Sunday, June 7, 2015

Why me limiting my driving won't save the world (but I'm doing it anyway).

Last October, I set a little goal for myself. I was determined (for economical reasons as much as Environmental) to use only one tank of gas for the whole month. Surprisingly, I met my goal! I have about a 13 gallon tank which takes me a little over 350 miles, and I came in about 50 miles under.
Now-- I have to admit, the main reason for my success was because I was driving a 15-passenger van to Grand Canyon and back as part of my job, and I wasn't home very much...but the success inspired me to continue. In November I bought at least two tanks of gas, running a lot of errands for work, but in December, I made an attempt to ride my bike into town- a whopping 10 miles away.
Until that point, I had only ridden to yoga (4 miles each way), or to the library (4 miles round trip), so taking it to 20 miles in a day was a big jump.
But what did I learn? I was amazed at how easy it was. I was reminded how damn flat most of Albuquerque is (at least compared to some places), and it inspired me to mobilize myself. Each month since then, I challenge myself to only use one tank of gas. I haven't been as successful as the October trip, but I have also been riding my bike a lot more. Another beautiful thing about working part time, is having the time to enjoy the journey, and not be focused on getting to the destination on time. I feel so free while riding my bike (except when I'm worried about being killed by an asshole driver...which is honestly about 50% of the time) -- I get to breathe fresh air and get some exercise, while also seeing things that I normally just blow past.

Also- if you pay attention to hipster environmentalist trends, riding your bike instead of driving is supposed to save the world, right? In theory. I'm sure Exxon isn't hurting from my once a month purchase of gasoline. If I haven't made it clear from my other posts, I strongly believe (and fear) that we are in an environmental crisis. I recognize that deciding to ride my bike around isn't going to solve that. But if everyone rode their bike around, and our infastructure evolved to encourage bicycling, as in European cities, a good trend could catch on. Bicycle traffic in Copenhagen prevents 90,000 tons of CO2 from being emitted annually. [City of Copenhagen] That's huge! And think about how great all those people feel when they get to work all sweaty and buff. That's some true brain food to chew on. 

I read an article recently about bike riding in China being at a historic low (can't remember the source, or I'd link it). Because so many countries want to be like America, countries with far less space and far more people are increasing their automobile usage. We need to make biking sexy so the rest of the world catches on.
What's not sexy?
Mostly, we need to convert our minds, our habits and our hearts to renewable energy, such as biking. I feel like I've been reading more and more about our desperation to drill into BLM land, historic sites and national parks to get a few precious drops of oil so we can run our cars a few years longer. Let today be the day we wake up and ride. 
But it's not enough to "put the fun between your legs" as the patch says... we have to invest in this lifestyle with our economy. 89% of Americans believe that transportation investments should support the goals of reducing energy use. (National Association of Realtors and Transportation for America, 2009) If 5% of New Yorkers commuting by private car or taxi switched to biking to work, they could save 150 million pounds of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to the amount reduced by planting a forest 1.3 times the size of Manhattan ( 
Even if we can't transform into biking cities overnight, we should at least begin shifting our brains to the possibilities of living on renewable energy. If you're reading this and you've never rode your bike to work- challenge yourself! At least carpool. 
When I visited Austin last month, I was inspired by the confusing bike lanes that were painted on all the roads. Austin is pushing for 20% of their commuters to switch to bikes, someone told me. Another person complained about the bike-efficiency manager making 90k a year, but who's to judge?! They're clearly making waves of inspiration. I hope it catches on. 
Props to my friend Aaron who took the lemons that life handed him when his car broke down and decided to commit to public transportation, bike riding and carpooling. That's a heroic decision in my eyes. Lets all go be heroes and put the fun between our legs.