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BC – We’re Just a Bunch of Gas Guzzling Idiots

3 July 2010 26,272 views No Comment

A recent study by the Seattle-based Sightline Institute shows that in 2009 British Columbia binged on fuel consumption. Per capita gas consumption rose by 10% – the highest year-over-year consumption increase in the last 30 years.

Rationalize this in any way you want, it just shows that British Columbians, by and large, just don’t seem to give a damn about the environment and conservation. The economy goes into a bit of a dive, gas prices get cheap, and we just give up on more fuel efficient means of transportation.

A couple of years ago, the economy was good and gas prices were high. Scooter and electric bike sales were skyrocketing. You would like to think this was due to a heightened awareness and caring for the environment but now, seeing the 2009 figures, there are serious doubts. We’re still just a bunch of gas guzzling idiots as long as the price is not too high.

Thankfully, the BC government had the foresight to introduce a carbon tax. Prices may be driven to the point where people will consider conservation. One hoped that people would act based on environmental consciousness and not just economics – but 2009 gas consumption statistics show otherwise.

In the days ahead, we hope federal, provincial, and municipal governments will look at innovative measures to encourage transportation modes such as scooters and electric bikes. These are important, and somewhat overlooked transportation modes that fall in between the bicycle and the automobile. Cheaper parking, purchase incentives, allowance in HOV lanes, etc. will all help to encourage more sustainable transportation modes. We also need to get more innovative in insurance and licensing requirements.

Licensing. Scooters up to 150cc should be able to be ridden with a standard driver’s license. Currently, motorists are restricted to 50cc scooters unless they have a motorcyclist license. By doing this, the scooter would be a much more viable commuting mode for  British Columbians who need the ability to commute at up to 80 kph. It is also safer to be able to drive a scooter that is able to keep up to the traffic flow. Many scooterists buy a 50cc scooter even if they are heavy, have hilly routes, or double ride – they cannot keep up to the traffic flow, The 50cc licensing rule causes them to buy a scooter that is not as safe as a larger one that is no more difficult to ride( and still no speed demon).

Since scooters are all automatic (no gears to shift), and the brakes are just like a bicycle, they are simple and safe to ride. BC’s own accident statistics bear out that scooters are a very safe mode of transportation.

Parking. Come on people..let’s get with it. Allow a scooter to pay a small annual fee for a parking decal that allow them to park in a number of designated areas, meter, and even some sidewalk areas. Cities like Toronto and Portland have done these things with great success. And for property developers – maybe the addition of scooter parking stalls may get you a variance on the number of expensive parking spaces you have to have in your project.

Insurance must get cheaper to allow multi-modal commuting. If you have a car, you should be able to pay a small additional insurance fee to also cover a scooter as long as it is not being used at the same time as the car. We need some innovative ideas to allow commuters to be multi-modal – choosing the best tool for the job on any given day.

So what can we do to get governments to push us in the right direction?  Clearly, if  left to our own means, we’ll just keep on being a bunch of gas guzzling idiots.

As always – we invite your comments.

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