Drive Less, Save more... Lives
As it comes to a close, I'd like to bring up a subject that's come to the forefront for my family this summer. Not once but twice I've been in car-car collisions, one that involved my whole family. Both times I was a passenger and not a driver. Both times there was thousands of dollars of damage, but our health and lives were spared. Both times, I saw it coming. Some might think this was an advantage, but I sort of felt it was a curse. You see, since I've started riding my bike to get around town more, I've become especially tuned in to what's going on around me.
As of yesterday, the Bicycle Transportation Association's (BTA) Bike Commute Challenge has begun. I'll be honest; I've been tracking my commute miles since last September, but this September I will definitely be coming up short. Instead of biking the 25 mile round trip I will probably spend a short amount of time on the bike and most of it on the bus, getting out to Gresham and back. I just can't make the trip in a reasonable amount of time, since I'm nearly 30 weeks pregnant (no lung capacity left!). But I still feel the need to try and reduce car trips. Is it because I want to drive less and save more? Well, money may be part of the equation. Reducing emissions is also important to me. But in my mind, a much larger part is something you can't quite place a value on: The lives of our children. You can eliminate as much BPA from their immediate environments, avoid antibiotic and hormone injected foods, but the number one cause of death for children is not obesity or illness. It's car crashes.
That's right, according to the CDC Car crashes are the number one cause of death for children and happen at an even higher rate for teens. This came to my attention early last month when a fellow bicycle rider and parent pointed out this article: "Mom, are we there yet?" Can you imagine it's safer to walk in NYC than in Portland? OK, maybe you can, but it really is statistically apparent that fewer cars means fewer deaths by car. Sure, there are risk factors you can influence, like using safety equipment (and using it properly: See CDC website for more info). You can buy a really "safe" car. These things will improve your odds, if you're in a car. But what if you are on foot, or on a bike? Only less automobile traffic will reduce the incidence of deaths from car crashes.
So when you think a trip by car is unavoidable, remember the potential price that we all pay in one way or another. Is the risk truly acceptable? Are we going to keep muttering "what a tragedy" every time someone dies from a car collision? Or is it time to realize that we are extraordinarily lucky to have so many transportation infrastructure options here in Portland. Is it time to learn to use the ones we have, and look into getting the ones we need? Have you and your family re-evaluated how you get around these days? Or is it just too overwhelming to even begin? Even if it is overwhelming, what would it take to convince you to try?