You probably own a car. In fact, you may even own more than one car, even if your name isn’t Jay Leno. Owning a car in the U.S. is not only the favorite form of transportation, but it’s a huge and important industry for us. There are about 300 million vehicles currently here in the U.S.A. and that number has been increasing steadily every year since 1960. Only China has a bigger car market than the U.S. and that is simply because there are so many millions and millions more people living there. The penetration of cars per population here though is much, much greater!
Here is something to think about. The cost of a new car today is on average $35,263, according to Kelley Blue Book. That doesn’t include gas, oil, insurance, and maintenance money you spend. Compared to a dependable alternative like a bicycle (about $250 for a pretty good one) or a motorcycle (at about $3,000-$5,000) and you can see the huge differences. Going for a scooter or moped brings you down to an even lower and even better bargain! So, have you ever considered these car alternatives?
Finding an alternate means of transportation can save you money, save the environment, and be more efficient than driving a car.
I call the concept re-cycling your transportation!
Is the Auto Your Friend?
When I was a kid back in Phildelphia in the mid 1960’s I couldn’t wait to turn 16 and be old enough to get my driver’s license. Things haven’t changed much since my day. Every teen I know wants a license and a car. It’s generally thought of as a right by most kids and they will beat mom and dad up without mercy for their help in getting one.
By the time you have a job, it seems like owning and using a car is what all of us are doing, as 70% of Americans drive to work in a car. The big exception is New York City which is the only city in the country where more than half of all households do not own a car and the figure is even higher in Manhattan where over 75% do not have one. Nationally, the rate is just 8%.
It’s Your Choice, Isn’t It?
There are different types of transportation: cars, buses, trains, planes, boats, and bicycles as well as mopeds, motorbikes. and motorcycles. The type of transportation chosen generally depends on the costs associated with travel and the length of the trip, but even when that is considered, the car is still king by a landslide! If you have any doubts, just ask someone who commutes by car every morning in LA, Chicago, NY Metro, or Atlanta, just to name a few places where traffic is a daily frustration.
I usually hear the traffic reporters on radio and TV say something like “the traffic is backed up from wherever you are to wherever you are going!” As funny as that sounds, I am not kidding!
Yes, there are buses available in large cities or towns and they are useful for short trips from one area to another and trains are useful for short trips in a city or extended journeys across states. But using some form of a “cycle” is the most environmentally friendly form of transportation and much less expensive than owning a car.
The Case of Portland, Oregon
I have never been to Portland, Oregon, but boy, after researching that city, I am pretty impressed! They are really serious about bike riding because it will save time, save money, improve your health, help your community, save the environment, and because it’s fun!
When it comes to biking, Portland works because it has some specific unique qualities like the fact that most trips in the work area of town are less than two miles for the commuters. This means even at an easy pace you can arrive in about 10 minutes, with no parking hassles. Biking is also a very reliable way to get around. In a car, you may find unexpected traffic jams, but on a bike, you can always find another way around traffic and arrive on time. One extra bonus of your commute is you can skip a trip to the gym and maybe even cancel that membership altogether and save even more!
Bottom Line: Saving Money
Ever drive to or from the supermarket and then stop for gas on the way home? When you bike, you can skip that stop for gas—you already have your bike’s fuel: it’s you! The more trips you make by bike, the less money you have to budget for gas, oil changes, tune-ups, tire replacement, parking, etc. You can even save money on auto insurance if you drive fewer miles per year. Some families find they can eliminate the need for a second car by using a bike. Heck, why stop there? Maybe you don’t need a car at all?
Improving Your Health
Pop quiz here: which is a greater hazard to your health…negotiating traffic on a bike or sitting on the couch? If you guessed an inactive lifestyle, you win! The Surgeon General suggests that significant health benefits can be obtained by 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 days a week. You don’t have to ride like a professional to see and feel the positive effects of biking.
Helping Your Community
So you want to reduce air and water pollution, create safer streets for kids, increase your neighborhood livability, and decrease the need for expensive road repair, but you’re a little short on time and money? Well then, ride a bike. Frequent cyclists will tell you that even when the weather is dismal, they arrive at work feeling happy. Scientists struggle to explain this phenomenon, attributing it to endorphins and increased oxygen flow to the brain. But the best proof is just to watch kids because they are the experts at identifying what is fun. Just watch a child’s face light up when he or she gets on a bike and rides.
