Thursday, August 18, 2005

Back when I was a child...


Richard Fries' biting editorials entitled "Attack at the Gun" from The Ride Magazine always serve as a kick in the pants when I am feeling particularly lazy. He has a way of addressing an issue related to cycling in a confrontational yet rational way. The latest issue of The Ride includes the column, "Arlington Schools: Making Kids Dumb, Dumpier, and Depressed". Ouch! Are the town mothers and fathers aware of this slander, from another Arlington resident no less? Some of the schools in the town prohibit the use of bicycles as a means of transportation for students. This is a symptom of a culture addicted to fossil fuels and organized children's activities. We learn this as Richard quotes from Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods.

There are compelling points:
1) American children aged six-11 spend ~30 hours/week in front of a TV or computer monitor [what I am doing now].
2) The number of overweight adult Americans increased over 60% between 1991 and 2000 [depending on the measurement you use].
3) Between 1970 and 1990 the radius around their home that children were allowed to roam shrunk by 89%. Instead of a half of a mile, it was less than a 10th of a mile.
The distance children are allowed to explore is important for many reasons, it fosters an independent spirit, sharpens minds, and keeps them moving. With my rural upbringing, perhaps I am idealizing a child's ability and willingness to roam their neighborhoods and its impact on their lives.

The one overarching factor that limited children's spatial range; arterial and residential vehicular traffic. Traffic!? Where is Steve Winwood when we need him?

The youngsters suffering from clogged roads have parents suffering from clogged roads. The term "Rush Hour" can now be called "Rush Days" in some metropolitan areas. Traffic congestion, contributed to by many factors including immigration and population growth, land use patterns, and economic activity, is steadily increasing. The average commute time for working adults increased 14% between 1990 and 2000. Combine this with more automobiles on the road with a collective fuel efficiency LOWER than the mid 80's and we're burning some serious fossil fuel.

Let me get this straight. Our dependence on the automobile yields:
1) Dependence on a resource that is unsustainable, non-renewable and inciting global instability.
2) Poor health
3) Massive spending on infrastructure instead of things like education
4) More time driving and less time with friends and family
Let the protectionists rail and the enviros wail. Will disparate groups see eye-to-eye? With headlines like this China Ups the Ante in Its Bid for Oil, The Sierra Club and ExxonMobil they will be buddies in no time.

It is all about energy.

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