Benajmin Weil: A realistic transportation alternative

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Published: 1/17/2022 9:59:41 AM
Modified: 1/17/2022 9:58:36 AM

The latest Earth Matters column offered hopeful news about electric vehicles (EVs), but it buried the lede: we need to move beyond the automobile.

We cannot solve the climate crisis without reducing car-dependence, regardless of energy source. Cars, and car-dependence, cause so many other problems beyond the existential problem of climate change.

The share of Americans commuting alone in a car and average commute times have increased every year since 1980 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

We lose almost 10 days of our lives each year in traffic. Traffic congestion costs us each an average of $1,642 per year in wasted time and fuel, with a total cost of driving at over $10,000 (according to INRIX).

There are strong and significant correlations between the time spent in traffic and physical and mental health problems. Valuable real estate is taken up by parking spaces and road lanes. Even if we were to convert every automobile to electric, we would still not solve the other problems caused by car-dependence.

The good news here is even better than the good news about EVs. We have well-established, affordable transportation technologies available to us. The bicycle is inexpensive, dependable, free to operate, and has zero carbon emissions. Unlike cars, bikes are associated with improved health.

The electric revolution has hit bikes, too, as demonstrated by our electric-assist Valley Bikes. The more we take the bike and leave the car at home, the lower our carbon emissions and air pollution, the less congestion for those who do use cars and trucks, and the better our health.

Roughly 70% of average daily trips are less than seven miles (a perfect quick biking trip). A single lane of roadway can move 2,000 people per hour by car; the same space could move 12,000 people per hour by bike.

But we need to make biking safer, more convenient and more welcoming to all. To make the bicycle a realistic transportation alternative for the majority of us, we need well-maintained, protected bike lanes and intersections, and better bike parking facilities.

Let’s start investing now!

Benjamin Weil

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