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Busy folk need to drive cars

Charles Siegel
Saturday December 01, 2001


Downtown Berkeley needs more parking. I drive to the downtown YMCA every day to exercise for a half hour on a stationary bicycle. Some days, I have to park three or four blocks away, and I have to walk before exercising. 

Some environmentalists might claim that, if I can use the stationery bicycle, I can also bicycle to downtown. But bicycling to downtown would take me an extra 15 minutes each way. I’m very busy, and I can’t spare that extra half hour getting to downtown in addition to the half hour I spend exercising. 

Environmentalists don’t seem to realize that people need cars. Just the other day, I saw an elderly woman with two disabled children and six bags of Christmas presents driving through downtown. Do you expect her to take the bus? 

Those environmentalists make some pretty wild claims. 

They say that there are thousands of healthy people who drive to downtown one-to-the-car, and that if we used alternative transportation, there would be plenty of parking for people who really need to drive. 

They say that there are proven ways of shifting people to alternatives that Berkeley has not tried, such as employee parking cash-outs. They say that Americans drive four times as much as western Europeans and nine times as much as Japanese. 

They even say that we don’t have a moral right to drive as much as we do. 

World petroleum production will peak soon, dislocating the world economy and causing real pain to the world’s poor, because Americans demand the luxury of driving everywhere they go. Global warming has already begun, and we are leaving future generations a less livable planet, because we demand to drive everywhere we go. 

I have one answer for people who talk about the welfare of future generations. To quote a recent letter to the Daily Planet from someone who lives within easy walking distance of downtown, “Berkeley should be a town where residents can drive their cars, and enjoy shopping and a movie.” 

I do care about the environment. If the automobile manufacturers would just produce a fuel-efficient vehicle that has as much cargo room as my Ford Explorer, I would buy one. In fact, I care so much about the environment that I would buy two or three. 

Charles Siegel