Sometimes I miss the family car, especially when my friends seem to so effortlessly come and go, while my husband and I are plotting out our trips, negotiating whether we can fit all of our groceries in our bike trailer, and opting to stay home at times rather than trek across town after dark in the rain. But recently I came across a few more reasons to celebrate the car-free life.
We started 2011 with the highest gas prices ever in January, averaging $3.01 a gallon. In December, John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil predicted that gas will reach $5.00 a gallon within two years. More conservative forecasters predict that it will top out at $3.50 to $3.75 sometime this summer.
Of course, being car-free doesn’t make us entirely immune to high gasoline prices, since they trickle down into the cost of everything that’s transported. But it sure is nice not to have to pay for it at the pump.
And if high gas prices aren’t enough to make people want to park the car these days, accidents may make more think twice.
On December 9, NPR reported that five children a day die in car crashes. They are the leading cause of death for children, topping home accidents, illness, and poisoning. “I think it happens so frequently and with such regularity that we’ve lost focus on how important it is. And I think that we’re so reliant on cars to get us from Point A to Point B that we’ve sort of accepted it as the price of doing business. ” Ben Hoffman, professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, told NPR.
NPR focused on the National Transportation Safety Board’s new recommendation that children ride in rear-facing car seats until they are two, citing that toddlers are five times safer facing backward than forward.
Or, of course, you could also just stay out of the car altogether.
Living car-free doesn’t make us immune to accidents either. We are fortunate to have an extensive network of off-street bike paths in Eugene, but it’s impossible to avoid riding our bikes on the streets altogether. And as much as I love walking, I’m all too aware that it can be risky. I know two pedestrians who were hit by cars – one fatally while walking down the sidewalk and another who was hit while crossing with the light at an intersection. But I do feel a little safer avoiding the highways. And the more people who choose to travel on bikes, on foot, or on public transportation the safer we’ll all be.
So at this moment, the car-free life really does feel like a carefree option.