The Price of Gas Won’t be High Enough


Cartoon Courtesy of Andrew Singer

Cartoon Courtesy of Andrew Singer

On NPR this afternoon a pundit predicted the price of oil would be going up this summer and the price of gas, which is already climbing, will get higher.

If the way people use their cars in the small town where we live is any indication, the price of gas this summer won’t be high enough.

Our entire town is only three square miles. One of the reasons our family moved here is because it’s small enough that you can easily walk and bike anywhere you want to go.

But even on a Sunday afternoon when the weather’s glorious and no one should be in a hurry, everybody’s driving.

The vast majority of the cars my kids and I saw while we were biking today (to the skate park and the Co-op and then home with backpacks laden with groceries) had only one person in them: the driver.

It’s as if our entire culture has forgotten about walking. Or biking. Or skateboarding. Or scootering. Or taking the bus.

You decide to take the kids to the park so you pile them in the car and drive them there, spilling carbon monoxide and other toxins into the “fresh” air that you then want your kids to breathe.

I don’t get it. Americans don’t think twice about commuting in the car for 40 minutes to work but a 40-minute walk to get somewhere “takes too long.”

Most of us believe that having a car is a necessity not a luxury.

James and I disagree on this.

I tell him we should sell our car, which is a compact and too small for the whole family, now that we have a new baby. James thinks we have to have a car because it would be impractical to be carless. But if we’re really going to live according to our values, a car shouldn’t be part of the equation.

Driving a car is the single most polluting action any individual does.

It’s also one of the most dangerous.

One of the best ways to keep our children safe is to keep them out of cars.

In December 2008 NPR reported that road crashes kill 260,000 children a year and injure about ten million more. They are the leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 19, and a leading cause of child disability.

It’s not enough to worry about global warming and complain about how policy makers need to make top-down changes. We need to change our own behavior too.

If raising the price of gas is what it takes to get more Americans out of their cars, bring it on.

What do you think? Is a car really a necessity or is it an upper middle class luxury? Are your car keys getting dusty on the hook by the door or do you drive everywhere? Are you concerned enough about global warming that you’re changing your family’s behavior? Have you found effective ways to get to where you need to go without using a car?

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7 thoughts on “The Price of Gas Won’t be High Enough”

  1. I’m totally with you on driving less, and it’s been a huge focus for me for years. Especially since we own a bike shop, it would just look bad if people didn’t see us on our bikes. I have a bike with a basket on front. It makes me look like a dork, but the basket allows me to carry things.

    But zero car in the picture would mean that grandma and grandpa do not get visited. There’s no public transit to their house. It would also mean that we could not go to the grocery store… that’s always been my one biggest need of the car is the groceries. There isn’t a grocery store that I feel safe walking or riding a bike to around here, and I’m not really organized at this point in my life to just go every day and get a few things that I can carry. But I do make choices with the car in mind. I choose her elementary school precisely because we could walk to it (versus the green charter school that we can’t walk to). I choose our dentist because he’s close. Etc. There are a few places I go by choice that are not close enough to walk or ride a bike, like my meditation class. But I do carpool with one other person if I can swing it.

    I think it’s a mindset that we need to teach our children early. I don’t think ours will ever be a world without cars, but the “will this decision put me in my car a lot?” needs to factor into all of the choices that we make: where we work, what doctor we choose, what bank we use, etc.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..How to Get Along with an Introverted Spouse =-.

  2. Right on. Our motorized culture is one of the leading causes for exploding obesity rates, particularly among children. The automobile’s need for space (for driving, maneuvering, and parking) not only creates suburban sprawl, it also destroys towns and urban areas when valuable real estate that could be used for housing or public space is given over to parking and high-speed, car-oriented boulevards. These boulevards effectively divide neighborhoods, preventing kids from safely walking to schools, cutting off residents on one side from jobs, goods or services on the other. Even on smaller streets, we’ve taken away a large chunk our children’s space to play because we have to worry about them being hit by cars. We need a national campaign to take back our streets with better “complete street” design for pedestrians and cyclists, with “Safe Routes to Schools” programs (so more kids can walk or bike to school) and with public awareness campaigns and law enforcement to make motorists slow down and be more aware of pedestrian rights.

  3. I agree with everything you wrote, and yet I know that we cannot live without our car. If we were in a city, things would be different. Here in our quaint little Outer Cape town, we need the car to fetch groceries. There is no supermarket, only a expensive deli in winter. In summer I manage because there are so many cars on the highway that traffic makes shopping a long drawn-out affair. Also, more local shops are open. Another reason we need a car is to get to specialist doctors who are all located in a larger town 40 minutes away. I do try to manage my errands so we only go once a week. Once a month or every two months we go shopping off Cape at Costco, and need the car for that, too. You are fortunate to live in a place where a car is not a necessity. I agree that education is a way to get more people out of cars.
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..Wellfleet Map Available Shortly: Sneak Peak! =-.

  4. I agree with you Jennifer, I know you do live as you preach.

    Walking is my favorite, not only renews my energy but gives me a sense of hope. You are right, our town being so small I had a fantasy that one day our main street would be turning into bikes only zone. I hate to say…that when I am walking to work (15 min. away) by the time I get there.. is an aweful smell of gas fumes in my hair. Makes me think of all those people driving with out proper smog check. I would say 1 car yes, electric a must. For our town that is all what we would ever need. Carpooling a must. I love our “Bike Taxis” I don’t see them often…I wonder what happen (?)

  5. Way to go Jennfier! You are so right. Cars dominate our culture and most folks can’t quite wrap their brains around what it would be like to live car-free or even car-lite. Carsharing offers the best of both worlds in my mind. I agree with James. Having no access to a car would be incredibly challenging. Carsharing offers loads of members access to a fleet of cars so that the focus can be on healthier forms of transportation. Most carshare members primarily walk, bike and use public transit and use a carshare car when absolutely necessary. Those who rely on a car everyday are not good candidates for carsharing, but still directly benefit from the carsharing movement. Carsharing takes cars off the roads and makes our communities more bike and pedestrian friendly. To find out if carsharing exists near you go to

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