Looking at the four people outside my window who have been using a snowblower for the past 2 hours, shoveling snow by hand, using various utensils to scrape snow from their car, I came to a realization. Ditch the car, and you save yourself all that work.
Ditch the car, and we don’t have to salt the roads, which can add up to costly salt purchases and road maintenance (Over the next 10 years, Michigan will theoretically spend $5 billion on road salt and its correlated depreciation to infrastructure investment –http://www.mackinac.org/15189). Salting is also harmful for the environment, as salt runoff makes its way to our streams and rivers, increasing chloride and damaging ecological health.
Ditch the car and you are no longer at risk for an auto accident. That’s pretty logical. Here’s some interesting stats on the number of auto related deaths per year (about 34,000 in 2012): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year
I love the snow because I don’t have a car to deal with. I used to have a car. I drove it in the snow. It got stuck in a parking space that was covered in ice. I cut up my hand digging the tire out of the ice so I could drive my car back home. That same storm (in Georgia, we only had a snow storm every few years), my car hit a big snowball in the road (i think someone started a snowman in the road…yea people will do that in Georgia) and tore off a piece of the front bumper. That was fun and all, but I didn’t want to do it again anytime soon.
Solution to enjoy snow: ditch your car! Walk to where you need to go (or use a tank: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOH2SkGoooQ), and life will be grand.
But it’s not that easy…you have a job. You have to drive to your job. Your kids have to go to their Irish Dance Class. Whatever it is you’re entangled in, chances are, you are depending on your car to get there.
So let’s drill down a bit…you have a car to get to the places that you’ve said you would be, or need to be, or whatever. You are going places a few miles away. Could you remove yourself from those engagements? Could you work from home? Are their extra-curricular activities nearby your home? Could you shop at the local food mart as opposed to driving to Wal-Mart or Stop n' Shop? Could you walk a mile to get what you need? There’s a trend in all these changes…do you see it?
Ditching the car means staying local. Staying local means building community. What if there is no food store nearby, no place to have an iced coffee, no place to take Irish Dance lessons? Well then, maybe someone should start it as opposed to driving a few miles away to get it.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to ditching your car is a much smaller environmental footprint. No car means no burning fuel. It means no new tires. No oil changes. You’re also no longer dependent on oil – the thing that we have been fighting for in the middle east for the past 25 years or so. You obviously don’t want drilling in pristine environments either, because you don’t own a car. Turns out flying is actually better than driving, when the amount of energy used is measured. In fact, driving is the least efficient in terms of energy use. A long distance train uses 1,668 BTU per person mile. Planes use 2,691, and cars a whopping 4,218. (BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. Per person mile is a measure of energy used to move a person one mile. I thought they used kilometers?) – http://www.umtri.umich.edu/what-were-doing/news/planes-trains-and-automobiles-traveling-car-uses-most-energy
Oh, and you save money. If you have a car, sell it and pocket the thousands of dollars, however much it’s worth, you can use that money to do practically any dream that you have! Go on a trip of a lifetime, start a business, save it for a rainy day, or donate it to a charity. And now that you don't have to budget a few thousand dollars a year on gas and maintenance, you can add that to your dream piggy bank as well.
So, should the personal car era come to an end? Has it been a failed experiment?
If you’ve ever been to Europe, especially Denmark and the Netherlands (where there are more bikes than people, and where they are building bike superhighways), you will realize it’s simple to get around by walking, biking and taking public transit. Hamburg, Germany has plans to be car-free within the next 20 years: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140204-can-a-city-really-go-car-free
Here’s a list of places that have ditched cars: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_car-free_places – city centers, towns, parks, etc.
Are you convinced yet? Smaller environmental footprint (no gas, oil, maintenance, harmful emissions, new tires), multiple thousands of dollars in the bank (saving on maintenance and $ from selling your car), increased sense of community (this leads to increased happiness for everyone involved), and you enjoy the snow a whole lot more.
…just confirmed it is not that fun to bike in freezing rain. Would probably have accepted a ride.