My Year Without a Car - (Plus a Request)

On March 1, 2008 I sold my Nissan Micra in Aberdeen, Scotland and hopped a plane to Amsterdam to take up a new position. I have not owned a car since that time. A while back a TOD reader asked what that experience has been like, and suggested I write a story on it. So here it is.

While in Europe

It is really a tale of two continents. In large parts of Europe, one can get along reasonably well without a car. In the past year, I have worked at my company's Accoya factory in the Netherlands most of the time. I fly in to Amsterdam, and there is a train station right in the airport. I catch a direct, 1 hour and 15 minute train to the Arnhem Central Train Station. From there, it's a 15-minute cab ride to my apartment.

I secured an apartment that is only about half a mile from work, and I adopted the common Dutch habit of riding my bike to work. I certainly don't feel safe all of the time with cars whizzing past me, and at times it has been an inconvenience, but the vast majority of the time the bike suits me just fine. (If you want to argue that my international flights more than offset any fuel savings from biking to work, you won't get any argument from me. But in this economy, you do what you have to).

As for the inconvenience, if I want to go out to eat, I am around a mile from the nearest restaurant. When visitors come over to the factory to visit, I often find myself riding the bike in the dark, to a restaurant that may be 3 miles from my apartment. That may seem like a piece of cake, but I have done it in the snow, in freezing rain, and with a fierce wind in my face. It would certainly be more convenient to hop in a car and go.

The worst inconvenience to date was when I had a bad cold, and my secretary made me a doctor's appointment on short notice. I hopped on my bike and rode a mile and a half in a freezing downpour. I could have probably bothered someone to take me, but I really try to be as low-maintenance as possible.

I do have other options, and I utilize them. There is a bus stop near my apartment, and I use it quite a lot. During the day the bus comes frequently, but later in the evening it only runs once an hour, and then stops altogether at about 10 p.m. (Incidentally, I learned one night while waiting for a bus at 10 that's when the prostitutes come out and take over the bus stops).

For trips of intermediate length, a cab is another option I utilize from time to time. When I fly home, I have to catch a train at 6 a.m. That's always a cab ride to the station. If I want to travel to another major European city, the train connections are superb. However, if you want to venture out into the countryside, it may be more difficult. My son wants me to take him to Normandy this summer, and that's almost impossible to do without a car because the major points of interest are scattered over several miles, and there aren't easy train connections to my knowledge. So this summer I expect to rent a car in Europe for the first time.

Meanwhile, Back in Texas

But as I said, it is a tale of two continents. When I fly back to Texas, it is hard to do without a car. I fly into the airport, and the first thing I have to do is catch a cab for the 35-mile drive to my house.

I bought a house 25 miles from my Dallas office, because 1). I hate cities, so I chose a house in the country; 2). I knew I wasn't going to have to spend that much time in the office. 3). Because the housing bubble was imploding, I got a builder's foreclosure for about half the appraised price. If I had to make that commute every day, I would have sucked it up and bought a house closer to the office, preferably close to some kind of public transportation. From where I live, public transportation isn't an option, so I rent a compact car when I have to be in the office, or borrow my wife's car if the kids are out of school.

How long can I keep this up? To be honest, I never thought I could keep it up for over a year. My initial assignment involved several straight months in the Netherlands, and I thought I would have to buy a car when I returned. But every time I do a cost benefit analysis, I can never justify it when I only need it one or two weeks a month. I have no registration fees or maintenance to pay, and I don't have to keep insurance on it, because my insurance company covers me for a car rental at no extra cost. In the past six months, I have spent a total of $825 on car rentals. I don't think a car purchase makes economic sense until I find myself spending 3-4 times this amount over a six month period. Given my current work arrangements, that is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Besides, I like the idea of living without a car. I will continue to put it off as long as possible, even if it occasionally means riding my bike to the doctor in the freezing rain.


Request on the Annual EIA Energy Conference

On an unrelated note, the 2009 EIA Energy Conference takes place on April 7th and 8th. The conference is free, so feel free to drop by if you are in the area. There are a number of topics that look interesting, including the following two plenary talks:

Energy and the Macroeconomy - William D. Nordhaus, Sterling Professor of Economics, Yale University

Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World - John W. Rowe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Exelon Corporation

There are also a number of panel sessions, including:

The Future for Transport Demand

What's Ahead for Natural Gas Markets?

Meeting the Growing Demand for Liquids

Financial Markets and Short-Term Energy Prices

Investing in Oil and Natural Gas - Opportunities and Barriers

I have been asked to participate on the panel Energy and the Media. The other panelists are Steven Mufson from the Washington Post and Eric Pooley from Harvard University (who was also former managing editor at Fortune). Mufson is the main energy reporter for the Post, and I think he does a good job of reporting the important stories. I have read a lot of his work, and have spoken to him on at least one occasion. Then there's me, the energy blogger. Please humor me and let's not play the game "Which One is not Like the Others?" :-)

Here's where I could use some assistance. I have a general idea of the themes I would like to explore. Namely, I want to discuss the amount of energy misinformation, which I think stems from some reporters really not having the background to know when they are being misled. We as a nation have a low energy IQ, and that creeps into many of the stories in the media. The TDP fiasco is a perfect example. Had the reporters dug a bit more and been more critical, it would have been another possibly interesting next generation fuel experiment, instead of something that ultimately had a lot of taxpayer money thrown at it.

But what else? What other themes should be examined on a panel entitled Energy and the Media?


When this post goes up, I will be without Internet access at the family farm in Oklahoma. Following that, I am going on hiatus for a while as I try to figure out exactly what I am trying to accomplish here - and whether I think I am having any success. None of us are immune to the stresses of the meat-grinder that TOD can be, and I need a break from it for a while. However I don't intend for my hiatus to become permanent as has sometimes been the case with TOD staff. I will check back in at some point before the EIA conference to see what readers think should explored on the panel. And if you happen to be at the conference, look me up and say hello.

I have probably used at least twice as much fuel in flying than in my car over the years. A trip or two transatlantic flights per year make all the difference in the world. So all those years of commuter biking don't really help that much proportionally in my case.

Life without a car is not the end of civilization.

I have not owned a car in my life. At the same time I travel a lot by train and by bike. From time to time (like 3-4 times a year) I rent a car e.g. to go skiing or to catch my son in the middle of the night from a distant concert.

I would expect that European societies are able to reduce car traffic by 50% without a severe impact on the standard of life.


I agree that frequent flyers use much more kerosine flying than by driving a car. But a large number of flights are done, because it is cheap to fly compared to former times. I would expect that flights can also easily be reduced by 50% without a severe impact.

Higher fuel prices will advance this change. But I wonder if it is possible to have economic growth with less cars, less planes and less energy consumed?

Yeah, life without a car is indeed not the end of civilization.

I didn't even bother to get a license to drive a car. Back in my teenage years, this was heresy. No license = no coming of age ritual. How could I possibly be a productive member of society? But now in my mid-thirties I can actually say I have no license and have lived to tell the tale.

How? I live in a city. Cities have public transit. If you don't have public transit, and you're not a farmer, then you probably live in an exurb or a failed state. If I were a farmer, I'd probably get a license for something-or-other. Farming is all about the petroproducts. But I'm not a farmer: I consume groceries, but make almost none. My groceries fit in a backpack.

The current Green buzz around cars is all about whittling away at fuel inefficiencies in existing models. The rest of the cost of cars is ignored. I'm only aware of Canadian statistics, but if I were to die tomorrow, it would probably be due to an untimely impact with a car. Or in a car--but I've made that quite unlikely. If I wanted to get a license for something that killed less people than cars, I'd get a license for a handgun. Oh, wait-- cars don't kill people, people kill people. Yeh.

So back to the original post, comparing urban Netherlands with rural Texas is a bit unfair. On the whole, the US has worse transit than Europe, but it varies widely locally, there are a lot of exceptions, and the haphazard post-communist expansion of some Eastern european cities has left them in pretty poor shape transitwise.

Is not having a car inconvenient? I suppose so. Motorists often react to some of the things I do as if they must be an inconvenience. If I had had a car and then gotten rid of it, I'm sure things would seem inconvenient. The key is not to have a car in the first place, and to live in a city. Not having a car saves lots of money, and depending on circumstance, can force healthy choices on you without having to pay for a gym membership.

(And no, I don't mooch drives off of people like some non-drivers I've met.)

I have a vestigal driver's licence from growing up in the suburbs (which I never really used, opting to bike instead, but my parents were pretty insistent that I get one, so...) and I found your post interesting (actually a friend forwarded it to me) because I got a firearms license specifically to highlight the absurdity of having a driver's license (and people's assumptions about everyone having a driver's license -- ended up enjoying the sport of target shooting too). When I was still easily mistaken for someone underage, I'd often have conversations that followed along the lines of:

"May I see some ID please?"

"Here you go." (handing over firearms license)

"Umm, what's this?"

"It's a firearms license; government-issued photo ID."

"Do you have any more normal ID?"

"Like what?"

"Well a driver's license?"

"Are you crazy? Cars kill people"

(Sometimes the person carding me was really on the ball and would respond "Cars don't kill people, people kill people")

Now that is one hilarious conversation... repeated over and over: hope it didn't get too annoying. I toyed with the idea of getting a firearms license, too, but I was never genuinely interested in it enough to actually do it.

I'm in the situation of someone who passed a UK driving test at 20 because I thought it'd be necessary to drive for employment and then didn't have the money to buy a car (nor a job need to) so never drove since passing the test. Consequently, whilst I've got a licence I wouldn't be safe driving.

Regarding mooching lifts: that's sort of split. When I'm on "home turf" I don't, because I'm familiar with all the options and I usually get a say in group events so I can "tweak" details to make them easier for public transport. ("If we book the restaurant half an hour earlier gives me just enough time to catch the last bus.") But when I end up at family events I often have to get a lift because my family members have chosen to live in suburbs/villages where the public transport is scarce, particularly on a Sunday, particularly if the event is planned going late into the evening.

I almost never find not having a car an inconvenience when I'm doing things I (partly) organise, but it can be a significant issue when other people (who assume everyone else is travelling by car) organise things with stipulating specific times to arrive/depart.

