By Kevin Meyer
I just returned from two weeks in India punctuated by the culture shock of going straight to Singapore. Lots to see and think about, and others are right when they say that India will really change you – in many ways. It will take some time to digest what I saw and experienced, but eventually I'll share my thoughts with all of you, like it or not. In the meantime I thought I'd start with something a little less serious – but hopefully still thought-provoking.
Out here in California wine country – and in Texas and innumerable more rural states for that matter – well, heck just about everywhere in the U.S. – the truck is considered the vehicle de regueur. Even in these days of green thinking, high gas prices, and downsizing you still see hoards of huge empty pickups, vans, and SUVs all over the road. When you ask why you usually hear something along the lines of "you never know when I'll need to haul something" or "it's more safe." Some of us have gotten past such mental blocks and have downsized – in my wife's case from an SUV to a hot little Volvo C30. And yes, some do legitimately need to haul stuff, or kids, on a regular basis. I'm not knocking them.
Of course value means different things to different people. For some the value of a quiet ride with lots of space is important. For others there may actually be some strange value in showing off unnecessary wealth. Or value in a lot of extra, perhaps unnecessary, steel around the most valuable parts of their lives.
But seeing the opposite in India made me wonder about this particular waste of transportation – or waste of unnecessary transportation capacity. How much are we spending on "just in case" not to mention even when you do need it it is hauled in a very inefficient manner? Do you need to a big truck to haul a basket of eggs? What is the true cost – to you, your family, your fellow drivers on crammed motorways, to society?
So here are a series of photos. Obviously this is the other extreme and I'm not promoting going that far. But think about it next time you crawl into your big vehicle and then wonder why the traffic is jammed thanks to so many people transporting air.
Let's start with one that truly disturbed me – a mother nursing her baby on the back of a moped going 60 kph without holding on. If you've seen the chaos of Indian traffic you'll know why I was triply concerned.
This type of thing is not unusual – here's an entire family of four on a moped. Note the adults wear the helmets.
How about if you need to move a few inner tubes?
Or a few gifts, perhaps to a bachelorette party?
Or a couple doors? Just get a buddy and your moped, and then make sure you use your cell phone to ask for directions while navigating traffic.
I bet this guy fits more into his school "motortrikepool" than you can fit in your Ford Excursion!
Some milk to take to market?
Or maybe you have just a tad too much for the moped option.
But sometimes maybe even your wife get's a little ticked off that she has to ride on the moped instead of an enclosed vehicle – and of course when the wife's not happy…
So there you have it. Yes a little strange, perhaps a little funny. But think about it next time we're crammed on the highways in big, wasteful, vehicles transporting nothing but cooled air. Who's really advanced for this day and age? Hmm…
Dan Jones says
I love it! These pics remind me of the time I was in Brazil and watched a family of 5 zoom down the road on a motorcycle. I was amazed that they utilized motorcycles for taxi service as well. Yes, it is more “manly” and “tough” to drive a nice big SUV or Truck. I would say it is 95% image and 5% utilization. It is nice to have a friend with a truck when needed.
Sam Hoskins says
That was my experience in Bangkok. I loved the motorcycle taxis. The driver would have a uniform jacket and wear a helmet. The customer would typically be a female office worker, wearing a skirt, and riding side saddle.
That’s the value of culture shock – to see another way.
Jim Fernandez says
Your point is well taken. The U.S. is truly the land of excess. Excess if you choose to be excessive.
On another point look at each picture. And think about them driving on a California road. How far would they get before the police would pull them over for a violation of the law? I’m just saying……. do we have a little too much regulation? Or a few too many laws designed to protect us from ourselves, which forces us to be wasteful?
You see these scenes commonly in Mexico and South America as well. I would guess the price of gas ($6 to fill the tank of a scooter compared to $100 to fill the tank of the SUV) is an incentive.
One reason you won’t see that here: lawyers.
I’m surprised mopeds never caught on here in South Africa. Possibly because apartheid land use located poorer people far from the city centre.
The transport solution that evolved here is the minibus taxi — unsubsidised, cheap, fast, and ubiquitous. And the source of often deadly taxi wars as they contest for the best routes.
I prefer safe modes of transporation, thank you. You call my truck waste, I call it safe.
I’m guessing that very few of the folks cheering this on will switch to riding a moped.
Ask the poor fellows in the pictures which way they would rather have it.
you have to admire their driving skill…believe me, it is not only in India