Wednesday, September 26, 2007

i ride my bike

Enough with the gloom and doom over peak oil and climate change you say. You want an empowering story of change? Alright here’s an example of a personal adjustment I’ve made in my own life in an attempt to address both the above events because after all, the basic answer to both peak oil and climate change is roughly the same. Stop using fossil fuels; or at least cut way back on using them. But that's so hard everyone says. It can't be done. Nonsense. Or as Tom Athanasiou recently said, “Change is necessary and because it is necessary it is possible.”

I decided 2007 would be the year I got rid of my car. Not completely, but I’ve known for some time that driving a car keeps me dependent on the oil economy and pollutes this planet. I’ve known I needed to cut back on my automotive oil addiction. But it wasn't until 2007 that I got serious about making change. Here are the numbers for the year so far.

At the beginning of the year I was driving 52 miles a day to work (round trip) in a larger city nearby, and roughly 40 miles on the weekend.

300 miles a week. 15,600 miles a year.

Then I convinced my employer to let me adopt a 4 day work week.

248 miles a week. 12,896 miles a year. A 17% reduction.

Then I found a new job closer to home, and convinced my new employer to let me keep my 4 day work week.

120 miles a week. 6,240 miles a year. A 60% reduction.

Then I got a bike and started biking to work which further reduced my time in the car.

25 miles a week. 1,300 miles a year.

A total reduction of 91% a year! Now in addition to spending considerably less time in a metal box driving over asphalt I getting more exercise, and spend thousands of dollars less per year on auto related expenses, not to mention gas. I should add that these miles reflect my daily car usage. I have driven to the beach for vacation and to visit my parents a few towns away on occasion. I have also taken a train to Washington D.C. for a conference- there is more still to do in changing my habits, but I think a 91% reduction in daily driving is pretty great.

What made such a change possible? My mindset. I don't live in an overly bike friendly town. I don't have professional experience that companies are clamoring for. I'm a fairly ordinary guy who just wanted to change. And I did and you can too. It is the idea that we can't change that is holding us back. That is all that stands between us and a reasonable response to peak oil and climate change.

"i used to fantasize about living in a healthier place, one where i could ride my bike, for example. then, one day, i started riding my bike. now, without having fled or escaped to anywhere, i live in a place where i can ride my bike." – heretic fig


David said...

We got rid of one car when I started working from home and all I have now are my feet and a bike. It's never been so freeing! Not only am I polluting less, but we don't have that cost of the extra car.


homebrewlibrarian said...

It's been a year of changes. I moved back to Alaska from four years in Wisconsin at the end of January. It took until July before I made the mental shift to see how many days I could go without driving by riding my bike (I've been a commuter cyclist for decades). Once I got into it, it didn't really occur to me to weenie out when I was tired and take the car instead of the bike. Then I got into a phase of many road trips for my work. Oh well... It won't go on for much longer.

Every place else I've lived in the US I could ride my bike for most of the year. I'm even up for riding in the negative numbers but, boy, the bike sure isn't too thrilled with that idea. Here in Alaska, the season is short - mid April to mid to late October. Then it's too snowy and icy to try to play chicken with the cars. There are some real diehards here that will ride year round but I have a heavy risk avoidance gene that kicks in during the winter.

Once the snow flies for real, I'll switch to taking the bus. I've already had the presence of mind to 1) find the nearest bus stop heading in the general direction of my job 2) discover a bus that actually gets pretty close to that job 3) find out what the daily and monthly fares are and 4) see what sort of schedule that particular bus runs on. The public transit system here is about adequate which means timing is everything. I'm sure I'll get into that groove in the not so distant future.

But as to making small steps with pretty good results, I finally had a friend help me install a retractable clothesline on the covered balcony of my apartment. I'm using it to dry clothes for the first time today. Now, mind you, the temperature may drop to the low 40s tonight and it's been quite rainy so it may take a day or so to get everything dry. That's why I'm having a smaller retractable clothesline installed in the bathroon. I hear freeze drying works but it takes a bit of time to do so. Having a simplified wardrobe means that having access to the clean clothes again in a short turn around time is pretty important.

So little things do add up. Biking to work or anywhere for that matter is doable for many people. Hanging the clothes up instead of using a dryer takes a bit of thought to get a system set up but it's doable as well. By doing a little thing here and a little thing there, before you know it, your carbon footprint has gotten way, way smaller.

But I haven't quite pledged not to fly anymore...