And no, I don't mooch drives off of people like some non-drivers I've met.

Really now? I doubt it.

When you visit your physician, does he/she bicycle or walk to work? What about the receptionist or the nurse? And the checkout person at the grocery store? Etc.

You may go without driving, but everybody you interact with, and depend on, for your food, goods, and services you buy, need to drive. And even if few in your immediate orbit do not drive, that second degree of separation certainly does. You have offloaded your transportation needs to others, and they use cars.

They need to drive? Every one of them? On all the trips they make?

Are you sure?

Because I'm not sure. My experience is that driving is not a rational choice. That is, people don't sit down before every trip and make a rational assessment of whether they ought to drive, bike, walk, take the bus or train, or roll this trip together with some other they want to make for some other purpose another time.

They just start walking, hop on their bike, look at the train timetable, or get in the car - whatever they're accustomed to doing.

"Need" is rarely a part of it.

I checked out your link, and it does not consider the particular land-use patterns. Which is to say, given the lay of the land, where most people need to go is not usually within walking distance. And society as a whole benefits from mobility.

Suppose you are an entry-level clerical worker that just got hired (miracle in these times) at gross pay of $3000/month. Your take-home pay is $2000/month. You can rent a downtown studio apartment in an ok neighborhood for $1200/month, or can rent a one-bedroom apartment in the suburbs for $800/month. (Prices from A cheap car can be had for $2000 (cost to buy + tags + insurance), plus around $100/month gas for all car use. Your least expensive option is to live in the suburbs, notwithstanding the commuting time.

The densest part of cities have the most expensive real estate, particularly near subway stations (or other mass transport). Many (most?) lower-echelon jobs don't pay enough for the worker to live within easy reach. We all benefit from the lower cost of labor, that requires the lower-paid workers to live far away in cheaper housing, and commute.

The decision is greatly more complicated when children and schools are involved, and when one is worried about crime. If both of these are far worse in the city, as they usually are, the choice is clear. So, if you live in a suburban cul-du-sac, where the distance between intersections is 1/2 mile and the thoroughfares have 10 lanes with a speed limit of 50 mph, you drive. Walking, most bicycling, and taking the bus is just not smart.

And what you actually find is that most lower-paid workers share flats with others, particularly in the inner-city.

Nowhere is it written that a person must live alone and deal with all the bills by themselves.

It's easy to come up with scenarios to show that people are helpless. But when you dig a little, it usually turns out to be bollocks - with a bit of imagination and effort most people can improve their lives.

One of the points of the article was, in a boots-on-the-ground comparison between the Netherlands and Texas, was advantageous to go car-less in the former but better to keep one's car in the latter. The reason was because of the different way the cities were set up. I personally prefer a walking city, but sometimes life doesn't work out that way.

I don't get the impression that what you are preaching (the "rational" alternative to driving) is tempered with actual experience. For example, you can have a roommate but that interferes with one's privacy. Regardless of that, you can have roommate to save rent money either in the suburbs or in the city, so my point still stands about land use patterns, the price of real estate, and commuting.

Are you suggesting I've never had a house-mate and never not had a car in a place poorly-served by public transit?

You know sadly little of my life :) That's okay, how could you? I don't fault you for not knowing, only for not knowing and just making stuff up instead.

I say again: everyone has what are to them very good reasons for not changing their lifestyle in any way whatsoever. Everyone's got an excuse for themselves.

As Yoda said, do or no do, there is no whine.

I know nothing of your life, and have I no interest in learning more. You have tendency to dictate to others ("change their lifestyle"). Good luck with that: you need to get better to be effective.

Environmentalists have tried the gentle approach. It doesn't work.

What creates social change, both good and bad, is small groups of annoying people demanding change. The majority will never want change, but they'll go along with it to make the small group shut up. A majority of blacks did not march with MLK, nor a majority of Indians with Gandhi, and a majority of Germans did not support the Nazis - at least when they first came to power. All change, both good and bad, is created by small groups of annoying people demanding change.

I'm terribly sorry if our desire to have a tolerable lifestyle for future generations causes you some discomfort.

You are comparing me to the Nazis. I am invoking Godwin's law.

Oddly enough, he's comparing himself to the Nazis (and King and Gandhi).

And, he has his comparison wrong. King and Gandhi used non-violence, respect and communication, combined with a willingness to passively accept violence until their opponents could no longer look themselves in the mirror. They raised the level of the debate, and appealed to their opponents better selves (or their pre-frontal cortex, if you like the materialist approach).

The Nazis used fear, scapegoating, manipulation and violence to reduce everyone to thinking with their lizard brains - a completely different approach.

Kiashu sometimes makes the mistake of thinking that ridicule, a subtle form of intimidation, will help his cause. King and Gandhi would not have agreed.

And no, I don't mooch drives off of people like some non-drivers I've met.

Really now? I doubt it.

I respect your scepticism - I've met moochers and they're annoying because they give me a bad name.

Your point about offloading my driving needs is only correct insofar as my driving "requirements" get displaced onto others. When I get so many groceries that I take a taxi home, then I'm offloading. If I buy a new mattress and have it delivered to my home, I'm offloading. But when I stop to buy a coffee and hand my money to a clerk who drove to work -- I'm not offloading: my coffee doesn't impinge on how some clerk gets to work. Or my doctor, or nurses, or the vast majority of people I interact with, unless I say (like in the grocery example I just gave), "Please perform this action for me, which I'd do if I had an appropriate vehicle, but I don't."

Though I'm acutely aware how dependent our society is on fossil-fuelled transport, many of the people I interact with don't have an inherent need to drive. To generalize by occupation, that would include most doctors, nurses, and clerks as you mentioned. Obviously there are some occupations like real estate agents, many social workers, area managers who perform site visits, etc. that by and large require driving.

The key is choosing where to live so that you can get away with it. Of course, not all places casually labelled "cities" have lots of spots like that. But many do.

As long as you're paying the cost of lack of car ownership, I wouldn't consider any of your actions "mooching". The cost of someone else's transport should be considered in the amount they charge you. Someone that lives without a car and asks to "borrow" someone elses or asks for a free ride is "mooching". It socially acceptable in moderation, but I know many self-righteous carless people that think they're saving the world simply by not having one, though they will try every opportunity to use someone else's for free.

The moocher is still avoiding the environmental impact of the vehicle's manufacture, which is roughly equivalent to the impact of its lifetime of use.

Nobody is "saving the world" by their actions alone. We cannot expect to have zero impact; we can expect to have less impact. That we cannot do everything does not mean we should do nothing.

You are offloading. Included in the price you pay for that coffee is the labor. I happen to know that at Starbucks the pay is rock-bottom, $7/hour. Nobody working at such low wages can afford to live in the the city; that inexpensive coffee requires that somebody commutes. To live the city and commute without a car, a worker needs around $20/hr. Since wages are usually the highest cost for a business, to pay for non-commuting worker handing you the coffee will make the cost 2-3 times more expensive.

Given that, how much coffee are you going to buy?

Nobody working at such low wages can afford to live in the the city

Which city?

I've known people working for minimum wage who lived in the middle of their cities and commuted without a car. To dismiss the possibility of something I've personally observed (in more than one city) suggests you're speaking from opinion, not evidence.

There are certainly parts of many cities that low-wage workers can't afford to live in, but it's implausible to suggest without evidence that in most cities that's most parts.

After I wrote this I realized this as well. But getting caught up in this obscures my larger point, which is the reason why there are cities is because more efficient commerce due to more efficient transportation. The efficient transportation include the movement of both goods and labor. This is why city real estate is more expensive. If mobility is restricted then commerce is less efficient, and labor become more expensive and goods and services must become more expensive. And at the very bottom end (minimum wage) the pay is so low that even owning a car is too much of a reach. These people take the bus, but believe me, they don't like it because it takes too long.

So as soon as a worker's income rises a bit they buy a car because of the mobility it provides. One of its key advantages is that the increased range increases the employment options, so a person can get a better paying job. This is an improvement in economic efficiency.

The efficient transportation include the movement of both goods and labor. This is why city real estate is more expensive.


Your claim is almost certainly false, otherwise there could not be the massive price differences between real estate in Detroit and Chicago. It's far more likely that the price of real estate rises for the same reason every other price rises - higher demand.

Indeed, it's highly likely that transportation costs are lower for cities than for outlying areas, as the concentrated nature of cities allows highly-efficient bulk transport methods such as freight trains to be used, as opposed to the much less efficient cars and trucks used for outlying distribution.

One of its key advantages is that the increased range increases the employment options, so a person can get a better paying job. This is an improvement in economic efficiency.

Sure, but that doesn't support your original point that low wages for in-city jobs requires commuting workers. On the contrary, it suggests that cars give workers greater choice of jobs, which would tend to increase their bargaining power and hence wages.

It is obvious common sense that travel distances in a city are shorter than those in the hinterlands. This lowers the cost of the transportation of goods and services. What more evidence do you need?

Regarding the difference in real estate prices between Chicago and Detroit: I think attributing it to "demand" is kind of an intellectual cop-out. Demand due to what? Again, it is clear to most any student of history and geography, that the automobile industry headquartered in Detroit has been in decline of late, laying off workers and loosing money. Obviously this depresses the real estate. I suppose that Chicago is more diversified and less susceptible to this downturn.

About my contention that low wages for in-city jobs require commuting workers: again I appeal to common sense. A studio apartment in downtown Washington DC is $1400/month; similar prices are in San Fransisco, LA, Boston. You do the math.

It is obvious common sense that travel distances in a city are shorter than those in the hinterlands. This lowers the cost of the transportation of goods and services.

And hence my point that someone living a carless life in a city will have lower second-order transportation costs than someone living in a suburb. Far from "offloading" their transportation needs as you suggested, the level of transportation they indirectly require will be lower, making the benefit larger than just their own non-driven miles.

Regarding the difference in real estate prices between Chicago and Detroit: I think attributing it to "demand" is kind of an intellectual cop-out.

Not at all; it demonstrates that city real estate need not be expensive, meaning that it cannot have unduly high fixed costs such as transportation.

It's simply a reiteration of the same point: it is not reasonable to assume that someone giving up their car necessarily increases the transportation costs they indirectly incur.

