Car culture, tires, gas pumps, motorcycles, trucks, buses, hover-boards & bicycles. "Wheel's" that move people & things. Muscle, motors & engines, the power to spin those "wheels" either biological, electrical or petrochemical energy (typical).
No matter what kind of vehicle you make use of, be that a plane, a train, an automobile, motorcycle, bicycle or hover-board, there are many kinds of costs that you are paying that affect your budget, available time for work & the rest of life, pollution exposure, risks, and other variables to modern life. Think about transportation options in terms of risk adjusted reward or risk adjusted return
"Movement is Life" a poster declares on the wall of a hallway in the joint replacement wing of the local Overlake Hospital where orthopedic surgeries take place.
How long do shoes last? Can you walk barefoot safely in a world of petrochemical road drippings & parasites? What about the practical distance to walk for commuting ? In my case walking 10.9 mi would about 3 hours, possibly even 4 given the hills. That is not a practical way to make it to and from work. Using my Segway or bicycle would take about an hour (given ~12mph), which is still 40 min faster than using the bus system around here! Walking requires a fair amount of energy, does not cover a lot of distance quickly, but offers incredible versatility that is unmatched by wheeled vehicles for the last mile of ones commute to the store, work or play. This is why we "walk" inside stores like Costco, though they have low speed electric carts if you are handicapped to the point of needing the use of one: though I will note that some perfectly able bodied lazy unhealthy people use them without a reasonable need because walking would require exerting effort.
Transportation by foot was the original all natural way to get around that has been largely replaced by wheeled vehicles so that people can cover vastly greater distances more quickly. The costs of doing so by gas powered vehicles has tremendous global implications with tail pipe emissions, CO2 emissions, green house gas effects on climate & weather & agriculture, oil depletion, fracking and economic progress. Most people do not commute to work on foot in America because of the vast distances that people cover using their gas powered cars. Housing where jobs are plentiful tends to be very expensive, causing many people to move far away from their employment, especially if they want affordable land! This drives the car culture in America, especially because mass transportation options are extremely time inefficient for a large percentage of Americans, even those who live close large cities only have access to a mediocre bus system. In my case I live inside of King County, within a 25 mi circle of the most densely populated part of WA, and using the Bus for my commute would require almost 2 hours each way, or 4 hours per day, roughly 500% more time in transit than driving, or 2x more time in traffic than riding my bike or segway. What a joke of a bus system King County Metro. Perhaps if they did not pay the drivers as much as a doctor, they could have more bus route options for more people like they do in other similar population density cities around the world. The united states generally has horrible public transportation options. Basically our transportation system makes driving the only practical way to get around in a time efficient manner. No wonder I am vehicle crazy. Perhaps subconsciously I was aware of this car biased transportation time saving reality, but working things out in words here on the blog helped me to visualize with greater fidelity!
Bicycles are the most energy efficient transportation machines ever developed. When powered by the human rider a biological machine hybrid is formed (bio-hybrid). Good for low speeds below 30mph, bicycles multiply human walking energy efficiency with gearing advantage, wheel spin that allows coasting & the conversion of leg muscle motion effort through the pedal crank into rotational efficient wheel driving energy to spin the gear train via a chain (in most cases) through the rear cassette into the rear axle which translate the energy via the wheel to the rear tire where energy is then exerted between the tire & road surface.
Electric bicycles add the power of electric motors with the user leg power input crank torque assist, the combination results in 2x faster with 1/2 the effort or 4x less human energy required : so you can commute to work over distances of about 20mi max without breaking a sweat & have enough energy at the end of your work day to get home.
I used an electric bicycle named Ebert like this a few dozen times to commute from downtown Bellevue Wa to eastern Bellevue Wa between our then muti-family apartment complex to my job 3.4 mi away. Sadly some jerk wad stole Ebert, the Prodeco phantom x folding electric mountain bike. On a more positive note, I was not making good use of Ebert at that time. It sat idle often like my other vehicles, giving me great pause to have concrete reflections about transportation. Emotionally I had sort of let go Ebert the day before it was stolen, intending to sell it, making the theft the next day have an odd psychological feeling. How unusual that I let go of it emotionally the day before someone stole it. Perhaps this was a blessing from God, as I was not more upset by the theft!
I aspire & dream of using Schwinger my mountain bicycle. A cheap Schwinn model that I was given for my 21st birthday (thank's Mom & Dad). Long ago I logged enough miles to go through several sets of tubes (blackberry thorn punctures), probably on the order of 2500mi total. Kept indoors for storage for its entire life, Schwinger the 21 speeds front suspension commodity bicycle was only about $130 new (discounted because of a scratch ^^) thanks Fred Meyers. Today during this balmy winter weather, Schwinger hangs from the roof of our garage, suspended from a $13 bicycle pulley mounting setup that I also got at Fredmeyers (amazing how many different products they sell).
Back at the turn of the 20th century, many of the rail-roads in America were torn up because of collusion between oil companies, automakers & government. America's public transportation infrastructure was reduced to a half backed poorly executed systems of buses that are not really a time efficient alternative to driving a car for most people around here (near Seattle Wa, suburbs). Roads emblematic of urban sprawl caused the mowing down of forests everywhere as real estate developers build America suburban single family housing neighborhoods. The effect of car culture on the landscape of America so profound that it would almost be hard to image what the world would like today without cars and roads to nowhere. Yes, they, governments, build some roads that go no where, part of pork barreling legislative measure to give kickbacks and work to special favor constituents in exchange for bribery kickbacks into political campaigns of those who pull the special favors in the law making process.
