It's not often editorials like this are run in car magazines:
by Jeremy Sinek
The joy of (not always) driving
Since you're reading this magazine, I'm going to make a giant leap of logic
and assume that you love cars and you enjoy driving.
Not for you the notion of a motor vehicle as merely an appliance or "a tool,
personal transportation, for the use of." Cars, to you, are intrinsically
interesting. Driving is an act of emotion, not mere motion.
That being the case, I have a proposal that may shock you.
Am I nuts? The editor of a car magazine telling people to cut back on the
driving? No, I'm serious: if you're serious about how much you like to
drive, do it less.
What this planet needs more than anything is fewer cars on the road. We need
fewer cars crashing into each other, cleaner air in our cities, less carbon
dioxide heating up the planet. We need to reduce our dependence on the
foreign sources of oil over which future wars may be fought.
At the same time, what we of the auto-enthusiast persuasion need is more
quality in our driving, not quantity.
Put these two needs together and what we have is an opportunity for
enlightened self-interest. If we're going to benefit from reduced traffic,
we who like to drive will have to do our part. But there are personal
spin-off benefits from leaving the car at home, say, one or two days a week.
And on the days we do drive, we'll enjoy it that much more.
On many of North America's busiest highways, traffic already grinds along so
slowly that it would be literally faster to ride a bike to work. How much
longer before walking becomes the faster alternative?
It's not an issue only of journey times. The greater the traffic congestion,
the nastier the driving experience becomes. The fact that you have zero
opportunity to enjoy your car's scalpel-sharp steering and spine crushing
acceleration is the least of it. Stop and go driving is tedious, frustrating
and mentally draining. Hell on your car, too.
Worse, you're trapped in the company of people behaving badly. The heavier
the congestion, the worse the behaviour. I don't know about you, but I
normally go a long way to avoid being near aggressive, selfish, boorish
people who get what they want by pushing and shoving.
Don't think you're exempt if you're the one who's behaving badly. What do
you think is happening to your stress levels, to your heart rate, every time
you cut off another driver so that maybe you can get home seven tenths of a
second earlier than if you had stayed in the other lane? Of course, if
that's the way you drive the chances are you're also blowing a wad every
year in traffic tickets and inflated insurance premiums.
Let's face it, this whole concept of personal mobility that the automobile
represents is a wondrous privilege and luxury that we abuse and misuse
shamefully. And I don't mean misuse in the sense of driving badly, though
Lord knows there's enough of that going around. I mean it in the sense of
driving inappropriately; driving when you really should not be driving.
Last Saturday night - a warm, dry night in early May - a neighbour invited
us to their house party. My wife and I walked the entire 150 metres to get
there. Two other guests, each of whom lives less than 300 metres from the
venue, drove to the party.
C'mon folks, this is not OK!
Another example. Go to any mall, and even in the nicest of weather you will
see drivers circling around looking for parking as close as possible to the
mall entrance. Sometimes people even get into fights over empty parking
spots. Meanwhile, maybe 100 metres further away, there's acres of empty
parking. People spend five minutes burning gas and spewing emissions so they
can save themselves a one-minute walk.
Then there are all those rugged, outdoorsy SUV drivers. Have you noticed how
it always seems to be SUVs parked illegally in the fire lane right outside
the mall entrance because their "active-lifestyle" (pah!) drivers are too
lazy to walk 50 or 100 metres from a legitimate parking spot?
Or how about this for the height of absurdity? Suppose we need a to pick up
carton of milk or rent a movie. We put on our $200 "athletic" shoes, brush
past the bicycle in the garage to get into the car, and drive to the plaza
0.9 kilometres away. If we think about it at all, maybe we justify it to
ourselves in terms of time saved.
But then, maybe later that same day, we get into the car again and drive a
few kilometres to the fitness club, for which we pay hundreds of dollars a
year in membership. There, we spend the next hour or two doing totally
artificial exercise on a bicycle or a treadmill going absolutely nowhere.
And on the way home afterwards we stop to fill up our tank and bitch about
the price of gasoline.
Now you tell me who's nuts.
(Here's a thought: imagine how much energy could be saved and pollution
avoided if every exercise machine in every gym was hooked up to a generator
that fed electricity back into the hydro grid. Remember, you read it here
Quite aside from oil crunches and global warming, there's another crisis
facing our western lifestyles: growing levels of obesity and declining
physical fitness. Surveys show that not only are we getting fatter, so are
Could there be a connection between the obesity epidemic, dirty air, global
warming ... and the number of mothers I see every morning chauffeuring their
1.7 children to neighbourhood schools in nine-seater Chevrolet Suburbans?