Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slowing Down and Saving Gas // Reluctant Motorist

Photo by Becky Simmons
My period of car-freedom in Los Angeles was relatively short. "There's something revolutionary about not having a car in LA," a car-free colleague said to me recently, and I agree with that. The other part of it was that being car-free takes a degree of strategizing, planning, and safety considerations that a typical Southern California upbringing does not teach. I have friends who have grown up in LA without a car, and continue to do so, and someday maybe I'll have that kind of resolve again. Right now, though, I'm really glad I have a functional, right-with-the-law vehicle because it's pretty hard to get out to nature without a car (car-pooling is preferred, of course, unless it's your first time meeting some stranger from a rock climbing website at the crag-- it's okay to trust your life with them on the other end of the rope, not okay to drive together... there's a trace of flawed-ness in my logic, but only a trace).

I sort of made peace with getting a car back in 2009 when my life was pretty erratic and I was regularly traveling between Culver City, East LA, Little Tokyo, Gardena, Bellflower, and Redondo Beach. With the horrendous spike in gas prices, I've been making a game of trying to get the most miles-per-gallon possible.

What I do to maximize my mileage:

Take my foot off the gas. A lot. I coast to toward yellow and red lights so that I don't have to brake as much to stop. I like to also try to time it so that I'll roll close to the intersection just as the light turns green again, and then not have to use my brakes at all! And I gloat a little inside about people who zoom past me and are still trying to get started up again as I ease past them. I rarely, rarely ever use my brakes on the freeway. Whenever I see traffic moving freely and people's brake lights come on, I wonder what the heck is going on. My first memory of being a passenger with someone who used the brakes to slow down on the freeway when just easing off the gas would have done the job was pretty unpleasant.

I thought I had more tricks than that for mileage, but I guess this is my main one. Also, I weigh under 100 pounds most of the time so maybe that's a factor, too. Every little bit counts, no? My car is twelve years old and rated at about 26 average mpg, and I've been getting between 28-30 (maybe a tiny bit more on those longer drives to New Jack City).

My games might be annoying to some people, but as we quickly approach $5/gallon, saving a gallon here and there might be a game more are willing to play.

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