Mileage for December/Final!
Friday, January 1, 2010 at 9:25PM
The Artist Presently Known As Ed in biking, car culture, community, mileage, repentance, travel

Here is the first post of 2010, and the moment all the fine readers of TAPKAE dot com have been waiting for with bated breath. Finally, we get to see how many personal miles I was able to reduce my driving to for one year while adopting biking as my main mode of transportation, augmented by carpooling (planned and opportunistic), walking, and the occasional use of public transportation. It was a year ago when I started this thing, and back in July I called it as a 1,700 mile year. I'm quite pleased to announce that the final tally is 1,546 miles. By comparison, mileage for 2008 was over twice that much at 3,688. Year 2007 was more than that, so each year for a while now I have seen the record fall.

I don't expect I shall be able to repeat this in 2010. I have one planned trip to Arizona that, if I drive it, will pretty much make this kind of thing impossible. Still, I am committed to keeping off the road in my truck as much as I can. Still, I feel that this progressive reduction has been a good display of what I knew needed to happen back in 2004-2005 when peak oil was my concern. I've not bothered to keep up to date on peak oil issues in any depth, but I know enough to know that this effort is required still more than ever. Furthermore, I have been an advocate of biking enough lately, and maybe have done a part to provoke others into increasing their biking and decreasing their car use.

All this has made me rather resourceful. Combining trips is still a leading way to keep the mileage low. I opt to do errands when I can cruise with Kelli on her planned runs. (We're looking at bikes for her.) There are some days when I utilize a few options to get around. I bused to work one day, which was pleasant but took vastly longer than biking, which itself is about as fast as driving anyway. I often draft people from church or work into the occasional ride home or to the bike shop if maybe I had a flat or planned service and took it in before work. Some quick errands can be done while on the clock since most of my work is in highly urban areas. (But you didn't read that here. Actually a couple have been okayed by the powers that be.)

The point I like to emphasize is that even though most of my life is lived within a far smaller radius than ever, my quality of life is no worse, and I have to say that I think it is far better than ever, particularly if we're just comparing modes of transportation. A lot of pushback comes from people who are convinced their lives will be parochial and boring if they can't exercise their automotive "freedom." I beg to differ. My experience has been that I feel more freedom while biking or carpooling. Most of my day at work I am behind the wheel and in traffic with that suffocating feeling of being trapped. The last thing I want to do is spend another minute in at the wheel. By contrast, other modes offer freedom, and even real, fresh air. Some of them draw upon my own power and are for solo travel, but some upon another person's car, but even those trips offer a bit of community time that add a quality you don't get while sequestered in your own two ton mobile sardine can. I find that there is an interesting dimension to biking in particular in that two things happen at once. In one way the trip can be slower than with a car if car travel was not regulated by so many lights and signs and the presence of long lines of other cars. But cars are slaves to all that and—just watch—a bike can move from light to light faster with less interruption and so the biker's trip is more unbroken. What that feels like is that time passes faster on a bike because it flows more consistently than the stop and go of car travel, often a few feet at a time. Yet, despite the feeling that things move faster, it is at a pace where you can enjoy the surroundings and maybe even greet people. One of the guys from the bike shop commutes in the opposite direction from me, and from across the boulevard we greet each other as we pass each other at about the same spot most mornings. There are some other chance meetings like that too that sweeten the deal as I pass other bikers I may know from the social rides, or even some people from church or work. The quality of life does seem to be greater when you can travel and sort of feel not totally disconnected from your surroundings.

Church and related groups, work, grocery runs, ATM, bike shops, going to friends', riding for the sake of riding, eating out—the options seem greater now. All kinds of things that used to be fun to do when I was a kid or teen are available to me again in some form. I felt it was like being in exile from a lot of things while thinking that driving was the only viable option; that it took a ton or two of metal to move me around. Most of the time, you see, that just isn't the case. I've delighted myself in not only getting on the bike back in 2008, but moving to (freewheel) single speed riding and its inherent "limits" to one gear, to fixed gear riding, which paradoxically feels less limited despite one gear in constant rotation. My city isn't flat and I wasn't fit to begin with, but somehow this has all worked out. There are plenty of you fence-sitters out there. Park that car and bike it some!

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