About my contention that low wages for in-city jobs require commuting workers: again I appeal to common sense. A studio apartment in downtown Washington DC is $1400/month; similar prices are in San Fransisco, LA, Boston. You do the math.

The math? Sure: there are 262 cities with over 100,000 people in the USA, making your cherry-picked 1% unrepresentative. A quick web search turned up studios for $315/mo in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska (to randomly pick a city off that list).

Moreover, a studio apartment is - to my mind, at least - something of a luxury; I'm used to young people - the typical Starbucks baristas - sharing apartments. Even in the most expensive cities, a 4-bedroom apartment is usually less than twice the price of a studio, meaning it's half the cost per resident. Indeed, a quick web search turned up a 4-bedroom in Boston for $1800/mo, less than a mile from a commuter rail station (and 6 miles from city centre, so certainly bikeable anywhere).

Fundamentally, the evidence does not seem to support the contention that low-wage workers cannot live in most cities, and hence does not support the contention that a carless city resident is indirectly mooching off of the driving of others.

82% of the US population is urbanized (, and of this, half live in the 23 largest metropolitan areas. ( Lincoln NE is not on this list. By in large these place are expensive places to live, with Detroit serving as the exception that proves the rule.

Regarding that $315/month place in Lincoln -- can a person live in Lincoln, anywhere, and not own a car without suffering a crippling lack of mobility? Only the densest cities are viable without a car -- Boston, LA, NYC, San Fransisco, Chicago, maybe San Diego,... The article points out that Dallas was not viable. Given its namesake, I doubt that Detroit is viable either, and that about covers all inexpensive cities.

It always possible to economize by sharing. That is where most of the low-wage carless worker live, after all. But you can do that in both inexpensive and expensive cities, that make it independent of what we are discussing here.

I'm basically a humanist, so I see humans as humans whose lives can be made better or worse by their own decisions, rather than seeing them as helpless victims of the Course of History or some nonsense like that.

Just look at any driver. You'll see them drive half a mile to the shops in decent weather when they're just getting some milk. Or look at any workplace, where one guy lives 2km from work and drives, and another lives 10km from work and cycles. Driving is not a rational choice.

People don’t carefully consider each journey they have to make and decide whether to use car, bus, train, bike or walk it, which will be the most convenient and efficient for this particular trip. They just automatically go to whatever they’re used to using.

Thus I will walk past my woman’s car to go 3km to the shops, while my friend drives 400m down the corner to work in the morning. The same applies to the way we heat and cool ourselves, what we eat and buy, and so on.

We’re not the perfectly-informed rational actors supposed by the free market advocates, we have a culture, sometimes we do things just because we like to do things that way, not because they’re the optimal choice.

Jared Diamond talks about this a bit in Collapse, how as their land cooled the Norse in Greenland continued trying to farm cattle and wear wool from sheep and refused to eat fish and wear seal skins, though they had the examples of the Inuit to show them how it was done. They’d rather die than change. Not really a conscious decision, more a lack of imagination, not being able to imagine any different way of life. That’s culture.

Circumstances vary, and influence our actions; but in the end, we choose how to live our lives. We're not helpless.


I agree with a lot of what you have to say, but I find myself unconvinced by the article you linked.

Europeans consume 18% as much fuel as US'ers: 50% as many cars per capita, 60% as many kms per car (not the 75% shown in the article), 60% as many liters per km.

Fuel price, and geography, matter.

Even in the most expensive cities, a 4-bedroom apartment is usually less than twice the price of a studio, meaning it's half the cost per resident.

What cities allow construction of 4-bedroom apartments?  They don't pay enough property taxes to support the school costs of the larger families that would occupy them, so cities around here simply don't allow them.  It's rare that I even see a 3-bedroom apartment or condo; you want 3 BR, you're usually talking single-family house.

(Then Michigan designates mobile homes as "personal property" and levies no school taxes on them at all, but that's a different beef.)

I have not owned a car in my life.
Nor have I. I don't have a driver's license.

I live and work in Zurich. I use trams and buses to get to and from work and social engagements. The very occasional taxi too.

By train I can get to Cologne in 5 hours, and London in 11. The former is time and cost competitive with a plane, the latter neither. Portugal and most of Spain, you can forget it. The rail links don't appear to exist.

I have owned several cars over my lifetime.

It is (now) amazing to me that here in Southern California, people put the automobile up so high on the "Gotta have" list and put so much money into them. I used to look forward to owning a decent car but never had the Mercedes or Mustang itch or the money. I just got by so I played my cards as well as I could.

Now, all around me, people are going broke because they went into debt to live beyond their means and I'm sitting comfortably in bed reading the news at 49 years of age, retired. Not to gloat, I'm disabled due to a work injury. Forced retirement. It has it's drawbacks.

But I can ride a recumbent trike that I own and am considering giving up the ol' van permanently. I drive a maximum of 8 or 9 miles one way and groceries are less than one mile away. I have already made some test runs. Now I need a small trailer.

To the guy who rides in the Netherlands - do you ever see bicycle trailers being used to carry more than a backpack?

Oh, and I own several guns. Thank goodness that no license or registration is needed here in the United States !

"To the guy who rides in the Netherlands - do you ever see bicycle trailers being used to carry more than a backpack?"
Follow the link and be surprised, if not plainly awed:
Ronald - Amsterdam

Thank you !

"What other themes should be examined on a panel entitled Energy and the Media?"

The problem with the journalistic attempt at 'balance' when applied to a subject (like energy) that they don't really understand and which people would rather ignore. It means they get someone who says things are OK, or will get better, and as a consequence the real issue doesn't get across.

For topical points you can compare with the treatment of finance issues and the lack of attention paid to statements on the fragility of the finance markets - and where that got us.

Hi Robert - Sounds like quite a lifestyle change and graphic demonstration on how differently the USA and Europe have developed their transport infrastructures.

When I think of energy and the media, the most egregious example that comes to mind is the January 11, 2009 60 Minutes program on the oil price spike where they blamed it all on speculators. There was not even a mention of supply and demand issues.

I still find it hard to believe that a national news network with so many resources could miss this point.

I would like to know why the mainstream media ignores solar power and electric vehicles. There are very few factory EV's but there are thousands of people that are building their own. After reading about many of these I built my own electric motorcycle and a year later I built my own electric car. My newest project is an electric truck.

All of my vehicles are powered by the PV system that I also built myself. It really is not that hard, it just takes time and some effort to learn what is available. When the sun does not shine, I buy 100% wind power from the grid. You can see my solar system and EV's at

The mainstream media likes to say that solar is not practical, I say they need to look again.


Here in Los Angeles, the TV talks about electric vehicles, wind, and solar all the time. General Electric even worked them into a storyline of their TV show "Medium" in 2007 or 2008.

The mainstream argument against buying solar today is that economy of scale hasn't kicked in, such that a median consumer can't afford to buy it yet.

The argument against buying solar that I've read on The Oil Drum is that, in the long run, we can't expect solar to power transport AND the continued production and maintenance of solar, given that it requires materials of such high purity that the energy expense is very large, and grows over time as material resources gradually deplete.

Personally? I don't know anything at all about solar.

Be wary of picking up on informal chat and assuming it is factually correct. Here is data on PV energy payback.

(If you want to argue that my international flights more than offset any fuel savings from biking to work, you won't get any argument from me. But in this economy, you do what you have to).

I've never understood why people make statements about how biking doesn't offset the flying they do. Aren't the two separate issues? If you weren't biking, you'd probably be driving a car, right? So then, you'd be doing both the flying AND the driving. At least now, you are only doing the flying.

In my own case, I do fly for work occasionally*. On the other hand, for my daily commute I use my electric-assist cargo hauling bike every single day (18 miles round trip), saving a LOT of oil. I am not doing the biking to offset my airplane usage - I am doing the biking to reduce my total oil usage. Since I can't bike across the US or the Atlantic ocean very fast (or at all, in the latter case), flying is sometimes a necessary evil, which I would do regardless of my daily mode for commuting. I think the two are completely separate issues. I will continue to work to reduce my number of plane trips, AND I will continue to bike to work every day....

*I really, really want to go by train, as we did for our family vacation last summer, but it is not practical anything but local trips or extended vacations, yet

And in the near future, it is unlikely there will be any need to fly trans-continentally or trans-atlantically, so that "necessary evil" will go away, and life will settle down at a much less energy-intense level. In the medium term, only the very rich and the military will fly. We will adapt, I predict.

I think more of us will come to nthe conclusion that car ownership is an expensive luxury that can be bypassed with some creative adjustments to lifestyle. I note that Robert still had access to his wifes car when back home in Texas and I wonder if they could arrange to make that a permanent arrangement.

The commute from home to work is going to get whole lot of scrutiny in the coming years and it may become a very high risk factor to survivability of some industries and firms if commuterbility (if thats a word) restricts hiring options for both specailists and general labour alike. This could prove to be a major challenge to cities sustainability as well if industry struggles to transport its workforce. Retail could also have similar problems although they may have the double whammy of not being able to hire the right staff or get enough customers to travel in to them.

"The commute from home to work is going to get whole lot of scrutiny in the coming years and it may become a very high risk factor to survivability of some industries and firms if commuterbility (if thats a word) restricts hiring options for both specailists and general labour alike."

It is already an issue, but not because of fuel constraints. The limiting factor is economic. I worked for a restuarant several years ago that had a very involved program of using the city bus system to transport lower income young women from across town to the upper market end to work as waitresses, hostesses and cooks.

The UPS (United Parcel Service) air hub in Louisville KY even provides bus service to as far as 30 plus miles into the surrounding countryside to bus workers into its package handling hub at Standiford Field airport (or Louisville Internatial Airport as it now officially called "the only international airport without any international flights...that haul people anyway!")

Of course the young ladies working in the east end upper market restaurants had one dream which they saved diligently buy a car! :-)

I still think the happy meduim would be a small (and I mean small, say Fiat 500 or Citroen 2CV sized) electric car. I could own a small townhouse or small home where I now live and be able to do all my local traveling in it, and rent a car for out of town use, it really would be an almost perfect solution if the car was reasonably priced. I am thinking about buying a little Fiat, maybe an old X1/9 and converting it as a sporty little around town electric pocket rocket! Because really, for the most part, people have cars because they consider them fun, not because they "need" them.:-) The U.S. economy could survive (albeit with some dislocation) if there were far fewer cars on the road, but many people do like them.

