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Beyond Bikes and Busses, Part 2: Human Powered Transit

Climate Justice and Environmentalism, Community, Social Justice By February 22, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

This is part four in a series I’m running about car culture. If you would like, feel free to read part one, part twopart three, and part four, which make the case for why we should move away from car culture, what barriers prevent us from doing so, and what alternatives we have to it. Subscribe and you’ll be notified by email when the rest of the posts in the series are published, as well as other cool posts about urban homesteading, environmentalism, and feminism!

What was originally meant to be one post on the various alternatives to a car centered culture has gotten so long that I decided to break it up into multiple posts. There are, it turns out, a lot of alternatives to car culture we could be utilizing, and that means there is a lot to discuss. That’s the benefit of discussing this in a series rather than trying to squeeze it all into one post. We left off talking about the different options for mass transit that we could use to replace some of our car usage in society, their benefits and their applications. Today, we’re going to discuss personally owned, human powered transit.


Beyond Bikes and Busses, Part 1: Mass Transit

Climate Justice and Environmentalism, Community, Social Justice By February 15, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments
Beyond Bikes and Busses: Mass Transit - exploring transportation options beyond car culture

A map of the expanding mass transit system in Denver, making low cost, efficient, and low carbon transportation more accessible to more people. #transportationjustice #masstransit #climatejustice Image obtained here

This is part four in a series I’m running about car culture. If you would like, feel free to read part one, part two, and part three, which make the case for why we should move away from car culture and discuss what barriers prevent us from doing so. Subscribe and you’ll be notified by email when the rest of the posts in the series are published, as well as other cool posts about urban homesteading, environmentalism, and feminism!

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how I would proceed from where I’ve left off with this series. I’ve made the case that a transportation culture built around cars is not pleasant or good for us and that we should be eager to do away with it, and I’ve also laid out a few of the reasons why doing so is unlikely under current conditions. Now I want to discuss the alternatives to cars that we have available right now or expect to have available in the near future, which will then lead us into a discussion of what kind of changes need to be made to make all of these options more practical and viable for daily transportation (that will be the next post in this series). Because this post would otherwise be very, very long, I’m going to break it down into three separate posts, so this series is going to be quite a bit longer than expected. I think it will be worth it, though, because otherwise this one post will be a monster. I’ve been working on it for a month.


Transportation equity: moving from car culture to more just transportation

Climate Justice and Environmentalism, Social Justice By January 4, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , 1 Comment

This is part three in a series we’re running about cars and the transportation system. Here’s part one, Cars suck! 11 reasons why, and part two, Cars suck! But we can’t live without them. Subscribe to be notified when the rest in the series are published!

We’ve talked about why cars suck and why we’re compelled to own them anyway, but I would be majorly failing if I didn’t acknowledge that some people still don’t have access to cars. As much as cars are a lousy burden, they are also a privilege, and a pretty crucial one in a society that is so dependent on cars.


Activism vs. Personal Action: The most important thing you can do to combat climate change

Activism, Climate Justice and Environmentalism, Social Justice By December 14, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

I have been thinking about the best way to write this for months, there are probably a good 5 half finished blog posts dedicated to this subject in my drafts folder.  I’ve decided not to get flowery or mince words.  I’m about to make the case that activism is the most important thing you can do to fight climate change, and that personal action is good, but just not enough.


Cars suck! 11 Reasons why

Climate Justice and Environmentalism, Community By October 27, 2015 Tags: , , , , 5 Comments

This is part one in a series of posts about car culture and how we can make it work better for us.

I’m not writing this post with the intention of talking you into giving up your car. I understand that that’s not practical or feasible for many people, myself included. What I am making the case for is supporting changes to infrastructure, city planning, legislature, and cultural changes that makes choosing an alternate mode of transportation more practical, feasible, safe, and enjoyable more often. There will likely always be situations in which a car will be the best choice for transport, but if we can minimize those situations and increase the situations in which another mode of transport works better, we would all be happier and the environment and climate would greatly benefit at the same time.  So, with that in mind, I give you —

Reasons Why Cars Suck

1. Cars are really expensive

Cars cost a stupid amount of money. Mine cost 17 grand, and its not that great. You know what else I could do with 17 grand? About a million things I like more than my crappy ass hatchback. And my car was a cheap car! Some people spend as much money on a car as Jeremy makes in a year! For what? This will seem an even more poignant question as we continue with this list.

2. Cars are a shitty investment

Unlike other consumer goods that cost 10K +, cars are a really shitty investment. The longer you have it, the more it loses value. And if you bought your car new, it’s worst of all! It loses a shit ton of value the minute you drive it off the lot. In comparison, if I had bought 17K worth of jewelry (something I assure you I would enjoy more than a car, but still would never be frivolous enough to purchase), after 5 years of use, it would probably have increased in value. If I had put 17K down on a house, chances are I would at least get a return on my investment if I sold it. Hell, if I bought 17K of perishable food and let it rot it would be worth more than a car would be if I let it go. At least the rotten food becomes compost. You might as well be burning your money when you invest in a car.

