A tank of ethanol or a year of food?

Holly over at Letter from Hen Waller nails it. Go read it!

6 thoughts on “A tank of ethanol or a year of food?”

  • Erik Sandblom

    Hmm, does this show that cars are inefficient, or that our society is inefficient? I think it shows that cars are inefficient.

    I happen to believe that industrial production is extremely efficient, and by extension, sustainable. That’s not the problem.

    The problem is overconsumption, which cannot be made sustainable no matter how efficiently you overconsume (something your blog has mentioned earlier). And by using a car to do something that can be done by bicycle, we are overconsuming. Many people work and shop within 5 kilometres from their home, or easily could. That’s ideal biking distance, takes about 15 minutes at a slow pace, or if there’s lots of traffic lights and hills.

  • F. H.

    I just signed up for your blog recently and enjoy the point of view. We live in the Portland, Oregon area. We have 1 child. We own a truck and an SUV which we bought cheaply and owe no payments on. It’s been grating on me lately how wasteful this seems. I would love to ride to the store and at least save the use of gas, if not get rid of one vehicle entirely.

    I do live a short distance from the cheaper grocery store that we can afford, but there is no way for me to get there by bike as there is a main arterial with no sidewalks, and I’m too afraid to ride on the shoulder with my kid in tow. It occurred to me that if we sold a car, with the $$ we’d save, I could ride up to the more expensive grocery store!

    Anyway I appreciate the viewpoint so much, but would also like to see discussion of safety issues — heavy traffic with no sidewalk, keeping kids safe on bikes, people who would have to ride through unsafe neighborhoods (especially at night), and how to keep stuff/gear from getting stolen off your bike while you’re in the cheap grocery store. :) Thanks!

  • fred

    F.H., you pushed my favorite button, when you asked about safety issues. I ride an Alligt Alleweder recumbent velomobile which has lately become my automobile replacement. I’ve been riding in this area, Daytona Beach, FL, for over 25 years and during that time, sidewalks have never been a factor in my selection of routes.

    If you’ve not discovered the philosophy of Effective Cycling, I would recommend highly that you research it. Florida traffic law states that a bicycle is entitled to the lane if there is not enough room for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to safely occupy the lane, side-by-side. Further documents in this state suggest that means a 14 foot lane width. I’ve not measured the roadways on which I travel, but when I’m not comfortable with allowing an automobile to pass me in my lane, I will move farther into the lane.

    Most of the roads (not all) on which I travel have multiple lanes in each direction, which gives traffic the chance to pass me if they are observant enough to recognize that I’m going more slowly than they are. On those roads that are not multi-lane, the traffic is rarely heavy enough to prevent automobiles from passing my by moving to the other side of the road.

    You should never ride on the shoulder, if your state law allows you to occupy the lane. Operate your bicycle as you would a motor vehicle, within the guidelines of the state laws and within the philosophy of Effective Cycling and you will find that it is not as frightening as you might think.

    I can’t address “kids on bikes” as I have none, but trailers have a popular following. Some trailers also have cargo capacity along with the youngsters. If you’ve seen the Xtracycle/StokeMonkey combination, you already have a good idea of what can be done.

    I try not to leave my vehicle unattended for very long, but my velomobile also has somewhat inconspicuous cargo compartments in which I keep my gear. My air pump and tool kit is almost invisible under the nose area. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful in that respect.

    I hope I can provide encouragement to help you reach your goals.

  • Jim

    “Anyway I appreciate the viewpoint so much, but would also like to see discussion of safety issuesââ?¬â??heavy traffic with no sidewalk, keeping kids safe on bikes, people who would have to ride through unsafe neighborhoods (especially at night), and how to keep stuff/gear from getting stolen off your bike while youââ?¬â?¢re in the cheap grocery store. :) Thanks!”

    I echo Fred’s enthusiasm for the principles of Effective Cycling (based on a book by John Forrester). But I actually prefer the more flexible approach of Robert Hurst’s ‘Art of Urban Cycling’. Now a stream-of-consciousness list of my own cycling principles: In general, sidewalk riding is much more dangerous and less convenient than street riding, even in heavy traffic. Learn to use your ears to detect traffic coming from behind, and to determine if that traffic is going to cut you too close. The best streets for driving are seldom the best for cycling, so it pays to look for the best cycling routes even if you already know the best driving routes. Bad neighborhoods at night? Don’t slow down. Don’t stop to talk to anyone. And don’t be afraid to do what needs to be done to protect yourself. Pack the kids in a Burley, and drivers will cut you a WIDE berth. I lock up at a cheap grocery store frequently, as well as at the library, post office, coffee shop, bank, hardware store, and many other places, and have never had any equipment stolen off my bike. Most bike and equipment thefts occur when the bike is left unattended for a long period of time on a regular basis. For a 10-minute shopping trip, the risk is small. However, the small risk can be made smaller if you carry your equipment in a small pannier, which you can remove and take with you when you leave the bike. Forget cables and lightweight chain locks. Get a heavy-duty U-lock. Better yet, get two. Ride with traffic, and be part of it. Generally the most dangerous cycling is done by people who are timid in traffic: riding the wrong way, on the sidewalk, weaving in an out of the parking lane, etc. Most of all, be alert. No amount of safety equipment, bright clothing, or lighting will save you from bad driving, but situational awareness and anticipatory caution will save your bacon almost every time.

  • Martina

    I third Jim and Fred. I am not the courageous rider, but I do cycle everywhere in Portland. I normally determine a route on the Portland bike map before I leave and use mostly side streets. I signal when I turn and make eye contact with the drivers at stops. When making a left turn, I ride close to center line of the street. But nothing stops you from using the cross walks like a pedestrian if you feel safer that way.
    Kids on bikes: Just make sure they are strapped in correctly and wear their well-fitting helmet.
    Dangerous neighborhoods: Your are less likely to be confused as a rival drive-by! Otherwise use your instincts — if it doesn’t feel safe and looks to dark, stay on better-lit roads.
    Gear: Nobody steals sweaty helmets… Get a good lock, watch how other people lock up their bikes…

    I am pretty sure that you will find a friendlier route to your inexpensive grocery store… otherwise just ask any biker you see at the shop…they might know an alternative.

  • Erik Sandblom

    FH, so happy to see you consider alternatives to driving cars. Though I hope you can work with what you have, I hope you will also write letters to the editor and phone your political representative about the issue. I strongly feel it’s wrong to build a road network which prevents people from doing their daily routine on foot or on bicycle.
    I support freedom of choice, and so should you.

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