Monday, September 15, 2008

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Not Pollutiful

With Hurricane Ike thrashing Houston and the gulf coast, gasoline has gotten scarce in the southeastern United States. The principles of supply and demand have kicked in, so that gas stations are charging over $4 and $5 a gallon, and limiting sales to 10 gallons or less.

I think this is why cars were giving me more crap than usual on my commute in today.

First there was the Lexus on Walnut Hills who zipped around me just before the stop sign at Holt. Never mind the fact that I was able to pull out right behind him - he seemed to think that some dumb bicycle would slow him down.

Next was the Range Rover on Trousdale as we entered the 15-mph school zone at the intersection with Hogan. I'm doing 17 mph (so technically I'm speeding) and I'm almost on the bumper of the car in front of me, but he feels the need to try to pass me. I slid to the left a bit and made him get back in line.

Maybe it's the nature of the drivers of these vehicles. Both probably cost 50 times what my Salsa Casseroll did, so the drivers of these cars probably take the same point of view that many affluent people have, and feel that they are entitled to the road. Goodness knows, they pay more for their car tags and tax on their automobile than what I do for the tags and tax on my bicycle (i.e., zero). Add to that the amount they are now paying to feed these plush palanquins, and it is no wonder that they might get irritated that this little man on his little bicycle, which doesn't even have to pay for gas!, might slow them down on their way to work.

My Old Fantasy

I used to fantasize about a world running completely out of oil, but that would be apocalyptic. We need trucks to be able to get food to stores and cement to building sites and all of the other things that the world needs to get moved so that business can go on. We need fuel for emergency vehicles and trains and buses, and we need oil for all of the things that we make out of it, like milk cartons and bicycle tires.

So, rather than we run completely out of fuel and end up living with Mad Max in Thunderdome ("Two go in ... one comes out!"), my fantasy changed to a gasoline tax on fuel for passenger vehicles - say, two dollars per gallon. This would still allow business to go on and firetrucks to save homes and stuff, but would make it sufficiently unpleasant for people to drive their cars. Maybe then they would be willing to use alternative forms of transportation. They don't all have to ride bicycles, but people could walk more or take the bus or just be smarter about the trips that they take. And we could take the $2 per gallon and spend it on more mass transit, bike lanes, and research on alternative fuel sources.

But, after this morning, I'm thinking that's not going to do it either. The Lexus and Range Rover that tried to edge me off the road get lousy gas mileage, but they were still out there. A gas tax might force more low- and middle-income folks out of their cars, but rich Americans are not going to give up their big cars. They worked hard for them - or their parents did - and these are big symbols of their status. Being able to afford the gasoline for them is probably just another way to show the world how much better off they are. Instead of beeping, their horns should go, "Nya-nyah-na-nyay-nyah."

Act Locally, Think Globally

But might does not make right, and I'm not getting out of their way. Probably, someday, one of these huge mothers is not going to back down when I assert my rights to the road, and I'm going to end up dead or hurt. But I consider it un-American - in the worst sense of the word - to cede any right out of fear. That sounds like the kind of thing that would look good on my headstone, although I hope nobody has to carve it for a few decades.


  1. good post, but i wouldn't cede the argument so quickly - more stuff is going local all the time. who knows which goods and services will go local next?

  2. True. And one of the maxims of being green is to use as many local products as you can. Thank goodness for the Yazoo Brewery!

  3. You bicyclists need to pay road taxes or get off the road! Always out there holding up traffic, getting exercise to prolong your health and your lives, doing your part to help the environment, reducing traffic congestion! How dare you! PC

  4. Anonymous: Thanks for posting. You must be busy because I see your posts on a lot of sites. You are right regarding the road taxes. I'm sending a big check today to my local municipality. Once it clears, I can start to use the middle of the lane again. Thank you again for showing me the light.