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January 28, 2005

Cyclist Pushes Car out of Snowbank, Almost

This morning was no ordinary commute for several St. Paul residents. As I was coasting merrily down the road I came to the Ohio Hill, which is a steep S-Curve hill that takes me from the bluffs down to the river flats each day. There on the first curve was a car that didnít quite make the turn. He was deep into the snowbank and another man in dress shoes and nice jacket was there helping, trying to push while the driver spun his wheels. The car wasnít budging. I stopped my bike and offered to help push. That didnít make a difference at all. So I began digging out the tires. Still the car must have been stuck on something underneath, it wouldnít even rock back and forth.
Then a guy in an extended-cab pickup truck stopped with a chain and hooked it up to the back end of the car and proceeded to easily pull the car out. My work was done, I did what I could, but I wasnít able to get that car out of the mess the driver got into. I think between me and that other guy we could have gotten it out eventually with more digging, but that truck was much more adept at pulling the car out than we were. As I saw him get pulled out, I got on my bike and zipped down the hill, not hitting any snowbanks and freezing my nose in the wind. I pulled my mask up over my nose and tilted my head down. After I got down to the flats and started riding on level ground I saw the car we were trying to push out fly by me. He was obviously in a hurry. He must have been late.
This incident made me think about how each vehicle in our society has different functionality and capabilities. Our problem with pollution is much greater than my individual car, but I canít expect a bike to substitute for a tow truck or a cement mixer. And we canít expect to get rid of certain vehicles or our infrastructure would fall apart. Therefore our work in the area of saving our planet has to extend beyond our personal commute. What can we do to make other vehicles cleaner and more efficient? Thinking more globally than my ride, we need to work together as a society to create more fuel efficient vehicles and cleaner emitting vehicles that produce less toxins and waste. For example, the move by Metro Transit to equip all of their busses to burn more ethanol is a good start I think. Itís a renewable resource, and even that has environmental costs in its production but the impact is much less than pumping oil, refining and producing gasoline. Detroit auto manufacturers claim they just canít make their cars more fuel-efficient.
But we know itís possible already. There have already been people and companies that have created super efficient vehicles and now we are starting to see some hybrid cars out there. Mainly because there is only now beginning to be a market for it. People are starting to ask for it. For the owners, managers of auto manufacturers, itís a matter of profits. They want to sell what consumers want to buy, and they want to make the largest profits they can. If there are few people buying energy efficient vehicles, they wonít waste their time on making them more energy efficient or cleaner. This is true for other industries as well. Manufacturers of anything wonít clean up their factories until they are forced to by the government or by the loss of their profits.
Itís almost a daunting task for individuals like me to be aware of who is really polluting and then finding something I can do about it. So we have to start with ourselves. We can make ourselves less wasteful and use fewer resources. Do what we can to eliminate the pollution we can control. Thatís a start.
That young man could have slowed down and taken that curve at an appropriate speed, but he was in a hurry. He just cost the environment by requiring a big, less efficient vehicle to expend more fuel. That extended-cab pickup-truck owner was good enough to help this man in need, but then he got back in his truck and drove alone to wherever he was going. I donít know what else he could have done. I would have helped the guy out with my truck if I were driving it. Iíve helped people out of the snow before and itís a great feeling to liberate a little car from deep snow. But in the long run I couldnít justify those few times for all the rest of the driving I was doing. Maybe in this case a smaller car with a tow strap could have done the job. Who knows, maybe not. We should all help people in need as we are able to, but maybe that has to be in the form of calling a tow truck if we canít use our own brawn. Accidents happen. Tow-trucks are designed for this purpose. But regardless of all of this, it still comes down to our own personal attitudes and actions that change the impact on the environment. If that young man had been commuting by bike he wouldnít have needed a tow truck. Bikes rarely get stuck and if they do, the driver can push it or carry it. Also if that man had been driving slower instead of taking that curve too fast, he would have saved fuel and prevented the accident and subsequent truck involvement. Also if he were driving with someone else, maybe he would have driven slower or at least he would have had another person to push.
As for me, Iím now more aware of the different uses of different vehicles and see that we have to extend our efforts to help the environment beyond our own personal choice of transportation. I wonít buy a gas-guzzler again. When and if I get ready to buy another car, Iím going to demand a more fuel-efficient model or tell them to forget it. Iíll find another way. And If I do have to buy a car for some reason, Iíll try to carpool and maximize the use of my vehicle. Thatís a start. If enough people change the demand, the supply will change.
Hey, there is always an alternative; we are not slaves to the people who run the automobile companies! Our culture is so stuck in it though, like the guy in the snow bank, so itís hard to imagine anything else, but there are options.

Here is one option I wouldnít have thought of. The man stuck in the snow with his car this morning could have gotten at least to the bus stop before it killed me. Until I get my pedi-cab or multi-human powered vehicle, I donít think I will try bike pooling as an option. Haha.

Now that's teamwork!
How does all of this affect our spirits? Helping that guy who was stuck is important to do. Regardless of what heís driving or what happened to get him into that predicament, we still need to have compassion and help others. Also, we need to take care of all living things, like our environment. Itís our home; itís our childrenís home, and our grandchildrenís home. If we destroy it, we are destroying lives and thatís a stupid practice. By helping the environment we are increasing the quality of life for every living thing. Thatís a very loving thing to do.

Posted by carl1236 at January 28, 2005 10:02 PM | Attitude