Driven

It now takes over $80 to fill the gas tank of my 2001 VW Eurovan. Between taking my daughters to school and other various trips I wind up making, I use about one tank of gas per week. To put that in perspective, for the equivalent of two weeks worth of gas, I could buy a 4GB iPod Nano. For roughly three weeks worth of gas, I could buy the 80GB iPod Classic. Or in a more realistic, non-elitist comparison…I can buy a week’s worth of groceries for the whole family for the amount it’d take to fill a tank. What about the people that are choosing between food and gas? Times are tough right now, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Ironically, I drove less when gas was cheaper. I would ride my bike to work at least three times per week, and my oldest daughter was in daycare on the campus where my wife works, so there was no need to drive her to camp or school.

But times have changed.

As much as I dread having to drive so much, it’s very difficult for me to get around it. Yes I often wear my Cars-R-Coffins tee, have a few One Less Car stickers placed in strategic locations and generally pontificate on the evil of combustion engines. Am I a hypocrite? Perhaps. But the harsh reality is that like most people in this country, I rely on my combustion-driven vehicle way too much. Riding my bicycle everywhere is just not practical for our family right now.

But you know what? I’m still glad that gas is getting so expensive in this country. And I hope it even gets a little more costly. I realize that statement isn’t going to make me a lot of friends, but allow me to explain.

While my wife and I do drive fairly often, we make a lot of decisions to reduce the actual amount we drive, and we’ve been doing that for years. Regardless of the cost of gasoline, people should make decisions that allow them to be more efficient. Those decisions range from the car company executives in Detroit committing to make more fuel-efficient cars, and to you and I combining trips to cut down how much we have to drive.

When I was in college, there was a dude who lived in my house one summer that would drive two blocks to go to the bar. Two blocks! The cost of gas is an absolute hardship on a lot of people that can’t get around driving a lot, and for people who’s very livelihood depends on driving. And that absolutely sucks! But I’m very happy that the high cost of gas is finally snapping people out of the idiocy of choosing to drive two blocks to go to the goddamn bar!

The high cost of gas is finally…and quickly…forcing people to question what they do, making folks have conversations about conserving and generally nudging people into making decisions that will make major parts of their lives more efficient. And, of course, people are riding their bicycles and taking mass-transit a lot more.

And that’s good stuff.

Just yesterday, in another cruel twist of irony in my life, as I drove the eight miles back to my house after dropping off my daughter at camp, I counted twelve people riding bicycles! Old ladies on old women’s three speeds, a bunch people wearing backpacks spinning quickly on their Target-bought bikes, a few people in roadie kits and one or two people on their weekend-only high end mountain bikes. This was all on a Thursday morning in suburban Philadelphia. Last summer, I wouldn’t have seen anyone on a bike on that road.

As much as I dream about it, we’re never going to reach a car-free utopia in this country. But if the high-cost of gas forces us to be more efficient, ride more bicycles, create tighter communities and breath easier…then I’m stoked.

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