Four. Dollars. Per. Gallon.
Music to my ears, I admit it. When gas hits four bucks a gallon, that's enough to make driving hurt, and that pain is enough to make people consider walking and bicycling to more places. So yeah, I'm not crying over four bucks a gallon.
When gas goes to five bucks a gallon, I may just throw a party. If it stays there, I'll block off our street and hire the March Fourth Marching band to come play.
Seriously, I recognize that high gas prices will cause the price of other things -- like food and clothing -- to go up as well. I know that I will pay more for milk and vegetables at the grocery store because the cost of getting those things onto the shelves will go up with gas prices. I get all that. And while money is definitely tight at Rancho Bikelovejones, as it is in many other places, I am not complaining.
Because the last time gas prices went up this high, people actually paused to consider their transportation choices. And quite a few of them began driving less, and walking or bicycling more. The best part was that I and my co-workers were here to help them figure it out. Back in the summer of 2007, while oil and automotive executives were doing the cockroach on the boardroom floor, it seemed that every third or fourth person coming into the shop was asking about "practical" bikes, bikes that could function as real transportation, because they couldn't afford to drive as much.
And while it's true that the rise in oil prices also drives up the cost of things like rubber (for bike tires and inner tubes) and plastic (for fenders, shifter pods, lights, handlebar grips and so many other things on a bicycle), I am totally okay with that. It is still far cheaper to choose the bike every time, and I get to prove that every damn day when I leave the house and ride my bike somewhere.
Gas hit four bucks a gallon in lots of places around the country this week, and I cannot wait to be of help to the new wave of folks who are ready to consider the bicycle as real transportation. I will welcome them with open arms and a friendly smile, and I will help them to know that driving less and bicycling more is a doable thing, an affordable thing, and a helluva lot of fun.
Dear readers: If you know of someone who is struggling to make this choice, help them. Offer to make them lunch, and take them to the local independent bike shop, and hold their hand while they look at bikes and edge ever closer to choosing the bike as real transportation. When they've gotten their bike, offer to go on rides with them -- for coffee, to the library or movie house, to your house of worship (if applicable). If you ride a bike and your friend sees you enjoying it, chances are s/he'll be more interested in joining you. This is how new transportational bicyclists are born: one at a time, by example.
Four bucks a gallon. If you approach it the right way, it can be music to your ears.