Which brings me to the point of energy and the media for Robert to consider: When people discuss energy consuption, and the press is in there whipping up hysteria, why does the attack almost always center on the car and not one fo the many sacred cows that it is politically incorrect to discuss, such as massively oversized houses, power boating, and one that is almost untouchable in the media, the carbon footprint and energy consumption of maintaining pets. I personally know of large numbers of women in my area who will tell you that they maintain climate control houses at perfect tempeture day and night for their cats, and they will continue to do so. They are at work most of the day, but the house has to be perfectly heated or cooled for the cat or cats! Amazing how many folks even on TOD think nothing of suggesting a massive reduction in human population, but never mention how much energy and resources would be saved if we maintained a massively reduced pet population! Well, not so much amazing as scary that we think so little of human life but pour so much into maintaining our pet population.


My cat has fur and has never required climate control.

I live in the tropics, where the temperature is almost constant at 30 degrees, and there are lots of stray cats around. The one next to my building even sleeps by the power transformer, so obviously heat is not much of a problem for them.

However, where I work, some people wear sweaters and then put the air-con full blast because it's too hot...

When people discuss energy consuption, and the press is in there whipping up hysteria, why does the attack almost always center on the car and not one fo the many sacred cows that it is politically incorrect to discuss, such as massively oversized houses, power boating, and one that is almost untouchable in the media, the carbon footprint and energy consumption of maintaining pets.

I wouldn't agree that cars are criticised heavily, quite the contrary. However, they deserve to be. Considering household emissions, the CSIRO found the averages in 2002 were,

Application Emissions t/yr %
Transport 13.6 49.6
Hot Water 3.3 12.0
Heating 4.2 15.2
Cooling 0.3 1.1
Refrigeration 2.1 7.7
Cooking 1.1 4.0
Lighting 0.8 2.9
Clothes Drying 0.5 1.8
Other Appliances 0.5 1.8
Rubbish 1.0 3.6

[Source: Australian Greenhouse Office / CSIRO: National Kilowatt Count of Household Energy Use, 2002]

Of the transport emissions on that table, a bit less than half are from private vehicles, and a bit less than half from flying. The remaining few percent are trains, buses, and yes those boats you were worried about.

Or just looking at energy use in the country as a whole, we could consider that of 3,822PJ used in 2006, 1,339PJ were for transport of all kinds, and a mere 433PJ from residential use. So that efficiencies and reductions in transport can have a far greater effect on the total energy use and emissions than in residential stuff.

This does not mean everyone should leave their airconditioners on all day. Nor does it mean people should happily powerboat. Obviously that's stupid and wasteful.

But day-to-day transport's the single biggest thing - not just of ourselves, but of the stuff we buy and sell. If a household gets rid of their powered vehicles and doesn't fly, instead taking trains and walking and the like, they immediately cut their household emissions by about 40% from the average.

In addition, there's not much we can do about oversized houses. Some of us order a house built for ourselves to a plan of our choosing, but most buy pre-built homes, or purchase off one of several plans - all large. In the end you buy the home you think is nice and which you can afford. If it's big it's big, what can you do - ask them to tear it down and build three units instead? Not perhaps the best solution in emissions terms; better to just live in the large house but without wasteful use of energy and water.

Also consider that of the things on the list, only heating, cooling and to some degree lighting are affected by house size - only 5.3 of the 27.2t, some one-fifth. The rest such as refrigeration and hot water, it doesn't matter how big or small your house is. This one-fifth affected is much smaller than the variations in emissions due to lifestyle - friends of ours have a home the same size as ours, but have electricity and gas use six times ours. It's because they have downlights everywhere, tv and aircon on all the time, hot water cranked up to scalding, and so on.

So it's hard for us to affect home sizes, and in any case home size affects only a small part of our emissions impact, with lifestyle being the big thing.

But we can do something about our transport, quite easily by comparison.

Pets, like power boats, on their own they're quite wasteful - but when you add the total impact it's small stuff. The big things are transport, domestic energy use (how much we use and where we get it from), and what sort of food we eat (lots of meat and processed food vs not much meat and lots of fresh fruit and vegies), with the junk we buy coming last.

If you scrap your car and never fly, there go around half your total household emissions. And since around half Western emissions are those things households can control, that's an immediate 25% reduction in emissions we could achieve within a decade or so (since it'd take a bit to ensure everyone could get public transport, or put in bike paths and the like).

That's why there's the focus on cars - it's usually the easiest thing for us to change, as households and as a region, state or country. Of course you'll always get people moaning that change is impossible, but you just ignore that and do it anyway and ten years later they'll claim they always said it was a good idea.

Remember that as late as 1945, nearly the whole of the US population lived in places where you did not need a car. Not that a car wasn't useful in many areas of the country, but it wasn't until the first suburbs that you had whole neighborhoods that nearly required the use of a car for basic daily tasks.

There was a quite a while when milk was delivered. Groceries were also delivered, but I would guess for a shorter time period. Doctor's made house calls, way back when, and women had their baby's delivered at home (with many deaths of both mothers and babies.) People didn't need cars, because the necessities came to them.

Milk was delivered to our house until at least 1965. There was a "dairy," aka milk processing plant, less than a mile away in the city where I lived. They had a soda fountain in the storefront with a black and white tile floor, marble counter tops and stools that spun around. You could get a cherry phosphate for 25 cents made, IIRC, from fresh ice cream, cherry syrup and soda water that streamed out of a stainless steel tap into a tall, heavy, fluted soda glass. Milk trucks from the farms arrived at 3 am - I know because I had a paper route.

In fact there were dairies dotting the city serving every neighborhood. Supermarkets put them under along with the local dairy farms. Neighborhood grocers delivered for a fee and tips. The rare market still does. They're doing much better now specializing in organics, local produce and specialty items. Unfortunately they serve the upper income locations only.

Only the rich had more than one car back then.

Only the rich had more than one car back then.

And now the reverse is true, to a degree. Higher incomes allow people to live closer to the city where PT is most effective, and can get by with one car (or none). The poor are stuck with outlying suburbs and exurbs where houses/rents are cheaper and transit varies between poor and non-exsitant.

Milk delivery still happens in Montreal - the company that does it also delivers other dairy products. It seems all of the grocery stores here are also offering fee-based delivery of grocery items. It would be interesting to learn if these services were expanding in the current economy or if they were contracting.

I too remember the milkman coming in the back door while I ate breakfast with my family as a kid. I remember his white shirt and cap and he always had a receipt book that had items on it and he would check them off.

That must have been around '65. I also remember the little plastic "Y" adapter that combined the tops of two milk bottles together for a larger families' demand. (I was one of 6 kids).

And we had at least one dairy in San Diego (Mission Valley), until the 60's. Recently the city council approved ANOTHER 5,000 condos along the edge of that same valley even though the Mayor declared that water rationing will be in our near future.

Now I wonder when "Peak Milk" will occur. Or has it already?? :)

Delivery of milk, bread, and fresh fruit and vegies has returned to some degree in Australia.

The largest local stores will take phone orders and deliver a couple of days a week. Supermarkets likewise.

There's also a state-wide service with franchised trucks which deliver to homes in the form of Aussie Farmers Direct (not an endorsement, I just know of them) - in their case, it's an attempt to cut out the middleman for farmers.

The home delivery business is really more about white collar workers who reckon they're too busy to shop, and elderly infirm who find it hard to shop. Nonetheless it exists once again and is spreading.

I'm sure that if you looked around, you'd find similar businesses in the USA - not everywhere, of course, but here and there and growing.

And really, that's the case with many things like this - home delivery instead of long drives, cheap fresh fruit and vegies in place of junk food, decent public transport in place of stressful drives, cheap housing near your workplace, or decent work near your home - these things often exist, but people don't bother looking for them, and just say, "no, change is impossible - I absolutely must live 30 miles from work and drive every day and drive to the shops 30 miles in the other direction and do the same crappy job - I have NO CHOICE IT'S IMPOSSIBLE."

Maybe so, but often when you look a bit deeper into it, you find there are quite a lot of options. But that's an effort, and the couch with an evening of channel surfing and being slightly bored and depressed is so much more appealing...

Incidentally, I have been personally car-free for my whole life. Nowadays, my woman has a car, so you can say my "household" has one - we don't actually need it, we're each around 5km from work with ordinary but ridable cycle routes and buses available, and 1km from shops; our friends live quite some distance away, but if we had no car we'd just find closer friends.

I don't use the car, I only drive when she asks me to because we're going out and she wants to drink; I'm not going to impose my non-car life on her by nagging about taking buses or taxis or whatever.

Basically, I just hate cars. Not only because they're the slowest and most dangerous form of transport. Not just because they're rarely a rational choice. But because they make you lazy and selfish. Here we see that there was a rock on the road, and everyone had to swerve to get past it. Eventually someone might have not seen it, struck it and damaged their car or themselves. So someone should stop and pick it up, right?

Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.
- Henry David Thoreau

No car drivers stopped - walkers did. Once past the obstacle, drivers didn't care about the safety of other drivers, but walkers did. Drivers thought "someone should deal with that - someone else." Walkers thought, "I should deal with that."

Get out of your car, and take a walk. It's hard to care much at rolling along at high speed wrapped up in a tonne of steel. You see yourself and the world more clearly on a walk.

Just to register a complaint about persistent urban myths -- home births did not cause the deaths of many mothers and babies. Home births are safer than hospital births for any number of reasons, and the British Health Service promoted home births well into the latter half of the 20th century. Infant mortality in the U.S. is far higher in the U.S. than many much less wealthy places that continue to "allow" home births.

Maternal, fetal and infant mortality are caused by a lot of different things -- the existence of a hospital can improve some of them, and vastly aggravate others. I have a lot of personal experience with birth in and out of hospitals, and I am not making this up.

This is not the place to go into detail -- just a side note.

Actually, in 1945, nearly a third of the population lived in rural areas, where we do deem them to need cars - although most didn't have one. The difference was the way that vehicles of several kinds were used.

