There was a time when nothing said freedom more clearly to many Americans than a full tank of gasoline. With a foot to the floor and an open road beckoning, we were free to come and go as we pleased, when we pleased.
That’s not the case any more. A report released last week by Arity, a technology research spinoff created by insurance giant Allstate, estimated that Americans now spend an average of 321 hours—that’s 13.4 days—stuck in traffic. That’s longer than the sum total of their vacations. Think about that. Chances are good you spend more time at a dead stand still on an interstate than you do hiking or touring art museums or sitting on a beach. Freedom? More like confinement.
And for too many of us, it’s solitary confinement. Eighty-six percent of American workers commute by private vehicle, and the vast majority of them are single-occupancy vehicles. And if you need any more data to understand why traffic is so bad, consider this: While the number of vehicles on America’s roads grew from 226 million in 2000 to 268 million in 2015, the number of miles of roads barely budged over that same period, from 3.9 million miles to 4.1 million. More cars, and nowhere for them all to go.
But here’s the thing: half of all car trips in the United States are less than three miles.
Three miles is an easy distance to cover on a bike or a scooter. Some might even say it’s the perfect distance: just far enough to get the juices flowing and let you see your town with a fresh perspective, but not so far that it saps all your energy or turns you into a sweaty mess. One that lets the breeze blow through your hair and clears the mind for whatever is ahead of you. One that lets you see the town or city you live in as your own personal art museum, with something new to look at every day because you’re out of the big metal box and connecting with your surroundings, not just staring at the bumper in front of you.
One that gets you out of that traffic jam and makes you feel like you’re on vacation.
Let’s try something. Let’s all try to take one fewer car trip per week, and to try to convince a friend to do the same thing. Let’s substitute a bike or scooter trip for that single-occupancy vehicle trip. Use a Zagster bike or scooter or a Pace bike if you can—after all, we know they’re the best one out there. But if you can’t, use whatever’s at hand. It’s all good.
Kind of like going on vacation. Or going to your own personal museum.