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In Defense of the Automobile

The ubiquitous automobile – the scapegoat of the environmental movement for its polluting ways is an indispensible tool for many. Love them or hate them, automobiles bring food to our local stores, employ tens of thousands of Americans involved in the auto industry and provide timely and reliable transportation for the average American.

The Urban Country Bicycle Blog recently wrote about how the average American spends approximately two hours of their workday, every day, paying for their automobile. In other words, we spend about 12 weeks (an entire summer vacation!) or $11,000 each year to own and operate a motor vehicle. Given these figures, it would make anyone reconsider their reliance on their car as their primary mode of transportation.

Despite the expense of owning a motor vehicle, exclusive use of a bicycle is impractical in the US. Bicyclists must share the road with cars, which is very hazardous. There aren’t always bike lanes, and some cities with expressways provide no safe alternative path for cyclists.

While we can reduce our use of cars in our day-to-day lives, I feel strongly that most people should have at least one working vehicle.

Access to Emergency Services

Unless you live within walking distance of an emergency room, if you or a family member experience an accident or life threatening situation, you don’t have time to call a cab or sometimes, even an ambulance. I am loath to rely on outside services if I can do it faster and cheaper.

Caring for Companion Animals

Few public transportation systems will allow non-service animals aboard, even if they are crated. Only very small companion animals could travel via bicycle. If you have pets, you need a car to get them to the veterinarian’s office, the groomers, or other destinations.

Hauling Large Items

I would have never been able to take advantage of a friends’ offer for free rain barrels if I didn’t have a truck. Trips to warehouse stores, the gardening center, and the hardware store has been made much more efficient with a vehicle.

Personal Safety Concerns

As a female, I am hyper-aware that travelling alone after dark can be dangerous. Public transportation isn’t always safe, even during daylight hours. Commuting on a bicycle at night can be risky. In my own vehicle, I have a much more reasonable assurance that I am safe.

Tips to Reduce Your Car Usage

  • Walk or ride your bike to local destinations. If I’m picking up a few things at the grocery store, I’ll ride my bike.
  • Use public transportation to get to events and performances. I enjoy catching a Shark’s game at the HP Pavilion and I always take the VTA. I don’t have to worry about parking and I can enjoy a beer too!
  • Plan Trips and Lump Destinations Together. I will wait to run some errands so that I can do them all on one trip. Using Google maps, I plan out my trip so that I can begin with the furthest destination and backtrack all the way home, hitting all my other stops along the way.
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