1. People still used animal transport - rural mail delivery was made on horseback in some areas into the 1960s. There are times and places where this is more appropriate and useful.

2. People who did have cars were accustomed to sharing - you might get a ride with someone, you might hitchhike. There was a lot more car sharing than there is now.

3. Rural areas often had bus service - this is how, for example, African Americans in the rural south got to work - there was rural bus service. It didn't run often, it wasn't terrifically convenient, but it ran, and people got to their jobs.

The reality is that even rural people can have transport, without private cars if we can get over the car idea - we don't need very many cars, if most trips are full. Most rural people go to the same few locations for work, if they commute - no reason except convenience they couldn't do it together.

The big caveat here is the two earner nuclear family - this is perfectly possible if the kids go to school on the bus, and Mom can pick up the groceries on her way home from work to Dad at home. This is much tougher if you have two full time jobs, both of which you have to be at before the bus comes, in opposite directions, and someone to drop at daycare, and another rush back to be home when the kids are home from school. It would be perfectly possible navigate transportation even the 'burbs and rural areas if we could also navigate this larger question of how to deal with so many people who have no choice but to go somewhere at specified times - without that, it is going to be tough.


I just signed up for the conference - looks like it's going to be a good time.

I will be at the EIA conference in Washington, also.

I, too, will be there again this year.

As for your request, you've noted the low energy IQ of most people. Not only does the MSM fail to provide enough reliable information to the public, it appears that they are hesitant to do so. Just as an example- the clips in the story about Jon Stewart vs. CNBC is a classic example. What would be their incentive to speak openly (truthfully) about the nature of the energy situation we find oursleves in?

And given their position in the three-legged stool of the "Iron Triangle" and their dependence on revenue gneration through the continous (exponential) growth of products/services related to the iron triangle, is their any circumstance that anyone can envision where a for profit institution would, in full view of the public (including shareholders) self-immolate itself over energy issues.

How many people knew, before last year, how much oil was being imported by the US? While a number of people can now cite the percentage, do they know what that means? No. There is just too much wishful thinking and sloganeering out here. The "drill baby, drill!" mindset is a prime example where few realize just how little (compared to what we use and have used), that will add to domestic supply. None of them like to be told that without signficant conservation, that their drilling campaign had better find something on the order of 1-2 times all the oil we've ever used in the history of the US. Except for people here and a few others outside of this community, it is rare to find anyone who actually has the sense of scale we are talking about.

What's worse, and Gail and I both witnessed this last year, is that the "best resource" for information (EIA) is also caught in the same trap (at least at the upper management levels). We got a version of: "if you saw the data we see (or have seen), you'd know there just isn't any problem. There's 8 trillion barrels out there." There were only the first hints that the EIA upper level management was beginning to realize that there really is a supply issue and that continual growth in demand eventually outstrips supply (or more accurately is constrained by it with a resulting increase in prices). There is a gradual awareness that for whatever production increases might be possible, the oil export countries are seeing growing demand internally (e.g, export-land model). Maybe, just maybe, their initial OIP values that existed prior to 1996 weren't that far off after all and this 4-8 trillion barrels is just a fantasy.

My question, and I asked this directly, is how are you going to get there, given you are on a completely different path than this optimistic view? Another CNBC moment: Trust us, we have the information that proves that we are fine.

It will be interesting to see, in the context of what has happened over the past year, how attitudes and approaches have changed and what might be their in the future. We are "stuck" with the system (and the force of the Iron Triangle) as well as the decision made more than 50 years ago. Letting that go is not easy for most people.

Hope to see you there.

I didn't get any warm fuzzies from your story. It sort of reminded me of the man who eats 20 eggs and a pound of bacon for breakfast, but who drinks his coffee black because, as he says, I have to watch my weight. Riding a bike to a doctor's appointment in the rain seems to be less a virtue than a lack of common sense; you could have taken a cab.

The situation that we face is not one of not using a car--but doing everything else that would normally require the use of a car, like living far from work, out in the country. It makes no sense to keep on doing business as usual, except for a car, and then patting yourself on the back for your virtue. The point is not to live as we now live, but do it without a car, but to live in a different way where doing without a car is not a hardship.

One of the main principles of the American way is that we have asked everyone to have one of everything--car, mower, house, washing machine, etc. etc., when we could share. I haven't owned a car for nearly 10 years. I use public transit, but I do rent a car or a cab when it would be just plain dumb to do otherwise. I like not having the trouble or expense of a car of my own. When I retired, I had land all over, Canada, Maine, Colorado, but decided that they were so isolated that I would be dependent on a truck or jeep, so I went to the inner part of a small town instead. I can walk to the hospital, library, bus station, and food stores. When I was working, my carbon footprint required around 15 Earths for sustainability; now, it's down to 1.5, and I really don't know how to reduce it any further.

I was thinking exactly the same thing. Why are you so proud of having 'survived' without a car when every other part of your life appears to be organised to consume as much energy possible. You Robert, you talk as if you don't have a choice but to follow the cold logic of the market. You are wrong.

My girlfriend lives in Spain but I would never contemplate plane-commuting to see her every holiday. Eventually you have to decide where you want to live and dig-in there.

"Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there." Gary Snyder

I think it's fair to say that people have little choice but to follow the market in the short term.

But anyone ought to be able to change their lifestyle in five years or so. In five years you ought to be able to find a job requiring no significant travel, and if there are people who are important to you far away - move to where they are, or move them to you, if you won't contemplate moving for them then they're not that important to you after all.

Five years. People meet new spouses and have children in five years, do a university degree and start a new career in five years, go from being obese to superfit or vice versa in five years, descend into a spiral of drugs and violence and prison in five years, and so on. Five years is the most you'll need to change your lifestyle if you choose to.

Same feeling here. The 300 pound guy, eating chips and burgers, then orders a diet coke because "I need to watch my weight".

Going carless seems to be the new YUPPY trend these days. It's a "look at me, I'm saving the planet" but you continue to support so, so much waste and destruction of the planet. It's the guy that recycles his beer bottles but puts 50 pounds of trash to the curb each week to be taken to the landfill. How big is your house? What is your diet? Do you purchase the chocolate from slave worker labors? Where did the clothes you wear come from? And a thousand other things to make a real change in your life. Not driving a car is not much of a real change.

Sorry, no pat on the back from me.

"The waste of plenty is the resource of scarcity."
Thomas Love Peacock

Are you suggesting that it's not valid for Robert to discuss his first experience with car-free living unless he totally stops consuming energy for any and all purposes? Oh, and he's a 300-pound "yuppy" (sic)? Why the hate? I sense the presence of a few guilty consciences in this thread.

Sorry, but many need to question the snake charmers here on this site. No hate here, just think it's a little bit soup of the day in green speak. Kinda like "Clean Coal" or "I only beat the wife on Mondays, so I am a good guy 6 days a week".

Artificial allocation of empathy. Not having a car means very little, when a persons whole life does not coincide with walking the walk.

Like I asked. Simply, how big is your house? What is your REAL carbon footprint?

Sorry, but many need to question the snake charmers here on this site.

This will be my only response in this thread, because as I said I am going on hiatus. This sort of comment is a big part of the reason why I need a break. I can no longer post anything without getting these sorts of comments, and I almost always get hate mail. I even attracted a stalker, whom I finally had to report to the police. All for trying to shed some light on the topic of energy and peak oil.

I note that you have been registered for a week, and sadly you seem to have picked up on the recent trend of being extremely uncivil and judgmental. This sort of behavior has driven away some of the best posters this site has ever seen. Someone recently asked about Airdale. Where is he? Why isn't he here? He isn't here because he needed a break from the rudeness.

So let's clear up a few things. First, the purpose of my post should have been clear. It wasn't about my carbon footprint. You could read all about that if you did a bit more research and a bit less jumping to conclusions. I have written quite a bit about the lengths I have gone to not only to minimize my own carbon footprint, but to convince others to do so. For reference, the last time I did a full inventory in my personal life, my carbon footprint was about 1/4th that of the average American.

But this story wasn't about my carbon footprint. If it were, I would point out that my job involves carbon sequestration, so the carbon I burn by flying is more than offset by the carbon I sequester as a part of my job. (As is generally the case when I post something, that post also spawned a personal attack, which included comments like "I don't respect you", "you are a weenie", and "your work is BS." No hate mail or death threats that time, though, which was nice).

So my carbon footprint when you combine my personal and work life is actually negative. But I do appreciate the references to the man who consumes far too much. Clearly those of you who jumped to such a conclusion have it all figured out. I "consume as much as I can", am like "the man who eats 20 eggs and a pound of bacon for breakfast", and "lack common sense." Would you people grow up already?

What this post was about was 1). The differences in the transportation situation between the U.S. and Europe; 2). My personal experiences living in those two different worlds. The story was prompted by a request from a TOD reader. I didn't write it looking for a pat on the back. I am not fishing for compliments of any kind. I think it is odd that anyone would jump to that conclusion. But I did tell Nate – that even though the story was innocuous in my opinion – that somebody is going to gripe. Someone always does, but lately the gripes have taken a surreal tone. We seem to be playing a game of "who can jump to the quickest conclusion?"

That rant is not aimed at 90% of the posters here who normally engage in fruitful discourse. But 10% of you are really dragging this site down with your behavior.

Bring on the flames.


Of course you should take a break if you're getting sick of things.

But it's worth bearing in mind that most such comments are simply a defence mechanism. "He's challenging my worldview, what can I say to reject that challenge?"

So they say to themselves, "oh no, I couldn't possibly give up the car it's my BABY it makes me feel warm and fuzzy!" and then say to you, "motherfucker! you still fly, don't you?" when they themselves drive and fly.

It's just the style of conversation on the internet, a constant rush to absurd extremes.
"I believe in capital punishment."
"What?! So we should execute people for jaywalking?!"
"I'm against capital punishment."
"What?! So we should just let them all go?!"

Or in this case,
"I don't drive."
"What?! So we should all live in a cave? But you fly anyway!"

When people's worldviews are challenged many of them will come up with all sorts of absurdities to avoid thinking about things thoroughly and honestly.

I'll happily lay my di - er, I mean carbon footprint on the table to compare it others'. It sits in the sidebar of my blog for all to see, the good and the bad both. Nine times out of ten it turns out to be less than theirs, so they're left with the old lame, "but I can't because... it's impossible for me... I'm helpless... poor me... guvmit should do something..." Kinda takes the wind out of their sails, and cuts down on the hate mail.

Even Prof Goose doesn't post anymore and he started this site.

But I digress.
I tried to bike to and from work a few years back but fighting the traffic left me fearful and I gave it up after two summers.
Cars and trucks swerving at me, hurtling insults, cans, cigarette butts or whatever convinced me that attempts like yours are premature, at least in some American metro areas.
Standing at the bus stop in the predawn darkness also is a great way to meet unsavory characters.
I'm a pretty big guy so I was able to keep the situations I encountered in control but if a weapon had been produced, 'nuff said.
There are alot of drunks, hookers and deranged folks about in the early morning I discovered.

IMO nothing will change until shortages occur, until then I'm keeping and using my car.

Hi Robert,

I read your article with great interest and enjoyed hearing about your experiences trying to get by without a car. As regards flaming,TOD is really one of the best sites I've participated in - but, unfortunately it is a fact of life about internet posting.

I'm a bicycle advocate, but I don't think I harbor any illusions about using a bike for utility purposes. Although I bike about 4,000 miles a year (age has taken off about another 1,000) I still do not use my bike for many daily errands because it is just too dangerous and too much of a hassle.

I've even noticed while traveling in Ireland and France by bike how much bike usage has decreased - places like Amsterdam being exceptions. I've talked to parents in western Ireland who would never permit their childen to bike to school any more because of the traffic.

I think bicycles are mankind's most brillant invention and the single most important tool for both energy conservation and health improvement. However, I also think that massive delusion about the role of humans on this planet is so great that there is small hope for people to appreciate the wonder, joy and efficiency of bikes and other Human Powered Vehicles.

Maybe like at LATOC we could make a "Hall of flames", i.e. a pure AD HOMINEM part where A and B could start down and dirty threads about climate change or EROEI other very nasty and disagreeable topics without fear of hurting feelings. this could drain a lot of vitriol from the rest of the site. We have camp fire, regional sites, Local, Drumbeat. Maybe people would hold back on hate talk when they knew they could duke it out somewhere with below the belt talk and then be safely ignored elsewhere (nasty or irrelevant "Subthread removed to "Hall of Flames""). This would not be comparable to low life internet forums. I mean for example two TOD science types argue in so many opposing graphs and presentations to each other essentially "Yo' Mama wears army boots" about climate change or something. But people are making death threats!!!??? WTF? Perhaps TOD is so repectable and influential because it has reach and is taken serious in industry, govt., etc. so people feel more threatened. Perhaps as times get worse in the last 9-21 months people are more on edge. The concept of a rational, decent debate over our future becomes less possible in a polite manner as we have to make serious and painful decisions. Perhaps many of us have come to take the whole site for granted and just waste time hanging out to vent steam and pretend we are making a difference by puffing up our self-esteem (EGO). All us pontificating theologians should do some field work with Mother Theresa. Like Drum beat used to be twice a week,right, no wonder Leanan gets a bit tired doing that daily. All volunter all the time, hey who is Mother Theresa here if not these people. I just come here to comment and make someone else look bad or show how cool and smart I am but make a whole Campfire post is a hard slog or to dream up graphs, etc. Maybe TOD, PO.COM, LATOC, Energy Bulletin, etc. as the anchors of an online community must necessarily undergo change in personnel and atmosphere over time. No one is irreplaceable and no site is irreplaceable. Bloggers are very independent and can just slap people down and post when and what they want but a purpose built community is different. Democracy among technical people here is good. But the part time comments from people like myself with anonymous status can be nasty. Particularly the newbies or one time posters with a chip on their shoulders. This is often the case on web sites, where a new poster takes up a lot of space suddenly and everyone has to get used to them until a balance of respect is built up on all sides to POVs. I know when I post by JMG there is a comment approval system before what I say shows up. So instead of deleting nasty posts they could be preapproved. That would be too much work I think, sanitizing everything for PC content or politeness. Otherwise a member's only club where everyoine has to have an advanced degree in sciences and engineering (A Yahoo TOD high level discussions list). I would never have cut it there that is for sure. But having an open conversation everyone can drop in on is a real challenge. This is also stimulating due to different POVs which are unconventional and that is what PO is all about. The internet is about glasnost(openness) and PO community is definitely about Perestroika(reconstruction of society). Our MSM is sanitized and controlled by big money. Internet is breaking the monopoly on information and therefore power. But teaching people to deal with democracy is very difficult and time consuming.

Some years ago in the Netherlands a new right wing party was elected whose leader was assassinated. It was a protest party. The members were novices in politics and the professioanl politicians described the infighting of egos among the memgbers of parliament as "cock fights". Lots of guys duking it out to get their ideas accepted. Professional politicans are slimy salseman for sure but politically naive technicians will just tear each other apart with infighting about little technical points much less people how have no idea what they are talking about and no management experience wtih lots of people or are loners or just plain obstinate. Now in PO we have lots of outsiders I would think who are very intelligent, who don't follow the crowd. So lots of people are gonna reject BAU and PC anyway. I think the internet has been for me and most people globally who get to participate in foruns a lesson in formulating thoughts and making discussions. Unfortunately lots of what people say just talks past one another and is just low level nonsense prejudiced opinions preformed from childhood, MSM, etc.

I think when they invented the printing press about 500 years ago and everyone got the bible and other tracts in their hands their was an information revolution. Similarly before the French revoultion in 1750s-60s, radical ideas were spread around in "salons" in Europe and through political tracts. In the first instance a religious civil war tore apart Europe and in the second a secular war (libertè, fraternité, egalite) for human rights and against privilege. Now we are going through a similar phase where an expansion of access to information and basis demcoracy by electronic means is creating an atmsophere for a later revolutionary transoformation of society. The corporate and parallel central nation state and scientific / rationalist paradigm upon which they rest is probably going down in its present form to be replaced by something else.

The PO community and TOD is at the cutting edge of finding the weak points in the structure of the existing paradigm and spreading posssible solutions far and wide. Some of you guys are taking a lot of flack for what you are doing but keep up the good fight. We have half won in the Obama administration. When the OBAMA/Geithner/Chu type solutions have collapsed the emperor will be truly naked and then only the alternative soltuions will be left that are discussed here and elsewhere based on reality and not on PC fantasy of endelss growth.

However we outsiders, misfits must learn to play politics-at least among ourselves- although it goes against the very grain of how we are made as people, ornery, cantakerous, opinionated, whatever.

So "be nice", it counts.

I certainly understand your comments. As a rule, I try to never respond to negative reactions to any of my posts on TOD (and sometimes not even positive ones).
I too have noticed that a number of people that I very much liked to read their articles and posts are no longer putting anything on TOD - And I suspect the negativity has at least something to do with it.
I would encourage you to continue to write for TOD and just completely ignore negative comments. I doubt that you will ever change a single negative mind by responding to them.
The majority at TOD do, I think, appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule to provide us with your information and insite. Please do continue here on TOD.


I agree that getting away from car use is difficult, I live too far from my job, at an airport. Work on the wrong side of the airport in maintenance. And have hours that even good public transit mostly does not accommodate.

Other wise the only critique I agree with is riding to a doctor's in cold rain when you already have a cold...maybe it would turn to pneumonia and they SAY they CAN cure that?

Hope your stay in Oklahoma brings us good weather.

I have been car free for a while, in the Bay Area. I even have gotten to trail heads to backpack twice this year, with little problem.
I'm enjoying my freedom.

"What other themes should be examined on a panel entitled Energy and the Media?"

That oil independence implies no gasoline for cars. Zero (pretty much). Not better mileage, not carpooling, not taking the (diesel) bus. All domestic oil production is needed for "other things" beside transportation.

See Lawrence Livermore energy flows graphs, reproduced here in small.

I've lived most of my adult life without owning a car and quite a bit of that was in the US. For my college/grad years in San Diego I just rode my bike everywhere I needed to go. Obviously the weather in SD made this a whole lot easier as I only had to ride in the rain a handful of times. At one point I figured that I saved more than 25K over those 10 years in ongoing costs alone. And all that riding helped to keep me in great shape.

After grad school I travelled the world and ended up living in Scotland/England for several years where I got married. Living without a car there was very easy as we lived about 500 ft from a train station which my wife used to commute into London. Shopping was just a 10 minute walk away. We rented a car a couple of times for excursions and took a few cabs, but other than that it was all bus and train.

I now live in rural Australia so a car is a necessity, though for the first couple of years we rented within biking distance of town so the car rarely got used. Now with kids there are all those trips that you need to do but I still hardly ever use the car solo. I just don't like cars and that makes living without one an easier tradeoff than it is with most people.

"the first vehicle his family has ever owned"

For those who think oil demand is only cyclical, they need to remember hundreds of millions of people around the globe, do not own a car, but would like to own one, as clearly demonstrated in this story from China:

The government help allowed Wu Tao, 25, to replace the electric bike he used to ferry goods to his store in Hebei province with a SAIC-GM-Wuling Sunshine minivan -- the first vehicle his family has ever owned.

full link:


Total vehicle production was about 73 million worldwide in 2007. If sales drop to 60 million or so this year and stay there for four years, we would be looking at about a quarter billion new vehicles by the end of 2012, which would basically add a whole new US in terms of total new vehicles (the net increase would be gross sales less vehicles that are scrapped).

There does seem to be something of a disconnect between the more collapse-oriented views of PO and a careful analysis of how much oil we actually need. Living in Europe, I completely agree with Robert - cars in most urban areas (which is where the majority of people live) are a nice-to-have convenience but not essential. Plenty of the other parents at my kids local school get by without a car at all. One Mum even has 4 kids all under the age of 9 and still manges perfectly OK on foot or on public transport.

Yet 50% of oil use is for private transport. As prices rise this will come down sharply and it wouldn't surprise me if car use declined to where it was in the 70's or even 60's. A fall of maybe 80% is quite possible without any need for collapse.