It’s the New Kid in Town
Sticking with Portland, Oregon, mainly because it’s the gold standard of alternatives to car dependency, Portland has a great bike share rental program called BIKETOWN which launched in July 2016 with 1,000 bikes at over 100 stations across downtown and several neighborhoods. The system is designed for quick trips with convenience in mind, and it’s a fun and affordable way to get around. That’s just one way to begin your quest to eliminate car dependency. There is lots to know and lots to do if you are determined to change your life this way, and it’s probably a lot more challenging in places not named Portland. But if you’re game then…
The Motorcycle Alternative
Commuting to work on a motorcycle is beneficial in many of the same ways as a regular bicycle. Motorcyclists are not affected by traffic jams and hold-ups on the road because they can weave in and out of stationary traffic and overtake and bypass holdups. So instead of arriving at work late, you should arrive right on time. And you can do that on a highway, not just an inner city ride.
Motorcycling to work is a great way to start your day. You are out in the fresh air, albeit more insulated and protected with equipment and clothes than a cyclist, so you can breathe in the scents of the early morning breeze and enjoy the sun on your face. When you are feeling tired and unmotivated, it wakes you up and leaves you better able to face a tough day at the office.
Riding a motorcycle to work is ultimately cheaper than taking the car, bus, or train. Motorcycles are cheaper to run and use less fuel than cars. They are also not as expensive to insure and maintain, and if parking is an issue at your workplace, you should have no problem finding a space for a motorcycle. But be aware there are downsides, too.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside!
It’s not all smooth sailing. There are disadvantages just as there are with any other mode of transport and you need to be prepared to “weather” the good and the bad. And speaking of the weather, cold, wind, rain and snow are four of the reasons why motorcycling is not always fun. Most leisure bikers ditch their motorcycles in winter, but if you rely on your bike as a means of transport, you won’t have this luxury. The key to success is to wear the right gear for the weather conditions, hot or cold. You need gear suitable for a myriad of different weathers, as arriving at work soaking wet and freezing cold is not much fun.
Scooters, Mopeds, and Motorbikes
Yes, there are even more alternatives to consider when it comes to cruising to work or just about town for your weekly errands.
Even though it is not unusual to see many European and Asian streets filled with electric or gas-powered scooters, Americans still prefer automobiles by and large for running even the smallest errands. Scooters have several advantages over cars and motorcycles when it comes to efficiency and convenience, but getting the American public to embrace these advantages continues to be a challenge for scooter manufacturers.
Even expensive scooters on the market are noticeably less costly than motorcycles and economy cars. Insurance requirements for scooters are usually less restrictive than equivalent liability coverage for cars and motorcycles. Even the most economical car may require substantial monthly payments in addition to licensing fees and mandatory insurance. Scooters, on the other hand, are much easier to operate than motorcycles and rarely incur the sort of damage or liability even the smallest automobile can experience.
Another plus for scooters over larger vehicles is parking and storage. In many large cities, finding a suitable parking place for a car may involve endless loops around crowded streets or additional fees in a parking garage.
Scooters can legally be parked in city-sponsored bicycle racks or secured with chains to sturdy objects on the sidewalk. This means scooter owners can often find suitable parking almost anywhere along their planned routes. Scooters can also maintain city traffic speeds, making them less of a potential hazard than bicyclists or pedestrians.
Differences Between Scooters and Motorbikes
Scooters are a form of motorbikes or mopeds. A motorbike can have two or three wheels, but a scooter always only has just two wheels. Another difference between a scooter and motorbike lies in the lack of clutch and gears in scooters. Scooters are mostly auto-geared. To be street legal, both motorbikes and scooters need to have taillights, headlights, directional signals, and mirrors.
Motorbikes have larger engines than a scooter and as a result they can travel on freeways maintaining the highway speed. However, scooters come with smaller engines. The majority of scooters are only allowed to travel on town and city streets. Scooters are more popular among women and the elderly and you can see them used often in retirement communities.
For the environmentally concerned, some of these motorized vehicles are available to run on electricity just as the newest cars are doing. That’s very friendly and a cost saver too. But even if you don’t go in that direction, peddling and even using gas will cause less cost and damage to the environs around you.
Are you a car owner? Have you ever considered car alternatives? Can you imagine using other forms of travel besides a car on a regular basis? What would it take for you to change your habits and try to re-cycle in 2019?