubles. Those who warned me about the heat will be happy to know that not only have I not suffered a heat stroke, but it's actually been quite pleasant, as long as I avoid riding in the heat of the day.

In fact, I did some calculations and came up with some surprising numbers.

$1,310 = Minimum amount that I spend just to own a car each year (even if it's mostly sitting in the parking lot). This is including gas, oil changes, registration, inspection, etc. I own my car outright, so this does not include car payments, which most people would have. It also does not include brake pads, or occasional expenses for things that may crop up, like broken O2 sensors, oil leaks, cosmetic touch ups, fixing of broken door handles, etc. The number also would go up dramatically if I had been driving more, due to the price of gas.

$660 = The amount I will have spent on bike travel by the end of this year. This includes the entire cost of the bike (which is a Trek that I bought new, so I could have probably brought this figure down a bit), as well as a generous budget for chain grease, tubes, and miscellaneous equipment that I have added or plan to add to the bike (pannier, trunk, kick stand, etc).

$250 = The approximate amount that I will spend on bike travel each year without including the cost of a new bike. (This does include things like water and a savings account to buy a new bike once this one wears out.)

15 minutes = The amount of time it took me to get to the grocery store in the car (including the time it took to get in the car, drive there, park, and get into the store).

15 minutes = The amount of time it took me to get to the grocery store on my bike (including time to carry my bike down the front stairs, ride to the store, find a place to lock up, and get into the store).

2 weeks = The amount of time it has taken me to get so used to biking that I don't even get tired on the hills or when I'm facing a headwind.

0 = The number of times I have felt a lack of freedom for not having a car in the past 2 weeks.

So someone tell me... How does it make you more free to spend 5 times as much money on transportation, just so that you can drive a glorified umbrella? How does it make sense to continue designing our lives around a system that is expensive, unhealthy, and ultimately unsustainable?

Think about the state of the USA right now. The obesity epidemic, the budget crises (both at the federal and local levels), environmental crises... How does it make sense to continue spending billions of dollars maintaining motor vehicle infrastructure (and some people contend that even this isn't enough) when a fraction of this expenditure could create all the infrastructure we'd ever need to create a viable community based around bike, pedestrian, and public transportation?

No comments:

Post a Comment