50% of the rest of oil use is for freight and this too could be reduced significantly with more local production and consumption. Does this mean an end to economic growth? No, not neccessarily, it just means the growth will change from quantity-biased to quality-biased. We find it hard to imagine having less but better stuff (we're used to more and maybe better) but that's because we've always lived in times of cheap energy. More expensive energy doesn't mean we can't continue to improve our lives through e.g. technology, it just means we don't consume as much. A good thing all round I would have thought.

In many ways I'm looking forward to a time of less waste and a bit more austerity and prudence.


Congratulations on the bold step Robert. For a younger man with a demanding job, a family, and only US travelling experience to condition his assumptions, this was pretty heroic.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

In about fifteen months, I shall be seventy; admittedly still pretty fit, by still...

Last year I got rid of my last ever car. I intend to die before I ever own another. My personal transport since then has been an ATB workhorse bike that, with the heavy-duty carrier I made for it, can move me and fairly bulky freight up to around fifty kilos weight with no problems. I've also built a Python lowracer (google it!) recumbent centre-steer bike, which will be getting its all-weather fairing this year, to be my weatherproof personal velomobile (again, google velomobiles, to see the current explosion, particularly in Nederland and Belgium, in this wonderful ff-free personal mini-car).

Sorry, but Pythons aren't available to buy. You have to build your own. Get on their pioneer Jurgen Mages's user-group for encouragement and detailed high-quality technical information.

This Winter, for the first time since my more robust youth, I've gone right through the dark and sleet and frank snow, and the wet and ice on the roads with only my Rocinante ATB and an entry-level (that's to say, cheap but effective) breathable-waterproof cycling jacket and trousers. No probs., even in freezing rain after midnight. I kid you not! Quick-dry Thinsulate gloves and woolly-hat are seemingly the best adjuncts to this vital weather suit. But once my fairing, probably built of zote-foam like American biker John Tetz's pioneering constructions (google it!), is on my Python, I should be able to do shirtsleeve cycling even in harsh Winter weather, just like Dane Carl-Georg Rasmussen, who poineered the granddaddy of all modern velos, the Leitra (google it!). Carl's been car-free for years, and has clocked up over quarter of a million kilometres on his Leitra.

To encourage all who are teetering on the brink of this bold leap of going permanently car-free (except for the occasional hire or borrow, which I still do pragmatically but sparingly, of course) let me share an oddly-delightful experience:

My partner and I live seven miles apart, she in her house, where she runs her acupuncture practice, and I on my boats, well out of the town on whose edge she keeps her beautiful house. (There are about a million people doing such semi-detached relationships in Britain these days, apparently. And it seems to work pretty well for those who need it. We two do.) There's a hundred-foot climb out of one valley and into another on the country lane between our places. Regularly, after a sweet domestic evening eating, viewing, and so on together, I find myself feeling: "Oh Jeez, I REALLY don't want to armour-up and go outside in the frost/ice/rain/dark/etc. and do that ride. I just want to crawl up to bed with K and fall asleep...." But I've found an amazing syndrome: The minute I get outside and astride my ATB -- even if I'm hauling, say, 15 kilos of dog-food along with me this time -- my attitude changes. By the time I've cycled to the top of K's close -- all of fifteen metres -- my feelings have switched unmistakably. I'm starting to think: 'Damn, it never fails! I really love cycling. Any time, anywhere. It's such a soother and a quiet joy!' By the time I'm at the top of the one really steep climb on my journey I'm feeling toasty warm whatever the weather, and taking stuff off. By the time I'm at the first of the two crests in my climb-out I'm on my -- invariable! -- endorphin-high, and thinking: 'Oh I really love a night ride. This is one of life's profound blessings!'

That switch from slouching couch-potato to high old-gaffer biker absolutely NEVER fails. I love it. And whenever I'm grovelling in K's house round midnight and whining to myself: 'Oh, I don't wanna do this....' I remind myself of the clockwork switch that will happen as soon as I get out of the house.

I'm addicted to my bike. Go two or three days without a blast and I'm starting to get withdrawal. And hey folks: see my lean, muscled frame, and my old guy's cardio-vascular system. Feck cars and feck the lunatic ff binge that they rode in on. Bikes only for me from now on. Go for it folks! You have nothing to lose (and gain) but your chains.

This current explosion of inventiveness in bikes and biking is an efflorescence who's time has definitely come. Get on it guys'n'gals. And power to your pedals, Robert! Good man you!

This Winter, for the first time since my more robust youth, I've gone right through the dark and sleet and frank snow, and the wet and ice on the roads with only my Rocinante ATB and an entry-level (that's to say, cheap but effective) breathable-waterproof cycling jacket and trousers.

People don't realize how efficient a mode of transportation cross-country skiing is during the winter. We had one more round of good skiing last weekend here and I partook in some ideal conditions. No trails, just hard packed crust. You probably won't believe this but I measured the average stride for my technique and it was over 20 FEET per push on flat ground. That is with the symmetric "V" ski-skating technique. That means it takes about 15 strides to ski the length of a football field. Put another way, I would break the world triple jump record continuously on skis :) :) :)

It's like butter, man.

I agree with Rhisiart; good article Robert, and looking forward to more on this subject from you.

For those who are not familiar with the velomobiles mentioned above, here are a couple of photos and a video of a velomobile outing, which may resemble the way our future may look...

This morning my wife asked me to drive the kids to school, and then to work (we work in the same office at the moment) so she could drive home. (she cycled to work, I will cycle home). It was a pain. The kids ( 5 and 6 ) are quite happy to cycle the one mile to school and I almost always cycle the four miles to work. It took longer across the city by car than it would by bike (30 minutes instead of 25).

We are a family of four with one car in Cambridge UK. We do about 8000 miles a year in it. We could get by with less, my wife uses it more than me. We have milk and groceries delivered, the nearest shop is 200 yards. We are three miles out from the city centre, with a 10 minute bus service 400 yards away. We have flown one (return) trip in the last four years.

I could easily live without a car, except for visiting my parents (once every 6 weeks). My wife has health problems and more of a social life...
the car is a convenient taxi for carting schoolkids around, up to six at a time, but the distances are easily cycleable. Getting 5 year olds to cycle on cold wet nights when tired after school can be quite a pain.

"What other themes should be examined on a panel entitled Energy and the Media?"

It may seem obvious to most of us, but as you speak from the "energy blogger" experience you may want to talk about a paradigm change in Energy Communication. Besides the obvious TOD, there are lots of Web2.0 initiatives which are trying to promote "greener living" in novel ways.

For example Do The Green Thing is a non-profit organization filled with designers, user interaction experts, marketing gurus backed up by scientists. Their aim is to promote a more sustainable living drifting away from the "guilt" or "very technical debate" to try to make it fun and cool (as most people are environmentally aware but hesitate to act). To their credit, through their social network, videos, art and web2.0 tools they've managed to get...
"people from 196 countries have tuned in 2.2m times, told 45652 stories etc., and saved 6.59m kgs CO2."

Or again how the media opens new avenues for consumption or change. Say for example The Economist which presented the other day the
One block off the grid initiative in its printed issue. I'm sure you can find tens of examples of new media having a noticeable impact.

I think together with disinformation, you could stress the access to new contrasted information (as it was jokingly said, the IEA is the world's Energy Watchdog, and TOD is IEA's accuracy watchdog) ...

I haven't sold my car, but I have been walking to work instead of driving for almost a year now. It is a 1.7 mi/2.7 km walk each way, and takes me about 45 minutes each way. (I could do it in less if it was all Holland-flat, but I'm in the mountains and parts of the route are very steep).

I've managed to walk to work most days, but there have been a very few exceptions. A few weeks ago I came down with a stomach bug. After taking a day off work, I went back to work, but was just not up to doing the walk, so I drove for a couple of days. Once in a great while I have an off-site meeting to attend or something else going on right after work, and have needed to drive to get to these other places.

Unlike RR, I live in a small town, and a taxi cab is only a very marginal and unreliable option. I could call for a cab if I really needed one, but it would take at least 30-40 minutes before it showed up at a minimum, and maybe an hour and a half or more after repeated calls to the taxi company. We do have shuttle bus PT, but it runs pretty infrequently and not in the evening at all. Getting a rental car requires a 45 minute drive to the regional airport.

Thus, I do need to keep the car as a backup, even though I no longer use it every day. There is a lot that would have to improve in the way of alternative transportation options here before I could consider getting rid of the car altogether.

I'm in a almost similar situation, except I live in the Netherlands (and indeed it is Holland-flat here :-) ). My work is at about 3mi/4.5km and I either walk (50min) or bike (20min). I still owe a car, but mostly use it only to visit my family (160mi/240km) or when shopping for heavy stuff which you can't carry on a bicycle. I really don't care for cars like most other men I know. Probably because I wasn't allowed to get a driver license until I was 32 due to poor vision. So I grew up knowing that I never could ride a car and I learned not to care for it. Note: it was only when I lived in the US for some time that I was allowed there to get my driver license. Shows you how car-centric the US is that even half-blind people like me can get a license :-).

But I also realise that doing without a car doesn't work for everyone. My girlfriend also works only about 3.5mi/5km away, but she needs to go by car more then I do. She could ride her bike as well (and she often does), or take public transport. But she works as a nurse in healthcare, so she also has to work late shifts. And at 11pm she does not feel comfortable riding her bike through the area between her work and our house. The same for public transport. The area is like a Dutch version of an inner-city slum, probably not as bad as a US one, but still scary when you're a woman alone late at night.

I feel that security is an aspect often overlooked by bicycling converts, especially for women riding in the dark. Having said that, I agree that a lot, maybe 50-80%?, of all car rides could easily be made by bycicles or public transport.

I agree that a lot, maybe 50-80%?, of all car rides could easily be made by bicycles or public transport.

And that's something that makes the whole matter "interesting." Unless it's practical and safe to make nearly all of the trips some other way, one likely will keep the car. And the car is going to cost nearly the same even if one drives it very little. If it doesn't wear out, it's sure to rust out, and, if it's a hybrid, the battery will eventually age out. So one might as well use it, since the incremental cost of using it is very low and the alternatives usually waste great gouts of time...

