I was all eyes when I read the following anecdotes from Gurmit Singh published in the The Sun yesterday.
A cyclist can travel about 5 km on the energy of one egg
A person walking would require three eggs to go the same distance
A loaded bus requires the equivalent of about two dozen eggs for each person it carries for 5 km
A typical car requires the equivalent of seven dozen eggs to carry one person 5 km
Even if you double the fuel efficiency of the car, and double the occupancy, the car would still use the equivalent of 21 eggs to make the trip – more than 20 times a bicycle
I don’t know if that will give you a picture that all of us can visualize and understand. An American friend of mine was telling me how his son was not able to comprehend it if he were to tell him (his son) that it costs him such and such dollars to send him (his son) to the university every year. His son didn't have the feel for the numbers. Then, he started telling him that yearly it cost him one ‘car’ to educate him and the end of each year, he would just take the car and ramp it against a concrete wall and totalled it and then replace it with a new car each year. Now, for a teenager in the US, that is a lingo that they can comprehend. They know the value of a car. (Although it backfired on him when his son asked him to buy him the car instead of going for the degree!)
Hopefully the eggs will do it for us here.
Let me tell you this.
It is not the Malaysian culture to walk or jog or cycle. (“Hahaha, that fat guy is trying lose weight", you would hear them whisper if you were to jog or “That family must be very poor for not having a second car. His wife had to walk to the shop. Pity her for marrying that poor guy.”)
We park our car at the nearest point to the entrance, or elevator. If we could park our cars inside our offices, or home, or shops we were going to, trust me we would. We would go round and round the block to find that nearest parking spot. (if we can't find it, then we double park!) When we visit someone, we would prefer to park our car in front of his gate. If his is not available, his neighbour's gate would be a good alternative! The objectives are two folds: show off our gleaming new car, and walk less.
We don’t climb stairs. We prefer to exercise our index finger by pressing the button so that the little steel box will take us one floor down. Yes, one floor down!
We complain about hot KL is nowadays and how things were much comfortable in the old days. What do you expect when we have created micro-climate in our cars, homes and offices with our airconditioner? Do you expect our environment will get cooler this way? A favourite question in first year chemical engineering exam – Can you cool down your room by using a refrigerator?
That bulge on your stomach or the spare tyre is a sign of prosperity, and proud of it.
But don’t blame ourselves only, the responsibility lies too with the city planners (read: government) to create a conducive environs for all of us.
KL is not meant for walking. You will shorten your life span if you were to do that – pollutions, motorcyclists
And if you think our suburbs are any better, your are sadly mistaken. They are not meant for walking either. In my neighbourhood, you have to start your car to drive your kids to school 400 m away, you drive to the mosque 100 m away and you drive to the shop 900 m away. Prof Tajuddin (the maverick architect from UTM’s School of Architecture), you are so right!
Housing developers will go at length to sell you a house with a porch that can fit in two cars side by side, even if that is the only reason to buy the house. And as if that's the only reason you and I buy houses - for our cars. Nevermind the location, the location or the location of the house - noting the mantra of the properties guru.
There is a reason why they did that. The government wants you to buy more cars so that you pay more taxes. They can't tax you for walking.
I don't think I need to list down what are needed for our suburbs. That has been discussed by many like Dr Tajuddin. Let me end this with another quote that will give us some perspective of the title I had chosen for this piece.
"Dont get me wrong. I love nuclear energy! It's just that I prefer fusion to fission. And it just so happens that there is an enormous fusion reactor safely banked several million miles away from us. It delivers more than we could ever use in just about 8 minutes. And it's wireless!"
William McDonough, Fortune Brainstorm Conference, 2006