The past week in Seattle has been amazing weather. Temperate, sunny, clear skies, clean airâ€¦ Thereâ€™s no better place to be than summer in Seattle. Something is different this year, however, when I look out across Lake Washington. Itâ€™s quiet. There arenâ€™t a lot of waves. There are twice as many kayakers and sailboats and a third as many wake boarders, jet skis, and cigar boats that scream â€œI have low self esteem and a small reproductive organ, so I make up for it with a 12 cylinder engine and 30 feet of un-muffled, water and air polluting speedâ€. The sea-planes are still flying. I have no idea who flies around in sea planes.
Thereâ€™s extra tax to buy gas on the water, so while pump prices for the car are around $4/gallon, to fill your boat at the local marina is more like $6/gallon. Figure that a morning of wakeboarding for three people uses about 8 gallons of fuel, and youâ€™re looking at a pricey morning ritual. Taking the bus and packing a lunch canâ€™t even save that much money.
Needless to say, the last time I was on my wakeboard I was being towed by a kite. There are a lot fewer days with enough wind to kiteboard, but it only takes about 20 for the savings in gas alone to pay for a top-of-the-line kite.
Thatâ€™s a tangent. What I really want to celebrate is that the lake really seems to be less busy, quieter, safer for swimmers, and cleaner. A year ago if I were swimming on a nice day I would be able to taste gasoline in the water from the hundreds of boats zipping back and forth. Itâ€™s a miracle that I wasnâ€™t killed by a drunk or inattentive driver. Iâ€™ve done three open water swims this week, and seen a total of 3 boats go by while Iâ€™ve been in the water. Victor had a boat go between him and the shore â€“ which would have scared the crap out of me (and maybe caused me to go on a witch hunt to get the guys registration info so I could report him to the police) â€“ but thatâ€™s as close as either of us came to any trouble.
I think if high gas prices can clean up the lake, and get people to demand more efficient vehicles, then letâ€™s just tax gas extra and use the money to build more safe bike paths, and public transportation infrastructure. I would love to see $8/gallon gas. Would I see you on the bus if that happened? They have wireless internet on some of the routes in Seattle. Rather than watching brake lights, wouldnâ€™t you rather use your laptop? I want to see gas prices so high that when I walk outside my house at 8am during rush hour Iâ€™m not suffocated by the smell of exhaust from all the cars just sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on the highway (state route 522 is about a block and a half from my house and it WREAKS in the mornings).
Maybe more tolls would help – though Iâ€™m against anything that takes cars off the highway and puts them on side streets because it makes it more dangerous for cyclists. I like Mayor Bloombergâ€™s idea to just make everyone pay a toll when they come into midtown or lower of manhattan. There is plenty of public transportation to the center of the city, so anyone driving in there is lazy.
When we all start looking at people sitting in traffic the way they look at smokers, then weâ€™ll be getting someplace.