I don't completely agree here. I don't plan to do away with my car any time soon. It's just too much of a convenience to have one. But it is a fairly old use (12 years) and reasonably cheap to keep it. I consider it mostly as a sunk cost. I could send it to the scrap yard, but why would I? In the past there have been years when I drove 10-15,000 miles/year, now I drive 4-5,000 at most. That's quite a reduction in fuel consumption on a yearly basis. As soon as I can get an affordable electric car, I might trade in my old one for that.

I really think cars have a useful role, but you have to use them wisely and consiously. Too many people nowadays take a car for granted and don't give it a second thought whether the trip they're about to make should be done in a car or by other means. Driving 50% less would solve our all problems with traffic jams and air pollution at once here in the Netherlands. And it would buy a lot of extra time to prepare for peak oil.

So one might as well use it, since the incremental cost of using it is very low

While gas is cheap, yes. If there's an oil shortage, gas won't be cheap, so the incremental cost of driving another mile will be substantially higher.

If it doesn't wear out, it's sure to rust out

Sure, but that's not relevant to dealing with a near-term oil shortage. Most of the cars on the road will probably last another 10-20 years if they're used lightly, which is a long time to come up with alternatives.

If 50-80% of car trips can be conveniently dealt with without the car, then society can still run pretty smoothly with about that much less fuel.

I just wondered how Europe compares to US as I know there are about 44 million cars in Germany for 82 million people.

The number of cars per 1,000 Americans peaked around 1990, at 522. The United States today has 135 million cars, or 440 per 1,000 people. Per 1,000 people, there are 582 cars in Canada, 513 in the United Kingdom, 499 in Germany, 495 in France, 451 Japan, seven in India — and 96 globally.

It seems per capity number of cars in US is falling since 1990. Can this be true? I don't have one and the wife complains but it keeps us healthy and saves money. I guess lots of people would be pretty inconvenienced here without their cars but maybe not as much as in the states of course.

It isn't., citing (2006)
THe US has a total of 251 million registered passenger vehicles, of which there are 135 million 'automobiles,' 99 millions 'other 2 axle, 4 tire vehicles,' i.e., SUVs and pickups, 7 million 'two axle, 6-tire vehicles,' 2 million 'truck, combination,' and 7 million motorcycles.

Counting cars, SUVs and pickups (the later two are normally registered as trucks), there are 234 million "cars," /300 million people, = 780 "cars" per 1000 population.

Thanks Goldfish,

good research work and common sense to ferret out newspaper mistakes. Statistics aren't always as real as they seem although perhaps technically accurate.

So USA has 50% more transport vehicles per capita than Germany, if we accept a very low levelof SUVs and pick ups in Germany. And I bet that hewspaper article was comparing apples and oranges from various sources in various countries so maybe the German, British, French, Japanese stats do include SUVS, etc.

Half a car! I first heard peak oil discussed by the McGill biology prof. N. J. Berrill during the late 50's Dr. Berill at that time had one car for his family of five. Although this was long before Montreal had subways, they lived within walking distance of McGill and public transportation. During the deep winter they temporarily put the car in storage, Among other advantages this protected their car from the winter salt on the Montreal streets.

In the UK you could comfortably live without a car in most suburbs, not all, but it will never happen. The problem is not lack of alternatives but spinelessness. I work in a hospital about 15 miles from home, commuting from an affluent area to a poorer one. Most of the senior staff live in the same affluent area and commute in. Most of them in their own cars, bought with no thought of fuel efficiency, with one occupant, despite there being buses, trains and light rail. Unless you leave the house at dawn the light rail option takes the same time as the drive. They are simply unwilling to change, lazy, selfish and spineless. There is a doctors' car park - you should hear the moans when the barrier breaks (letting in the great unwashed), when there are more cars than spaces, when it is proposed to build on one corner of it. These are people who dedicate their lives to (enriching themselves through) healing the sick, yet they happily contribute to the end of civilisation. Other staff, despite not having their own space, are as bad. The patients are no better. The problem IMO is not public transport, nor urban planning, nor rural living, it's just human nature in all its ghastliness seen through the lens of the daily grind to work. Your Nissan micra will have been bought for the student daughter of some middle class Aberdonian to enable her to whizz round the cafes and bars of some cosmopolitan town while she spouts shite into her mobile phone and dreams of shoes. The end of the world is nigh!

I guess I make up for the rest of you.
I live on a farm and have 6 trucks, 4 cars and a minivan. Nothing newer than 1989 with most of them from the 50's to the 70's. Licensing is cheap, insurance is cheap and maintainence is cheap ( I do most of my own).
Every trip I make to town is at least a 20 mile round trip and most windup 30-40 mile round trips. Most local small town events that I want to go to are 30-200 mile round trips.
I got my drivers license in 1955 and have not ridden a bicycle since then.
I have been around cars, particularly hot rods and custom cars most of my life. It is a fun hobby and the fact is that most of them spend 90+ percent of their time in the garage. How many other hobbies let you do something like taking a 50 year old rusty wreck for $100 and with your own skill and labor turn it into a work of art worth tens of thousands of dollars?
Even though I don't have any desire to ride a bike, I do respect and admire those who do want to. Hopefully I will be given the same respect?

Even though I don't have any desire to ride a bike, I do respect and admire those who do want to. Hopefully I will be given the same respect?

No, that would be wussy socialism.

The notion that all lifestyles and choices are equally valid and must be respected will never give us productive change. Change comes from small groups of annoying people who tell you you're wrong.

Hey, I respect you! You sound pretty cool.

What an interesting discussion.
And who were those fairly nasty folks back upthread?

I sold my car in 2002 and bought a $2,000 Honda scooter.
It gets 100 mpg (if I don't punch it) and I drive it year round.
When it snows, I slow down and put my feet out. When I fall down I get back up and go slower.
I never have to scrape windows.
I never have to get into a hot car in summer, and the breeze when moving is cooling.
Parking's a snap, and here in Nevada we don't need to have insurance, tags, or license plates to drive anything under 50CC.
I figure it saves me at least $600 a month over the cost of a new car.
Last fillup was $2.40.
Quiet, 4-stroke, and the winter riding gear added only about $200 to the cost.
It paid for itself the 1st 3+ months over driving a new car.
The only maintanence costs besides oil/airfilter changes was to put slime in my tires. Only 1 flat, and never after 'sliming'.

But, as posted above, the electric assist bicycle is far superior, at estimated 1K mpg equivalent or whatever. Had I been smarter I would have done that and spent less money.

My cheaper transportation has allowed me to take an extra day off every week because I do not have that car expense any more. A free day a week, wow... time to prepare, priceless.
And the scooter will make an excellent descending-post-oil hauler with the addition of a small light trailer. Probably eventually converted to electric for hauling?

Not everyone can drive a scooter/moped, but there are more who can than are.

On another note,
next weekend is Earth Day, and while we all talk about green building, etc., I will say that if we were here in N. Nevada to co-ordinate our stoplights, we could save a quickly estimated +100,000 gallons of gas a day by stopping that insane stop and go driving due to every stoplight turning red just as we approach. As a longtime environmentalist it drives me (pun unintentional) crazy that so few of these people see how 'large' fixing our traffic flow is conservation-wise, but are more 'ooh and ahh' over new green tech than practical and immediate solutions. Fixing our traffic flow isn't sexy, I guess.
We'll put in expensive PV into our fancier buildings, but won't fix the damned stoplights. God we suck.

But what do you expect from a scooter driver?


This reminds me of a conflict I often notice on the peak oil sites.

On the one hand, a lot of people are moving back to the country, or recommending such a move, to reduce fuel consumption due to food-miles.

On the other hand, country/farm people guzzle more gas than anybody because everything is so sprawled out. My brother used to live in rural Idaho, and he had to drive 30 or 40 miles to the nearest supermarket. He was using way more fuel on the retail->home leg than was consumed on the producer->retail leg.

Which wastes more fuel?

a) Living in the country and growing some of your own food, but burning large amounts of fuel to get the rest of your food and other necessities.


b) Living in the city without growing your own food, but conducting all your business and purchasing on bicycle and foot.

I think I'm going to buy one of these:

Not as cool as one of these

Unfortunately mine has been in the shed these last five years with shattered wheel hubs.

This is a tricycle with a kick stand to stop it falling over. Even hardened recumbent riders fall off. Yet it is easy to ride hands free and
is amazingly maneuverable and comfortable over rough ground.

"What other themes should be examined on a panel entitled Energy and the Media?"

Robert, I can't think of anything more important than dealing with the "false balance" approach to reporting. We see this all of the time with PO and AGW.

"Scientists report that the earth is round - Flat Earth Institute objects..."

It is, of course, a way to minimize the research needed, create the appearance of objectivity, and avoid criticism from the Flat Earth Institute (or whoever). We need to encourage/push reporters to examine this practice, and move away from it.

We live in Lund in Sweden and it is quite possible to survive there without a car. The local authorities have an active policy of encouraging people to use bikes, the cycle paths are lit for instance. Even down to Swedish idiosyncricies such occasionally giving cyclists in the street an apple and a drink in a recycled paper bag as a "reward" for cycling. There is a link to a map of the cycle routes in the town. I must say not having a car saves a lot of money although we do hire them occasionally.

Yes, it looks like Lund is an ideal town for cycling -- compact, smaller city sitting on flat ground.

I can't say the same for Vancouver, BC where I live -- sprawling, endless suburbs with lots of hills and wet weather. Some hardy people here do cycle to work or school, but they are a tiny minority.

I think the big difference between cyclist in Europe versus North America is that North American cyclist are usually super fit athletes who are willing to take risks, while in Europe everyone cycles, regardless of their fitness level or risk tolerance.

Its not that risky cycling if you have dedicated cycle routes.

Not all of Europe is like this, in the UK the thought of cycling never occured to me as there is no real effort put into making the place cycle friendly and car drivers view bikes as a menace to be intimidated.

Even if the place is hilly if you were to cycle for 40 minutes you could easily get 10-12km.

As for the weather, as they say in Sweden there is no bad weather only bad clothes.

>I think the big difference between cyclist in Europe versus North >America is that North American cyclist are usually super fit athletes >who are willing to take risks, while in Europe everyone cycles, >regardless of their fitness level or risk tolerance