America’s Car Market: in a word, DISAPPOINTING

We’re 2 months in on our experiment with one car.  It’s been an interesting ride so far.  On the whole it’s working well.  I found at first that I felt very bristly about asking for rides when we need them, but the reality is that people are incredibly generous when there’s a friend in need.  And happily, the reality is that mostly, we really haven’t needed to beg many rides.  My kids and I are very able bodied on our bikes and legs and we get the car on the days when our after school activities take us further afield.  My husband is fortunate to work close to a major T/Train station and can commute by train fairly easily.  A friend drops him at the subway when it works out, and when it doesn’t, should I need the car for the day, I can drop him at the commuter train station.  We were both worried about how we would deal with the extra pressure of knowing we’d have to be more organized to coordinate shared use of the car.  Bizarrely, what I’ve found is that it’s made us closer as we’re more aware of each other’s needs and movements as the weeks go by.  We did break down and rent a car for a couple of weeks while we had family visitors from Europe.  It was a peppy little Nissan – perfectly serviceable, but nothing to write home about.  It did have disappointing gas mileage considering how small it was.

Which brings me to my thoughts for today’s post.  Why is the American car market so pathetic? I have in my possession Consumer Report’s April edition which happens to be the car issue.  Although we’ve decided to stick to one car, I can’t help looking at other options; our 2 door VW Golf can feel a little tight with two growing tweens (and one of them certainly lanky teen sized) sitting in the back.  Paging through Consumer Reports, the best option overall for us turns out to be a Passat TDi which comes in at 42 mpg and covers our requirements (in an ideal world) of: available in a stick, reasonably fun to drive, a little more head and leg space in the back seat and good cargo capacity and most important of all to me, high gas mileage.  The snag – virtually no second hand market as they’ve only been available in New England since 2009.  But what really gets my goat is what I discovered last night as my husband flipped lovingly through his Car magazine (looking at Porsches and Ferraris – full disclosure, my husband is a car nut.  But the good news is he’s a bike nut too).  Believe it or not, in Europe, there are 2, not just one, but 2 Ford vans that sit 7 passengers, that come in 35 miles per gallon and get 4 and 5 star ratings.

RANT ALERT….here I go:

Let me put that in print again – a SEVEN seater vehicle that comes in at over 35 miles per gallon.  And yes, I did account for the fact that the imperial gallon is bigger.  That’s the figure converted to US gallons. WHY CAN’T THEY SELL CARS LIKE THIS IN AMERICA?  That’s a 7 seater VAN that gets better mileage most station wagons in this country and way more than any other van or SUV.  And the Europeans drive far fewer miles.  This is just wrong.  And so intensely frustrating.

Which brings me to the end of my post because I am so despondent thinking about this that I need to go and clear my head and think about what this really means about how screwed our economy, car industry and environment is.


Please don’t honk at me

To the cars who honk at me while I’m riding my bike, I have one question: what exactly are you trying to achieve when you honk?  Do you think that I am going to go away when you honk at me?  Do you think that I am going to move over to the right, into the crumbling pavement, pot holes and degrading drains?  Are you hoping that tomorrow I won’t ride my bike on the same route so you don’t have to pass me?

OK, so that’s several question.  So here’s my answer to you.  When you honk at me, you make me jump and you scare me; if that’s your intention, then we probably don’t have a lot to say to each other.  But maybe you don’t realize how scary that can be.  When I ride, I am in a constant state of heightened senses.  I am very aware that you are driving 2 tons of steel and I am riding 25 pounds of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber.    Yes, I know it can be hard to pass at times and that can be frustrating.  I do drive a car too, and I have been the frustrated driver in a hurry.  But how much longer did it really take you to have to slow down to pass me?  And look at it this way, I wasn’t another car ahead of you at the traffic light or taking your parking space somewhere.  And I’m a good person really.  I don’t ride my bike to annoy you.  I don’t even just ride my bike to please myself.  Believe it or not, it’s actually my transportation – as in, instead of my car.  And I do all the right things:  I follow traffic laws, I pull over when I can, I wear bright colors, I have a helmet, I never listen to my ipod, I pay my taxes, I even floss most days.

I wonder if you see my presence as a judgment somehow.  Well, I don’t love big SUVs and pickup trucks, mostly because they can be a little scary as they drive by, but mostly I just want to be able to ride my bike in peace, for pleasure or function, without feeling hostility on the road.  If you honk just to let me know you’re there, take it from me – I know.  If I haven’t pulled in, there’s a reason (have you notice that the edge of the road isn’t all that smooth sometimes)??  There may be cyclists who are road hogs and people who ride who don’t follow traffic rules, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.  Just like with drivers, it takes all types and if people don’t follow the rules, they should be taken to task for it.  Did you know that traffic infractions on your bike can be put against your driver’s license.  As more and more people take to the road on other types of transport, we are going to have learn to share the road.  As times go on, hopefully we will see more bike lanes will go in, but the reality in the ‘burbs where I am, we are just going to have to learn to share.  Just like your mom and kindergarten teacher taught you.