Being a college kid has its ups and downs. A lot of time is spent celebrating the end of youth and the transition into adulthood. It is a challenge and a test which requires some improvisation from time to time. It also provided me with an experience I never got in high school: city living.
I grew up in a driver's paradise. The road I lived off of was always littered with Sunday drivers in their '32 Fords, Shelby Cobra replicas, various super bikes and old 911s. Its twists, turns, lack of traffic and elevation changes made it better suited for a rally stage than a residential street. The roads around it all had their own little secrets, with the occasional gem that followed the winding path of a small creek. Out there, where your destination was almost always more than a mile and a half away, constant use of the car made sense. Using a bicycle was supposed to be a bit more recreational, and was usually confined to the bike trail going through my hometown.
Switch to the city, and things change rapidly. Stoplights are at almost every corner. Traffic is constant. No one is happy to be out and driving. The highway is the fastest road around...if it isn't rush hour. And, a lot of the time, your destination wouldn't be more than a mile away.
If I had no help whatsoever, I could never afford being a student and having a car at the same time. I could never afford gas, insurance, tuition, parking passes and the potential parking ticket all at once.
Being a student means I have to improvise, and so I did. I bought a bicycle. I didn't get a silly mountain bike with shock absorbers and chunky tires. Think about what happens to a truck's fuel economy when it is lifted and receives huge tires. Its fuel economy goes down because the weight and rolling resistance goes way up. Instead, I bought a vintage road bike. It's lightweight, and has skinny tires with low rolling resistance.
It's made this year the best year of school so far, and it has only been a week. I can get to a much larger variety of places without having to spend a dime on gas. Plus, I get exercise whenever I'm out enjoying myself on my bicycle. I'm being productive, and having fun. It's great.
It also got me thinking...
The Aston Martin Cygnet (pictured above) is the result of the world's eternal hatred for the car. Average fuel economy regulations have forced Aston Martin to make a fuel-efficient car to balance out their gas-loving V-12 and V-8 engines. In all reality, it is a reupholstered 2011 Scion iQ. I find it pretty entertaining that a small car has as luxurious a cabin as any other Aston, but it also is a little bit irritating.
They call the iQ, Cygnet, Smart and all those other diminutive autos "city cars."
You really shouldn't use a car to get around in a city. You should use your car to get to the city, or get out of the city. Using a car only in the city doesn't make any sense.
Plus, I doubt people that live in the city can afford a nice new Smart car with air conditioning. Or in many cities, that they really need to.
Forget about using a car in the city. Get a bicycle, and utilize public transportation. If enough people would replace short car trips with walking or riding, maybe the government wouldn't be so quick to attack the car. Maybe we would take all our problems out on something else... like fast food.
I love the car with all my heart. However, I think that Americans abuse their ability to use the car. It shouldn't be a reason to be lazy. We are dependent on them. They should be a tool, or a sport. Imagine if we stopped using the car so much. People would get more exercise, because they wouldn't really have a choice but to use their own power to get somewhere. We wouldn't be able to go clear across town just to get a special kind of cheese or something, so smaller businesses might have a chance at thriving.
As a car lover, I can tell you it is possible to live without one. I can also tell you it isn't as bad as you might think. If you are going to a school in a city that is easily traveled through on a bicycle, I highly recommend looking at that as an alternative to your car. You can help yourself, and the world.
How about that?