The reason why this comment about European gas prices annoys me so is that I lived in Europe in the Eighties and again in the early Nineties. In fact, I lived in Europe so long, I didn't have a driver's license or own an automobile until AFTER I came home from living over there simply because life is set up over there in such a way that it really isn't completely necessary. Let me explain.
When I need to go to the store here in my area, I have to decide if I am going to walk up to the mini mart a mile away (which has $5 gallons of milk, a selection of last year's VHS movies, some candy, lots of alcohol, a potpourri of the basic groceries, and some really awesome pizza), or I can drive 15 miles to the nearest grocery store which is a bit better stocked, or I can drive 20 miles to the larger, better stocked and more affordable grocery store, and sometimes I drive 30 miles to the bulk food store to stock up(every few months). Needless to say, we carefully plan out our trips to the store, and don't just run out to the store the minute we need something, especially with the gas prices.
We even live close to our church, and we decided that when the weather
is nice we should walk, but it isn't easy. The walk requires us to walk
down a busy stretch of road with a narrow shoulder, no sidewalks, and
swampy ditches on either side of the road....with five kids in tow.
When I lived in Europe, working as an Au Pair for a family, I went shopping daily. I put the child in the stroller, walked 1/4 mile to the meat market and grocers, and did our shopping, then walked home. sometimes we walked 4 miles to downtown Salzburg, where we shopped at the large fruit and veggie market in a pedestrian zone, or at a specialty shop, or if the weather was inclement, we used the bus.
Yes, I seriously was the Au pair of one mild-mannered 2 year old child in scenic Salzburg. It was a tough job but someone had to do it ;).
I've lived in Rural Austria, in Krems (a medium sized town on the Danube), in Vienna, and in the outlying areas of Salzburg Austria....and lived without a car or a chauffeur. I only rode in a car when someone invited me along for something...or on our once-every-few-months major shopping trip to the big grocery store. When we did use a vehicle, the design of the cities seemed to be designed to frustrate drivers, with the narrow roads, one way streets, scant (and expensive!) parking, traffic reminiscent of my nightmarish road trip to Chicago 13 years ago, and most of the time you were still hoofing it quite a distance, as you didn't just park in front of the store very often as you do here in the land that Ford built.
How did I get around? Bike...Walking...O-Bus in Salzburg and U-Bahn (subway) in Vienna and the back of a friend's Vespa (moped) in rural Austria...The occasional train trip or car ride with a friend. I thusly travelled all over Austria...sans automobile...and in fact all over much of Central Europe...including Prague, Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Rotterdam, northern Italy, Rome, and so forth.
There are many aspects of life in America that I prefer over life in Austria, such as 7-11's, 24 hour grocery stores, an openness towards the things of God when talking to others about Christ (by comparison), and our taxes being much lower...to say nothing of Freedoms we often take for granted.
That said, there are aspects where I wish I was living in Europe again...such as being able to live easily without a car, getting a decent Cappachino and delicious fresh bread that I didn't have to bake myself, and people whose company I enjoy immensely (not necessarily in that order).
European cities, and even smaller towns, seem to have been designed with pedestrians, bike riders, and "community" in mind. It took a while to get used to riding a bike on the street with traffic, because doing the same in America would be asking to be hit...I'd have been a bug on someone's windshield in my hometown of Detroit.
American cities, small towns, and rural areas, I am guessing, were designed by the marketing division over at the Big Three Automakers (I'm being sarcastic of course...but it does seem that way sometimes doesn't it?). There are a few urban areas (out of my price range LOL) where there is more of a European model at work, but by and large, Americans are more dependant on cars not just because we are in love with the automobile (in my case, can I say, I HATE DRIVING and would give it up in a minute if it wasn't a necessity?), but because most of our society is not designed with pedestrians, bikes, mopeds and vespas, or public transportation in mind. Having lived in several urban and suburban areas of America, our public transportation is no where near as user-friendly or practical as it is in European cities, if it exists at all. Even the Eastern Block Countries, just a few months after the fall of communism, had better public transport in place. Prague's subway system blew me away.
My husband drives 60 miles one way to work each day. Not because he likes to (would you? ugh!), but because we are having a bit of an economic downturn here in the Great Lake State, and this is all the employment we could find. Move closer? Can't sell the house, and can't afford the houses near where he works. It's a quandry. Thankfully he carpools with other men in the same predicament.
A friend in Europe was horrified at this fact, and suggested he take the bus. Take the bus? BUS?? what bus? Sure, we have a bus..I think...I've seen it maybe three times in the ten years I've lived here, and the only bus stop I've seen is about 10 miles from here....but it doesn't go near where we need it to go. And it's too far to walk, too far to bike, and I don't think a Vespa would work either.
So, is it a good thing that we have European style gas prices? I wouldn't complain if someone could also provide us with a bus around here...or even some sidewalks! Keep that in mind when you hear that.