Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Expensive Gas and Bla Bla Bla

With the industrialized world disappearing in its own fat rolls and gas prices in this country skyrocketing to half of what other developed nations have been paying for years (heaven forbid!), the US Department of Transportation's Two Mile Challenge is promoting the use of your own two feet, public transportation or bicycles for trips less than two miles. The DOT cites the benefits for your wallet, the environment and your health if you leave the car parked and find one of the better ways to get around on short errands.

It all sounds great, but no one wants to be this kid:


His miraculous escape from death has been featured on Good Morning America and other news outlets. So maybe you DO want to be that kid, since he came out with a few bumps and scrapes instead of being completely mashed and scrambled by his impact with a speeding car. However, the dramatic crash reinforces what's in many people's minds when they think of going onto the street in anything less than a Humvee.

The lad in Colorado made the classic little kid move, dashing headlong into the path of a moving car. As a kid I was told to avoid that very mistake. Later, as a young driver I was told to look out for kids making exactly that mistake. The driver who was clearly going sociopathically fast on a residential street should have been going more slowly and certainly should have stopped after peening the kid. But then, if you're someone who drives selfishly, self preservation is your first reflex. Get the hell out of sight and hope to avoid the consequences. Maybe guilt will inspire later good works. We may never know.

Even in the cute little town of Wolfeboro there are streets I prefer not to ride. People under the influence of horsepower have such a sense of entitlement that they feel they're doing you a favor if they miss you at all, let alone slow down and give you a reasonable amount of space. There is no worst class of offender. Drivers of large commercial vehicles are scarier when they get aggressive, but they seem no more prone to aggression than drivers in pickup trucks, sporty sports in sporty cars, texting teens, busy entrepreneurs driving their offices and the host of other scurrying hardshell crabs one might encounter as a soft shrimp sharing the rushing current with them.

The fact remains that high(ish) gas prices will have a little influence on a few people, but most drivers will simply bitch and pay. They might look upon the cyclists with a little more understanding for a while, but the ranks of cyclists will shrink back as the newcomers have to deal with the harsh realities of a life unshelled. I wish it would work out differently. All we can do is keep talking it up and keep setting the example. But just as few people actually volunteer for hazardous but commendable duties while praising those who do, so do they perhaps admire our pluck and appreciate the parking spaces we leave for them, while most of them view cycling as unacceptably dangerous and inconvenient.

Maybe the many arguments in favor of expanded use of human-powered transportation will actually prevail before civilization collapses under its own unsupportable weight. History shows no example of any culture in our species that did avoid galloping into a disaster, but past performance does not guarantee future results. It only provides strong indicators. Throughout the millennia, it's been the pushy bastards who dominate the gene pool for better or for worse. The grabby, greedy, guzzling, short-sighted hordes of thugs whose might makes right force the course of events into a series of crash landings. These have steadily led to increasing standards of living in some parts of the world, so the method is viewed as prevailing wisdom. It's really just making the best of things as we blunder into them.


Steve A said...

I've found a cure for expensive gas. I simply arrange for my driving trips to all fall shortly after another family member has had to fill up.

cafiend said...

Good one.