Oregonian blogger Jeff Mapes has noticed some strange bumper stickers showing up in Portland this summer. Their message: "One Less Prius."
"I figured it had to be from [a] V-8 pickup-loving, red-meat conservative scoffing at smug urban liberals," Mapes writes. "Nope. It's from an L.A. bicycle activist who says it's not good enough to just shift to a hybrid."
The bike activist, who calls himself simply "Matt," blogs that "buying a Prius and making no other changes in how one travels every day in a city is not a paradigm shift. Cars are environmentally and socially damaging in many ways beyond fuel use. The energy and resources required to build and ship them, the destruction the space created for automobiles does, the separation of being in a 2,000 pound box, etc. And many hybrids drivers use it as an excuse to just drive more often! To a cyclist, a Prius is just a small Hummer." (Italics in original.)
"Buying a Prius and not making any fundamental changes, i.e. walking, biking, public transit, etc, is easy and non-threatening," Matt continues. "What makes that worse is the smugness of hybrid drivers, as if what they are doing requires great risk or vulnerability. On my bike I risk my life every day for what I believe is the right thing to do."
Congratulations, Matt - if you give me your address I'll send you a medal. I think I have one from my high school debate team in a drawer somewhere.
I can see Matt's point, though, sort of. But wait a minute - doesn't it also take a lot of raw materials and energy to manufacture a bike and transport it to the point of sale? Doesn't it have to be lubricated with petroleum byproducts and occasionally supplied with new tires made from rubber?
Clearly, traveling on foot is the only REALLY environmentally responsible way to go. Somebody needs to come out with tiny stickers to attach to the heels of Birkenstocks that say "One Less Bicycle."
But wait a minute again - doesn't it require energy and raw materials to make a pair of Birks and ship them all the way from Germany? So I guess if we want to be really, truly, completely eco-friendly and politically correct, going barefoot is the only option. The truly environmentally aware could walk around with stickers on their heels that say: "One Less Pair of Shoes."
This could be pretty rough on the feet in Bend in the winter. But what the hell - isn't it worth the sacrifice of a few toes to save Mother Earth?