3. Cars cost even more money to run.

After you’ve spent a shit ton of money you’ll never get back, you have to spend more money to fuel the damn thing. And you have no guarantee of what that fuel is going to cost long term. Maybe you can afford it now, maybe in five years it will be a terrible financial burden! Who knows? And you also have to buy insurance for your car, the rates of which are subject to change.

4. They also cost a fortune to maintain

You have to do certain things to keep your car in good repair, things that cost money and take time. You have to get oil changes, replace tires, replace break pads, fill washer fluid, etc. And still, even if you do everything right, eventually shits going to start breaking, and that stuff costs a fortune to maintain. I’m lucky. Jeremy and his dad are able to handle 90% of the problems our cars have encountered. That means we’re only paying for parts when it comes to maintenance and repair, and it’s still expensive! When you’re paying for labor too, that shit can break a person. All this for a thing that is doing nothing but losing value, every single day.

5. Cars contribute to sedentary lifestyles

Look, we all want to just sit sometimes, I get it. But too much sitting can increase your risk for a lot of health concerns, and we do a lot of sitting in cars. According to the U.S. Census Beurau the average commute time for people in the US is 25.4 minutes (of course this varies by specific location, but this cool tool helps you find out the averages where you live specifically), which means most people spend about an hour every day traveling to and from work. That’s five hours a week. To add insult to injury, on average in the US commute times are actually getting longer! And that’s just your commute to work. It doesn’t take into account all your trips to the grocery store, doctors office, taking kids to school, going to the movies, etc. Harvard has estimated that the average American spends 101 minutes a day driving, which adds up to over 11 hours sitting on our butts all week.

All of this maybe wouldn’t be so bad if driving were actually relaxing or fun, but in general, it’s not. Which brings us to our next point.

6. Driving is stressful

Even if you are the type of person who truly enjoys just driving, chances are that most of your driving is not exactly fun. Work commutes make up the most of our driving and are often spent in traffic jams. Errands make up a significant portion of the rest of our driving and rarely are those particularly pleasant either. And if you are a parent, chances are that 99% of your drives with your kids (which make up most of your non work commute drives) are hell on wheels.  Sure, driving may be fun in some rare examples, driving a collectors or sports car to or from something fun, going off roading, maybe a road trip, that’s about it.  And lets face it, how often do you get to do that?  Most of the time, driving is a shitty chore.

7.  Driving is an unproductive use of time

We’ve already established that driving takes up a lot of time and most of it sucks.  Imagine what else you could get done if you had that time back.  There are things you can do to make driving time somewhat more productive, I like to listen to audio books while driving, but for the most part it’s time where you’re pretty much doing nothing of value to you or anyone else.

8.  Driving is isolating

When you are driving, you are pretty sealed off from your community.  You are going too fast to interact with anyone or experience much of what is going on around you.  It’s kind of like going everywhere trapped in a bubble.

9.  Driving is dangerous

Statistically, driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do.  Motor vehicle accidents are the second highest cause of accidental injury deaths in the United States (just below accidental poisoning and just barely above all the various types of gun injuries) (accidents in general are the 4th highest cause of death in the US) a total of 33,804 deaths in 2013.  There’s only so much you can do to control how dangerous driving is, too.  Even if you are the best driver in the world, you can’t control all the other stupid drivers out there, or random acts of God that could render all your driving skills moot.  But chances are you are not the best driver in the world, you’re probably pretty good, but like most people, you make mistakes now and then.  Doing so puts not only yourself and other passengers in your car at risk, but is also dangerous for literally everyone else in the world.  Cars can be pretty dangerous weapons in the right circumstances (which is why we train, test, and license everyone before they are allowed to wield those weapons).

10.  Cars contribute to poor air quality

Accidents aren’t the only way cars are killing people.  Cars also contribute to poor air quality, something that the World Health Organization estimates contributes to 7 million premature deaths annually world wide, and also contributes to a number of chronic illnesses, like asthma.  And the thing about pollution from cars is that it’s kind of like peeing in a pool.  The pollution may be more concentrated where it’s released initially, but eventually it disperses equally everywhere.  So even if you’re doing your driving in Denver, you’re probably contributing a little bit to a kid’s asthma attack in Nepal.

11.  Cars contribute to climate change

Cars aren’t the number one cause of climate change, but they are in the top 5 (spoiler alert, they’re #2).  Estimates for the death toll of climate change vary between 250,000400,000, and 4 million people annually, but will likely increase as ocean levels rise.  The numbers are going to vary based on what criteria you use to define a climate change death (and they are probably all going to be included in the 7 million deaths listed in #10), but whatever the actual number is, there’s no disputing that the death toll of climate change is more than terrorism.  Climate change is also incredibly expensive, costing the US an estimated $100 billion.  Guess who’s pocket that comes out of?  If you pay taxes, it’s yours!  So there cars go, costing you more money again!

Clearly, I’m not a big fan of cars, but I also understand that given current conditions they are impossible to get rid of.  I can’t even think about getting rid of mine, and I would LOVE to be rid of that thing.  But even if we all agree cars are needed in the world we currently live in, I think we can also agree that they are kind of a crappy burden the vast majority of the time.  So what are the solutions to all of this?  I’d like to continue this dialog to find out!  Stay tuned for future posts on this subject.

Click here to see part two of this post, Cars suck! But we can’t live without them.

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