For the most recent issue of Spacing (coming out next week) I reviewed a book by Mary Soderstrom called The Walkable City. It’s full of interesting nuggets of information, and here is one of them: American scientists have worked out that it takes almost a billion gallons of fuel a year to drive around the extra weight Americans have gained on average since 1960. At present gas prices (the study was done in 2006 when they were comparable to today’s recession-cut prices), that’s billions of dollars worth of fuel.
Between 1960 and 2002, the average weight of Americans increased an astonishing 24 pounds. The scientists only looked at passenger vehicle travel, and used 2003 statistics to determine how many people travelled and for what distances. They calculated that it took no less than 938 million gallons of gasoline to carry around the extra weight, compared to what it would have taken if people weighed what they did in 1960.
It’s yet another hidden cost of building car-dependent communities that both reduce physical fitness and increase driving.
Canadians have not experienced quite as much average weight gain, but it has still increased significantly since 1960, so the study would apply to some extent here as well.
Photo by guuleed.