VIEW FROM THE BIKE SADDLE
Isn't this the day we're spoze to assess where we've been, where we are, and where we're going?
2008 has been a monumental year, transportation-wise.
Gas prices fluctuated wildly, reaching highs well above $4/gallon for the first time in (U.S.) history. As a result, for the first time since records have been kept, total miles-driven was actually down a few percentage points. (Who woulda thunk?!!)
That, combined with other shaky economic factors, led to plummeting vehicle sales. Suddenly people seem content with their current fleet. And suddenly, people seemed not to be buying big ol' pickup trucks and SUVs just to be "fashionable." The only segment that held fairly steady was in high-mileage economy cars, hybrids, etc.
There was seemingly a new shop on every corner, selling cheaply-built-but-pretty little Chinese motor scooters and the like. One can't help but wonder how many (scooters and riders) will survive to hit the roads again next spring or summer.
I personally observed a huge increase in bicycle ridership at my office, and on the local highways and byways, at least during the warm-weather months. In past years, it was extraordinary to see 15 or 20 bicycles in the office rack, even on the nicest summer day. This year there were routinely twice that many, and on the perfect days they significantly overflowed the racks. Thanks to cold weather and gas prices that have fluctuated wildly downward, bike ridership is currently way down again. Time will tell what next month, or next year, will bring.
At year end, the "Big Three" automakers are clinging by a thread. (Someday kids will probably ask, "Daddy, why were they called the Big Three?") I liked Dave Barry's comment: "The CEOs of the Increasingly Small Three auto makers return[ed] to Washington to resume pleading for a bailout, this time telling Congress that if they can reach an agreement that day, they will throw in the undercoating, the satellite-radio package AND a set of floor mats. 'We're actually LOSING MONEY on this deal!' they assure Congress." Even Toyota says they will lose money this quarter - for the first time in history.
There's not much to be optimistic about, economy-wise, at least short term.
Fuel prices will be driven - as they always have been - by supply and demand. If nobody can afford $4 gas, it will settle in somewhat lower. (No matter what, we can count on developing nations like India and China to be using WAY more gas than they were, say, 5 years ago. Gas is a commodity, driven by worldwide supply and demand. Long term, gas will go up in price.)
By next summer, bike transportation might only seem really economical. Or it might seem really, really, really, REALLY economical! (Like in July of 2008!)
Next year I expect I'll once again ride on 350 or so days, and will probably accumulate 5000 or more miles. Most of it with a big silly grin.
In September I anticipate I'll celebrate 12 years of totally car-free commuting.
My average speed might drop by .1 or .2 MPH... that seems to be happening. I'm no longer a strapping youth with boundless energy. With reasonable caution and some good fortune, hopefully I'll go another year mostly accident-free. (The older you get, the harder that ground is, and the longer you hurt after bouncin' off something!)
I dream of someday riding the Coeur d'Alene Trail - 72-plus miles of paved bicycle Nirvana in northern Idaho. Perhaps 2009 will be the year I can realize the dream. (I'd like to stow my gear in the BOB trailer, and take it at a very relaxed pace, with plenty of detours to see the local historic sites, scenery, etc.)
Hopefully I can continue to make at least a passive effort at being an Ambassador for Bicycle Transportation. I don't foresee any Critical Mass rides in Boise. But I can set an example, both by riding regularly and by being "multi-mode friendly." (Being confrontational seems counterproductive; I can't imagine how getting in a driver's face will convince him that he should be riding a bike!)
Sometimes I wonder if I'm just "preachin' to the choir" here at the Bike Nazi. There are probably blogs out there where people are touting how superior they are to everybody else because they drive a Ford Excursion, or a "monster truck," or maybe even a Toyota Camry. (You know the Prius People think they're at the top of the heap! hahaha) But that's okay... I love the feedback I get from y'all, and my knowledge and understanding have significantly expanded, thanks to you. And... even if I were the only reader, I occasionally enjoy waxing nostalgic and reading some of my rants from earlier days. (I hope to improve navigation, by adding some "tags." Making it easier to find stuff that's about the weather, or about LOCAL riding, or whatever.)
If you happen by, I wish you a joyful and successful 2009. I hope you are prepared for whatever the future may bring. I hope your situation is such that, like me, you can regularly enjoy the savings, and communing-with-nature, and serenity, and increased fitness, and social friendliness, and responsible earth stewardship that are by-products of bicycle transportation. Most of all - BE SAFE AND HAPPY!