While bike commuting this week I have noticed of how many vehicles have only one person in them – the driver. At best ten percent had one or more passengers. With years of discussion of high gasoline prices, global warming, the benefits of walking and biking, increased mass transit and carpool options, and scientific links between miles driven and weight gain,. we Americans remain a lazy, stubborn bunch who has to have the personal car with them constantly. You’d think we were tethered to the darn things via an umbilical cord, Yes, it is hard to change our bad habits, but at some point it goes from being ridiculous to just plain stupid.
Pass any of the local elementary or middle school in my area on a school day morning and you would think there was no school bus service at all. One of the great things about school buses is they introduced kids at an early age to mass transit. Certainly the extent of bus service has been reduced with budget cuts, but that does not mean we should adopt a parental valet service mentality. Safe Routes to School and similar organizations are trying to break the habit of driving kids to school when walking and biking are safe and reasonable options.
While thinking about it, I have come to the conclusion that the car attachments is built into our psyche at a young age. It is at that point where the habit needs to be stopped before it becomes habitual, so here are some ideas.
- Include a segment during driver’s education both in the classroom and in the field on utilizing mass transit, car-pooling, and safe biking/walking.
- Prohibit students from driving to high school unless they have after school sports or activities, are part of a registered carpool group, or under special circumstances.
- Prohibit parents from dropping kids off at school unless they are part of a carpool group or due to special circumstances.
- Include carpool priority parking and drop-off areas close to business and school entrances in zoning codes and ordinances.
- All communities should adopt and enforce bike parking ordinances.
- Add bike parking to all carpool lots for Bike ‘n’ Ride opportunities.
- Provide zoning incentives for bike parking that is protected from the weather.
When I first graduated from college, I rode the express bus from suburban Centerville, Ohio to downtown Dayton every day. It was always packed and very enjoyable. Nowadays, I relish the opportunity to bike commute regularly on an amazing network of bike trails and pathways. Life is too short to be cocooned in a two-ton metal egg for so much of our lives. Don’t get me wrong, cars have their purposes. But, that does not mean they should rule our lives. Get out and enjoy the fresh air, the exercise, the change of seasons, and meeting other people. It is worth the effort to break free and live life more fully.