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The Problem Isn’t Higher Gas Prices, It’s Lack of Choice

10:48 AM EDT on May 11, 2011

Gas prices are a notoriously tricky issue for politicians. That the federal gas tax has remained static since 1993 (and won't be raised this year) is testament to that.

Of course, the hundred-dollar barrel of crude isn't necessarily the end of the world if there's a bus running down your street when you need it, or if you can safely bike to work. So while pundits try to predict how well President Obama will weather the backlash over rising gas prices, the folks at Network blog M-Bike.org point out that there are many more deserving targets of public ire: The decision makers who help ensure that driving is a matter of necessity, not one of choice.

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Have you seen the price of arugula? It can be a pricey green for salads, but fortunately salad eaters have choices. That old iceberg lettuce is never that much money and the more dedicated can often grow their own.

It’s good to have choices. Unfortunately for many of us in Southeast Michigan, when it comes to high gas prices, we don’t have choices — at least in the short run. Much of Southeast Michigan is urban sprawl and car dependent by design with mediocre to no transit options. Except for the most urbanized areas, Southeast Michigan’s walkability and bike ability is mediocre to poor as well...

So while 9% of those recently surveyed blame President Obama for the high gas prices, it’s surprising that local officials that have promoted sprawl are escaping the blame for this automobile dependence. The area’s main sprawl supporter is [Oakland County Executive] L. Brooks Patterson who says: "I love sprawl. I need it. I promote it. Oakland County can’t get enough of it." Yes, believe it or not, that’s actually his quote. Why is he being given a pass?

Those living in sprawling communities have few options in the face of high gas prices. It’s affecting peoples’ quality of life. We have built much of this region in such a way that residents are more vulnerable to the price of oil — and we’re all paying the price. It’s time we held this area’s politicians and planners more accountable and demanded better transportation choices.

Elsewhere on the Network today: How much does driving a car cost? Try about two hours of every workday. That's the portion of income the average American spends owning and maintaining a car, reports Austin on Two Wheels. Meanwhile, Hard Drive picks up some highlights from Ray LaHood's HuffPo interview: The Secretary of Transportation thinks protecting bikers is important, but doesn't consider himself a hipster (or know what a hipster is). And Cycleicio.us reports that the Chinese government has issued a death sentence for a motorist in a fatal hit-and-run cycling collision.

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