So a friend astutely pointed out that if there’s a recession on, it’s not necessarily the fault of the housing market. His theory is that it’s an issue of the rising costs of energy, and I’d say that that’s fairly sound. Energy costs are up across the board — it’s more expensive to heat my apartment, run my electronics, and fuel my car. In the case of the car, almost twice as much as when Bushie came into office. The entire economy runs on gas (god help us), and when fuel costs go up, the cost of goods go up as it requires more money to get them to a point of sale.
So everyone’s wondering what to do to save money, to make things easier on themselves. Ask someone to not drive, and you’ll hear about how impractical it is. Stop for a minute, though, and think. You probably do a large majority of your driving between Monday and Friday, and a large chunk of that is probably stop-and-go commuting, the most wasteful form of driving. If you could cut out one day per work-week of driving, that would save you 20% of your fuel costs alone. I’m not saying the bike is the only way to do this — though commuting by bike would be one possibility.
At my current job, I spent about $45/week on gasoline. A 20% reduction in that would save me $9 a week, or about $36/month. Now that doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but when you think about it — that’s a monthly bill right there.
If we could eliminate a day of work for everyone, that 20% savings could eliminate the need for oil from the Persian Gulf (which provides 17% of our fuel, as of 2005).
Again, getting people to bike commute would be an awesome way of solving this (and probably the obesity problem in this country), but some people are never going to be swayed, probably due to a combination of distance, climate, and “convenience”… The alternate solution here is to either institute the 4-day/10-hour work week or aggressive institution of telecommuting for office workers.
Lastly, there’s the issue of short “utility” drives. Grocery runs, hitting Target for minor things, etc. Drives under two miles — which amount to fairly large percentage of trips (I recall hearing this but cannot find a web reference) — should be taken by bike. Once gas starts pushing $4-5 per gallon, you’re probably going to see a lot more of this. I try to take my bike whenever possible, going for the smaller-more-frequent grocery runs rather than the one gigantic one every two weeks.
I’m going to be a lot more rabid about this in 2008. There’s a half-baked plan to build a commuter-specific bike that I think I am going to follow-through on, and I’m going to try to ride to work at least two days a week. (A 15-mile one-way ride.) I’ll report on how that goes as things develop. The goal is to reduce my fuel costs by 33%.
If anyone wants articles on how to set up a short-distance utility bike or a commuter bike, I’ll be happy to post articles. Just let me know.