Car Riding Is Unhealthy
We all understand that automobiles create air pollution. Some companies have even worked out a process by which you can assuage any guilt over fouling the air. See greenlagirl's recent rundown on Car Pollution Offset programs.
But there are other issues with cars -- many many issues with cars -- each of which could warrant its own discussion. Instead, here is a list:
- Obesity Epidemic. This is really a poor nutrition and lack of exercise problem. For a compelling data set, have a look at this shocking CDC power point or PDF. More walking instead of car riding provides extra accidental exercise.
- Community Isolation. Driving from place to place removes one from contact with neighbors and the community.
- Children Suffer. Kids who are carried in a car everywhere don't understand the spatial relationships of their own neighborhoods, or how things are interconnected. This lack of understanding translates into their school work, as well as creating adults who do not understand how their own community is interconnected. This is a shocking consequence of car addiction, and is well documented.
- Noise. Internal combustion engines and autos in general make a hell of a lot of noise. Want proof? Get up super early -- anytime from say 3:00 am to 5:00 am or so -- in any major city. Listen to the silence. Now listen for the roar of the river of cars even now flowing down the freeway. How many miles away are those cars? Wow.
- Cars Reduce Property Value. Its true: High auto traffic means lower property values. Kids can't play in their yards, or think they can't. Folks don't like to walk on the street as the roar of cars flows by.
- Traffic Problems. The only way to have fewer cars on the road interfering with those times when we really, truly must drive a car is to (drum roll) put fewer cars on the road. That means you. No, building more, wider, faster roads won't fix it; in a nutshell, roads are trip-attractors. Extra capacity encourages more people to drive. More driving makes people fat and unhealthy, plus adds to problems 1-5 above.
Enough Already! I Can't Quit Using A Car.
Yes there is. But it starts with recognizing that we -- that you -- have an addiction.
That's right, you. Even if you think you are pretty green already, the odds are high that you have a car addiction, and that you, like most of us, feed it constantly like the unconscious chain-smoker.
One model of addictive behavior is the unconscious, repetitive act, which may well be detrimental yet which continues unabated, cloaked in lack of awareness or ornate rationalizations.
And really, when was the last time you went somewhere with friends, and didn't reflexively reach for the ol' car keys? When was the last time you said "Hey gang! How shall we get there?" Try it. Bet the rest of your group looks at you with a complete lack of understanding. It will never have occurred to most of them to ask. "Why," someone will say "is your car dead?"
Try it. I'll wait.
Before You Drive, THIMK.
Glad to see you're back. See what I mean?
My grandfather had an old gag poster over his work bench that said "Before You Louse It Up, THIMK!" Hah hah. But it can work for the car addict as well. Remember, it is often the unconscious repetition of a self-destructive behavior that creates the addiction element. Pasadena Walks! uses the "Red Tag" process to help remove the lack of thought that goes into our driving habits.
Now if you were standing here with me, I would hand you one of these cool Red Tags. If you want, you can click the one here and print the picture, but a real red tag is cooler. If you want, email me with your mailing address and I'll send the first 25 or so folks one. But they are available at an office supply store. These are from Staples, although they are not in their on line catalog.
Anyway, start with the Red Tag, and on one side, in block letters, print the word "HOW?" On the other side, print the word "WHY? " Now, attach the tag to your keys. Hey, that's not so hard, and already you're greener!
step. Make it explicit, though, ask out loud. If you are alone the foolishness of talking to yourself may cause a longer pause for reflection. If you are with folks, they will assume that you are asking them (and you are, really).
Walk, Bike, Ride
Could we walk to where we are going? Ride a bike? Take a shuttle or light rail or commuter rail or even (shudder) a big urban bus? The answer will usually be "Yes, but . . . ."
It's the "but" that is killing us. "Yes, but it is too far." "Yes, but I don't have time to bike." "Yes, but my clothes will get messed up." "Yes, but I don't feel safe." Which brings us to the next question and the other side of the tag: "Why?"
Why do you have to ride a car, you should ask yourself, and your friends. This gets the "Yes, but" out in the open. We acknowledge that we have "reasons." Good reasons. Really good reasons -- until we thoughtfully and carefully examine them.
COMING UP NEXT:
Your Excuse Isn't Really As Ironclad As You Thought or
Getting to "Well, Ok, Maybe. But . . ."