Test of Life

Nlk0302_img_8_2I've picked on Mary Peters, Secretary of Transportation, here before, and here I go again. But I just couldn't resist.

Yesterday's Washington Post contained an article about the higher likelihood of teens being in auto accidents than other drivers (Teens 16% of Crash Victims, U.S. Says). It had this quote from Ms. Peters:
"In the test of life, teenage drivers are failing at twice the rate as the rest of us."

Test of life!!!??? Driving is the "Test of Life?" Not advancing one's self by getting a college education or developing a moral philosophy or helping the less fortunate or teaching a child how to read or battling global warming or bringing joy and happiness to one's family and friends? Driving! That's it? And I've been working so hard on so many other things. If only I'd known that's the test of life. Hey! I've passed!. . .Well, maybe not; I did have an accident once, but I was in my 20's not my teens. Does that count?

Now I certainly agree that reducing auto accidents and making teens safer drivers are laudable goals, and we should do everything we can to do these things, but I think this statement underscores how cars and driving permeate our culture to an absurd degree. If our transportation systems and land-use planning were designed differently, teenagers (and all of us) wouldn't need to drive as much--which would certainly be an effective way of reducing accidents. . .and maybe passing the "test of life."

(More) How Long Does It Take?

S21Another in my series on people's perceptions on how long it takes to get around by various modes (see my recent post about cycling and this one about driving and this one that worked through various scenarios for a transit trip).

My 3rd-grade daughter has a friend who catches the school bus in the morning. I was talking with her father about where their bus stop is (and other scintillating topics!). They have to cross Route 50 in Arlington at Irving Street, where there is a light. I suggested that they could cross at the pedestrian bridge a block west at Jackson Street and it might be somewhat more pleasant than walking across eight lanes (and possibly having to dodge turning cars). He said it was a good idea, but they didn't want to take another 10 minutes walking to the bus stop. Ten minutes!!! I didn't challenge him at the time, but I went home and used an Internet mapping tool to compare the distances for the two trips: their house to the bus stop via the light vs. via the pedestrian bridge (BTW Washcycle reports that this bridge will be closed this summer for rebuilding). The bridge trip is exactly 1000 feet longer than waiting for the light. Even walking with a 3rd grader, one should be able to walk at least 3 mph, in which case covering 1000 feet would take 3' 45." If they have to wait 45 seconds or more for the light, then their added time is less than 3 minutes at most.

PedesSo in their defense it is quicker to wait for the light, but it doesn't take anywhere near 10 additional minutes to take the other route. It makes me wonder how many people don't take a trip on foot because they think it will take twice as long--or more--than it actually does.

Be sure to visit WalkArlington for more information on walking around town. Here are some other people who give getting around on foot some thought:

Always the Planner
That's Fit
Sneezing Weasel Hat

Rule of Thumb #3 - The Average Car Burns More than Its Weight in Gas

The average car burns its weight in gasoline every year!

That's right. Most cars will burn about their weight in gasoline every year. Heavier vehicles generally get poorer gas mileage; lighter cars generally get better mileage, so this rule of thumb is pretty accurate for most cars. A 5000 pound vehicle will burn about 5000 pounds of gas; a 2500 pound vehicle will burn about 2500 pounds of gas.

Each pound of gasoline burned is converted to more than three pounds of the primary greenhouse gas - CO2 (for an explanation of how one pound of gas becomes three pounds of pollution, click here). So that means that each vehicle contributes about triple its weight in greenhouse gases to the atmosphere each year. Wow!