As is tradition, a new year brings extra cause for moments of introspection. It’s a time to plot goals for what’s ahead, partly based on self-assessment of how we handled the year that’s just passed.
For me, one aspect of the environment-minded life stands starkly clear from the rest: personal transportation.
From time to time, since joining the sustainablog team in August, I’ve written about my varied ways of getting ’round town. Now that winter has set in and I’ve made another recent adjustment or two, I realized I’ve built a list of wheels through the last 12 months. Each has had its distinctive impacts.
Toyota Camry (1992). I began the year with what had been a $200 bucking bronc of a repair project-turned-reliable commuter. I began January getting 25+ miles per gallon driving a minimum of 70 miles per day in the Camry, and finished the month with a new job that required only driving five miles each day.
Bicycle. As winter gave way to spring, I parked the Camry as many days as I could muster the motivation to ride a bicycle that brief commute to work. This was the peak of my green year, having ridden my bike hundreds of miles over dozens of days spanning several months.
Volkswagen Type 2, camper bus (1973). Also as the seasons in St. Louis warmed and softened, I got my VW named Boio out of the garage, and sold the Camry. When I didn’t ride my bike, I drove Boio, getting a less than shiny rate of mileage.
Though I once spent a summer driving him around the United States, getting around 23 mpg, I speculate my city driving was getting closer to the high-teens. That, no doubt, offset my efforts to create benefit via bike – or maybe my bike riding offset the damage of driving an emissions- and mileage-challenged machine.
Honda Civic (2008). The highlight of my automobile year came with the purchase of a gleaming new Honda Civic. It had fewer than 20 miles on it when we bought it. As I’ve blogged about before, we’ve gotten 40 mpg on the highway, and my wife, who is the primary driver of the car, gets more than 30 mpg around our home metro area.
Now, for a recap before hitting the sad punchline…
In 2008, I’ve experienced personal transportation via:
- 25 mpg sedan
- human-powered, gasoline-free, emissions-free bicycle
- 17+/- mpg vintage VW, and…
- 30-40 mpg sedan
With the return of cold weather and short days, I parked my bicycle, and I parked the antique joy-ride. Having sold the Camry, I weighed options and ultimately accepted a loaner from the in-laws…
Nissan Pathfinder (1992): 10 miles per gallon. Yeah. 10.
So, the hypocrisy is out there for all to know. And now comes the look to the future, the goals built on self-assessment after a year of transportation ups and downs.
In 2008, I was new to the bike-commute game. I didn’t invest the money or commitment to become an all-weather, year-round rider. In 2009, I resolve to step closer to that end.
I aim to regain my courage to ride alongside 18-wheelers loaded with Anheuser-Busch products and on roadways shared with dump trucks thickened with construction-site mud, not to mention the other constant dangers of being a pedalist in a motor-driven world.
I aim to invest in lights that will enable me to ride in relative safety when the days are shorter and my to-fro commutes are darkened. I aim to improve my management of logistics for clothing changes necessary for sweating the ride, but still being professional and proper in the office, and fitting gym clothes into the mix, too.
I will gear up to ride through rain, rather than eye weather forecasts that continually warn of doom, though rarely deliver. I will defy the wet spring season that in 2008 I allowed to keep me car-bound more days than not.
This new year, 2009, is a fresh start to bolster my efforts at a green lifestyle. For me, that will begin – but, of course, will not end – with personal transportation.
What will be your fresh beginning?
Photo: Adam Williams