Saturday, February 16, 2008

Do I Contradict Myself?

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
The words are Walt Whitman's from Song of Myself, but they could just as well apply to a Humvee with a Share The Road License Plate. Note, this picture is real. It was sent to us at the Bicycle Alliance by one of our members who snapped the picture while driving on one of the local roads. The only image manipulation I did was to obscure the plate number to protect the Humvee owner's privacy.

And I'm not posting this to mock the Humvee owner. The Humvee owner is probably also a member of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and even if they aren't, a portion of that license plate money goes to the Bicycle Alliance. And it has always struck me as ironic that my work, which is basically helping people figure out ways to get around without using a motor vehicle, is funded, in part, by license plates on motor vehicles. Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself.

Now I have often said that I am not anti-car, I'm pro-bike. That said, I have been known to go into a good, foaming "SUVs suck" rant now and then. And they do suck, you know. I mean, really, look at the safety stats. But what they really suck is resources. Don't kid yourself. SUVs take a lot of energy to build and run and they spew a lot of stuff into the atmosphere.

But if you need one for, whatever the heck you need one for, there is something you can do. Drive it less. Drive is less by yourself. Maybe you can ride your bike to the store. Maybe you can carpool. Or walk. Or take the bus.

The folks over at the Sightline Institute think about things like this a lot and they published this handy chart:

We're not just sharing the road, we're sharing a planet. My big beef with SUVs is that, as my wife observed "they share the way Eric (our son) shares donuts." Eric makes sure he's got all the donuts he wants and if any are left over, he shares those.

I like bikes because they're fun, but also because they are a very efficient way to get around. These days there is a lot of talk about bio-fuel but a lot of that seems to come down to making choices of growing food or growing fuel. When you bicycle, food is your fuel.

We all make choices every day and those choices add up. My friend Chris commented, "We're not saving the planet, the planet will get along fine with or without us. We're saving ourselves." And while he's right in one way, geologically the planet will do fine, in terms of the biosphere we have a damn big impact. And that big impact is as the result of a lot us doing a lot of little things, over and over again.

Is this trip necessary? Do I need that widget? Can we keep doing this? I think these are questions that are worth asking.

And often times I find I contradict myself but I continue to try to do what I can. Little things can add up. A few more bikes on the road. A few trips not taken. A few more filled passenger seats.

We do what we can.

Bike More. Drive Less. Share the Road. Share the Planet.

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