Monday, June 1, 2009

New Heights.


This is a goal that I have been striving for over the last year and I have to admit, I have not being doing as well I could, especially recently. While I still do not own a car and I definitely ride my bike everyday, I am still heavily dependent on cars and other internal combustion engine powered transportation on a pretty regular basis. There is a good chance you will judge me, but I am going to admit my last month of travel so I can take an honest and critical look at my own choices.

Car Rides: 23 (All of these were carpooling situations and most of them were to work on John's Island)
Flights: 8 (I only flew two places, MS & FL, but I had connecting flights for each)
Boat: 1
Bus: 2

Keep in mind that this month is really an exception and is by no means the rule but it still makes me wonder how much of a difference I am making by not owning a car. There are definitely steps I could take to reduce the insane numbers above.

* Bike to work: I have considered trying to make the ride to Johns Island for work but I would definitely want someone to come with me and I am just really nervous about getting squished because there are no bike lanes and cars are going around 60 mph on rural roads. It is also 13 miles away with an estimated 30 minute driving time, meaning that it would take me at least an hour and half and most likely longer because I am not a distance rider. Also, there is no shower at the office, so it would make for one juicy day at the work.
This would be my route:

* Ride Shares: I could try and do ride shares for traveling instead of renting cars or taking flights but there is always that "am I going to end up in a trash bag in small bits on the edge of the highway?" fear lingering in the back of your mind.
* No more flying: Considering my mom lives in Florida and I love traveling abroad, this could be an issue. Also, there cost and time associated with driving instead and in the end I am still burning fuel. The key here I think is to just limit this types of trips.

It seems I am not the only one struggling with this issue. Below is a excerpt from my friend Cedric's traveling update:

"Increasingly, this question of flying is not so much about can as it is about should. I have realized that the year I spent commuting to work by bicycle (2,300 car-free miles) probably about equals the carbon emissions I became personally responsible for when I stepped onto the trusty Boeing that brought us from New York to Ireland in February. I can no longer accept that the challenge of mitigating the effects of global change (because there is no fix at this point, only contingency plans) is about fighting for someone or something to change. The fight is now with myself and my current lifestyle. So we will be attempting a return to the US via a lower-carbon mode of transportation."

The following images are from a 60x96" display created by Chris Jordan: I strongly suggest visiting his site, his work is amazing he just posted new stuff. The images below depicts 11,000 jet trails, equal to the number of commercial flights in the US every eight hours. The first image is how the painting would appear at a distance and then second is what you would see when got close to it.

But before you find yourself slumped in your chair defeated by the challenges of travel and the imagines from above, consider the fact our declining economy and increase in fuel costs has resulted in the the increase in public transportation, bicycle ridership, and the reduction of unfilled planes in the air (I can attest to this, good-lord were the planes packed!). Yet what we really need is a shift in mindset, planning, and governance that creates a drastic and permanent change in our society. If not, I have a feeling we will be forced to reap what we have been sowing.

For now I am putting my faith in all of the people out there like myself, Cedric, and so many others that are hanging up there keys and hopping on their bikes because they know that the one thing we all have control over is our own lives and how we chose to live them. Perhaps if we clear the path, others will soon follow. At the end of the day I have to remind myself that I am not alone in this struggle...


Dalen said...

sounds like you have seen the enemy..and it is us! the only truly green options we have in our American lives (i.e. constantly working) is to decide where to live based on proximity to work.

Josh Mueller said...

it's a cruel, cruel, world. but if you are pessimistic in the end, all hope is lost. positive change can only come through hope and optimism. at least I keep telling myself that. other times i think we're all doomed. that's usually after a bad day.

laura west kong said...

Kudos to you for your car-free efforts! It really does make a difference even though you have to use public transportation, ride sharing and air travel from time to time.

I lived car free for almost 6 years and loved it! (nearly 2 years in South Korea: strictly public transport; 2 years in China: bicycle and public transport; and nearly 2 years in California for grad school: bicycle and ride share)

Magellan said...

when I move down town (late july)you will have to teach me at ways of the road so I can leave my car to collect pollen in the driveway... in return you can use me to evacuate if a huricane comes and you and all the pets need to run to higher ground.. sound fair?

John B. said...

I just learned of your blog via a fellow Charlestonian (?); as a commuter cyclist myself, I applaud your goal and look forward to seeing how things go for you . . . and I'll be linking to your blog over at my own cycling blog.