Current mood: chipper
I had to run a couple of errands a while ago. Amy's bicycle needed a tune-up at the bike shop in West View (about 3 miles distant), I needed to pick up some mangoes and other produce, and I needed to stop at the bank for some hard cash for the kids' allowances.
Most people would just hop in the car and drive. Someday, though, gasoline is going to be SO expensive, one will just not do that. I predicted about 10 years ago when gasoline was less than 1/2 its current price that we would be paying close to $3 and not caring -- and except for when we first got to $3, I am right. Now I'm saying almost the same for $8, but adding that it won't be so easy to buy at that price.
To that end, I do not just hop in the car and drive. If the trip can be done without the car, I will at least try. Someday, lots more people will do this, too.
The weather was quite nice at around 10:30 a.m., so I grabbed her bike and headed up the hill to the bus stop. The bike is somewhat usable, but has bad brakes -- not a big problem if I'm mainly going uphill, as I was, but not really usable for routine riding.
OK, fine, I get to the bus stop, and fortunately the bus that happens along has a bike rack mounted in the front, not a guarantee for the 11C Perry Highway. (Some routes are advertised as always having bike racks; not the 11C.) It took maybe 15 to 20 seconds to pull down the rack and secure the bike, then I hopped on and off we went. A lady standing in the front remarked that she'd never seen that done before. When we got to West View, I demonstrated that getting the bike out similarly requires maybe 15 seconds. Both loading and unloading the bike can actually be done faster, with practice, but 15 seconds is an acceptable dwell time. Someday, lots more people will be doing this, too.
A couple minutes later, the bike was in the shop, and a couple minutes after that, I was headed back up the street. Before I left the house, I'd checked to see how long a wait existed between inbound and outbound trips. It was long -- I should've made the trip a couple hours before, when the wait in West View was only about 15 minutes. Since I figured I'd be waiting a real long time, I'd just walk or jog back home -- three miles.
Think about that: Who would walk three miles when there's a perfectly good car sitting in the driveway? Well, I would, and I strongly suggest that everyone else start thinking about that, too. And doing that, too. Even in bad weather. Yeah, I'm serious.
Not only did I hike back, I actually ran most of it. I didn't sprint, but kept up a steady jog, all the way from Perry and Center in West View up into the hamlet of Perrysville, easily 1.5 miles, pausing only once to re-tie a sneaker. I didn't time myself, but I think I held to at least a 10-minute mile.
My next stop was the India Grocery. I figured out a back way into the place using a residential street and a short path through the woods, thus avoiding having to walk on a sidewalk-less major artery. If necessary, this could almost be bicycled.
I shopped briefly at the India Grocery, but decided I should do my banking first. Here, I tried the one truly insane thing I did all day: I crossed Three Degree Road and then scaled a 30-foot embankment into a quiet residential neighborhood. This cannot be done by the average person, so I will not suggest anyone else try this. However, a few months ago, I had hiked along the shoulder of Three Degree and found it far from pleasant, so wanted to tackle at least one alternative.
From the top of the embankment, it was a short hike to the back of Pines Plaza, easily accessed by cutting through about 20 feet of one yard. Technically I was trespassing over that snippet of a yard, but I simply do not care. Usually, I pick up any litter I find along the way, in case anyone complains. In any event, nobody complained, and after tromping through all the stuff dumped by the No Dumping sign at the back of the plaza, I made my banking transaction and retraced my steps to the India Grocery, including going down the 30-foot embankment.
I ended up buying a large amount of produce there, far more than I could carry by myself, so I paid for the order and decided to go back for the car anyway. I jogged back up the hill, and as luck would have it, along came the outbound 11C bus just as I reached Perry Highway -- the same coach and driver as on the inbound trip. Five minutes later, I was in my car. Five minutes after that, I had the groceries loaded, and shortly I was home.
All told, I rode two buses, used one bicycle, walked or jogged close to three miles, and only drove the car two miles for what in total was a seven-mile trip. Thus, for five miles, my car was not adding to congestion, I was not adding to our foreign oil purchase, I did not pollute the air, and the cost of operating the car those five miles was an expense I did not incur. OTOH, I ensured that I could indeed run 1.5 miles without stopping, and I learned that I could make that India Grocery trip -- less side trips to the bank and to West View -- easily by bus, and take my time, provided of course that I limit my purchase to what I can carry. Someday, a lot more people will do this regularly, too.
Of course, I know that a lot of people already do this because they have no choice. Either they have no car or cannot drive, and so must walk and/or take public transit to do their grocery shopping. Someday, though, it's just going to have to happen that we will all have to figure out how to do all that without the help of automobiles. Just how this will be done, and still keep small children in tow, I do not know. Answers do exist, though, because as I said, a lot of people manage this all the time right now. Too bad for the rest of us, then, I guess.
One additional element: Time. Yep, it took a lot longer to actually do all those things. I left the house at 10:40 and didn't get entirely done until 12:45. However, in that time, not only did I accomplish all three errands, I got easily an hour of vigorous exercise, too. I did not have to drive someplace so I could get that exercise. It was just an added benefit.
I hate to sound haughty, as I'm sure I do, but I'm just being real. This is going to happen, someday, maybe sooner (2009?), maybe later, maybe as soon as some big bruhaha in Iran or thereabouts takes place. But it will happen.
What's the moral of the story? Simple: Get used to walking, America. Everyone not afflicted with a palsy or dystrophy ought to be able to run one mile or walk three. If you cannot do that now, start trying. If you can do that, start remembering to.