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My daughters are learning to drive. With all three of my kids it seems like learning to drive has meant learning to see the world around them in a way they’ve just never looked at it before. They notice signs and details that they’ve never bothered to pay attention to. (Or they don’t notice signs and details and I’m sitting on the passenger side, white knuckled, yelling “Red light! That a RED light!!!”)

The other day as my daughter was driving me on an errand (in order to get the driving hours she needs to apply for a license), we were stopped at a light behind a car with a “Choose Life” license plate. She asked me what that meant. (Does the fact that she had no clue mean that her head has been in the sand? Or has the abortion debate finally been pushed off of the political radar as other issues take the fore?) I decided that was a teachable moment that I should take advantage of.

I explained that the slogan was used as an anti-abortion/pro-life statement. But that it could also mean choosing life in other ways as well — like choosing to eat organic so that the workers out in the fields picking our food aren’t sprayed with pesticides that might cause cancer, or birth defects, or spontaneous abortions. (In other words, abortions don’t just happen in clinics. There are other choices that we make that can affect whether a baby somewhere else lives or dies.)

Since that conversation we had in the car, I’ve been thinking more and more about that slogan — “Choose Life.” It’s a great phrase. (Biblical even, seeing as it was taken from Deuteronomy 30:19.) And although it’s been co-opted to frame one side of the abortion debate, I think it could also be used to frame transportation discussions as well.

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When you’re traveling (whether by bicycle or by car), choosing life means being aware of your surroundings, obeying all traffic laws, and using caution and patience as your most important travel tools.

But even in thinking through how you’re going to get somewhere, you can choose life by trying to shift as much of your travel time as possible to a sustainable form of transportation. The less gasoline we use as a community means the less money we’re sending out to Wyoming, Texas, or Saudi Arabia for fuel, making our community more economically sustainable. The smaller the vehicle we put on the road, the less wear and tear on the pavement, leading to fewer tax dollars being used towards repaving, which means we can be spending that money on parks, mental health services, and in other areas that will improve our quality of life.

There’s also the health benefits of switching travel from motorized to non-motorized forms of transport. Walking, biking, skateboarding, etc. all help to get that blood pumping. Even taking the bus can be a more healthful option than driving a car because there’s usually a bit of walking involved on either end of that bus ride. And choosing the healthy option certainly fits with the theme to Choose Life.

And there’s the environmental benefits of shifting travel to sustainable modes. When we pollute less and use fewer natural resources, we’re not just valuing the lives of the people in the community, but the animals, the landscapes, and the natural systems as well. It’s a whole ecosystem view of choosing life.

So the next time you see one of those “Choose Life” license plates, let it be a reminder to you to choose life as you make your day-to-day transportation decisions — whether it means making a different choice as to which vehicle to use, or it means operating that vehicle in a way that’s going to consider the lives of those around you as you travel the streets.

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Deuteronomy 30:19 “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”