Commuting to Work
My current route to work is only about ~11 mi one way. Driving in extremely light traffic, Saturday morning at 7am I am able to eclipse this mostly highway route in about 19min. In heavy later morning weekday traffic, it can take up to ~1hr worst case, but typically only takes about 25-45 minutes depending on traffic, holidays, etc & other variables I do not understand well.
While I could easily ride this route on a bicycle, doing so when its 35 deg F remains outside the scope of my irrational aversion to being wet & or really cold for long periods of time. I would have to spend almost $1000 on specialized heated gear to make use of my bicycle, Segway or motor-scooter on colder days as an alternative to driving. Single piece snowmobile suits seem to be the best overall single item solution that I discovered while doing research on how to extend my non-car, non-bus transportation options into a greater portion of the yearly calendar when the weather is less than ideals for exposed transportation. Sadly the risks of operating a bicycle, Segway or scooter along my current driving route presents extreme collisions hazards, so to make use of these two wheel vehicles, excluding the scooter, I not only need warm specialized gear, I also have to take an alternate route full of dangerous intersections. Intersections are where most really bad or deadly accidents happen. In the winter the shoulder area where I have to ride the segway is often coated with sand & other debris that can pop the really hard to change Segway Mini Pro tires, and the shoulder of the road becomes dangerously thin in certain parts ( I learned this by doing an semi-epic 5 hours long Segway trip) The entire route does not have side walks where I could safely ride. Meg & I agree that the only safe way to accomplish this route on cold dry days without a car is to use the bus system with walking to cover the gaps, or use specialized warm cover gear to keep warm while riding our highway capable scooter Howard the Honda PCX-150.
Buses Waste Time
Using the bus system to accomplish this route takes more than 1 hour, requires a bus transfer (wasted time out in the cold) and provides no discount on my car insurance. Buses in King Country are really only practical if you live close to a stop and can ride a single bus to your location. Any time you have to transfer, latency issues between the stop of one route and start of another waste your time. The further you get away from Seattle the worse this becomes. I live close enough to work where the bus system should be time efficient, alas it is not. At some level I am always trying to conserve time so that I can read books & work on this blog while being a good husband around the house (helpful).
Assuming that I did make use of buses to commute to and from work, at $5 per day, that's about $100 per month. It takes 1 hour 40 min one way to use the bus to cover the 10.9 mi route from my house to work vs 20-50 min to drive. That's a 50 min saving one way for driving on the worst case and 1 hours 20 min saving best case. Basically using the bus would waste 40 hours per month, a ridiculous waste of time. Thanks King County Metro for nothing!
The Antique Subaru 2017 Alt ^^
I currently drive an inherited (almost free) 1993 Subaru Legacy L (180k mi) which only achieves ~22 MPG or $1000 annually for my current commute route. The 2014 financed (still paying) Honda Cr-z sits idle in hybrid hibernation hooked up to a battery tender for SLI lift support so that I can net a significant discount on my car insurance and vehicle registration that just tripled in price on the Honda due to its book table value with the DOL and the associated RTA tax to pay for extensions to the Link Light Rail system. I also thoughr to make use of the $900 I dumped into the Subaru to put it into good working order with new wheels, tires, breaks and most recently 1/2 bottle of DGX Tranny fluid to see if that will fix the 5th gear 9 mi highway shift latency hold in 4th gear issue that results in abnormally low fuel economy ~22mpg. The Subaru was once able to get much better fuel economy, in the upper 30mpg range on highway dominate trips. I do not want to dump a lot of money into the Subaru because the Honda is a perfectly good vehicle ready to be utilized, pending a reviewing of solutions to lower the operating costs by registering it elsewhere & using a special insurance protocol.
Tire Pressure Mountain
Between 3 cars, 1 gas scooter, 2 bicycles & a Segway MP, I manage the tire pressure of 20 air filled tire pressures/ aging/ replacement + oil changes, air filters & etc : with insurance, fuel, depreciation, payments, etc : I spend a lot on transportation annually relative to my net income. Upon considering my transportation finances more carefully I came to a greater realization about why I dream of riding motorcycles, driving, bicycle riding, Segway gliding and moving on machines. As a self describe gear head, I like clean-tech vehicles, especially bicycles, and dream of owing something like a bicycle electric car human power assist hybrid platform that can fly like the Ehang 184, but with the energy efficiency of a fairing enhanced bicycle, made of cheap exotic yet to be developed hybrid materials like titanium plated carbon fibers.
The pnuematic "motocycle" style 10.5inch ties of the Mini Pro Segway Ninebot work well on paved surfaces and trails alive. The compliance of the thinner tires rendering a surprisingly smooth ride for something that lacks energy absorbing suspension, though they are easy to puncture. Eons ahead of the solid rubber tires of my electrified kick scooter in terms of ride smoothness, the self balancing scooter is a remarkable example of what is known as "last mile" transportation devices that continue gaining popularity in bigger cities around the world! The rural to urban migration happening around the world has given rise to mega cities with tail pipe pollution issues galore. Clean tech transportation options like hybrid & electric vehicles offer a conventional private vehicle solution with lower emissions for improved air quality and corresponding improvements in public health. I use my Segway as a fair weather only toy these day, having only made it too & from a store a couple of times. It was out of commission until I was able to exert a heroic amount of effort to replace a tire that was leaking air (tire shops would not help me). The Segway is like walking but 4x faster without any of the work out, which makes for a "colder" trip since you get wind blasted while standing on it gliding.