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Miles Driven DOWN!
Congratulations, and thank you to drivers of America! Thank you for driving just a little bit less this year than you did last year. After decades of seemingly inexorable increases, the number of vehicle miles traveled has actually leveled off in the past year, according to figures from the Federal Highway Administration.
Whether the reason for this is increasing gas prices, frustration with traffic congestion, or the efforts of communities across the country to promote bicycling, walking and transit use, this is actually good news for America and good news for the planet. The transportation sector, primarily cars, contributes between a quarter and third of all greenhouse gas emissions and to our dependence on foreign oil – we might finally be turning the corner and reducing our over-dependence on cars for most of our trips.
Let me be clear, we are NOT anti-car. There are a lot of trips and a lot of tasks for which a car is ideally suited and often the only option. We aren’t asking or expecting people to throw away their cars keys. What we are saying is that more than 40 percent of all trips in the country are two miles or less; one quarter are just one mile or less – and two-thirds of even these shortest of trips are being made by car. These short trips – which are by far the most polluting – are ideal distances to do on a bike.
As folks contemplate the highest average gas prices ever in this country, we encourage every American to consider making one or two trips a week by bike or foot that they would normally make by car. What better ways to save money, get some exercise, reduce pollution, and have some fun into the bargain.
The impacts are not trivial. Cyclists who rode to work on Bike to Work Day alone will
• save more than 56 tanker trucks full of gasoline from being burned
• save $5.7 million in driving costs
• prevent 4,580 tons of carbon dioxide and 230 tons of carbon monoxide from entering the atmosphere
• burn 410 million calories
If you multiply these numbers to cover a year’s worth of commuting, the benefits start to add up fast for individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole.