Bike Shaped Objects

Funky bikes and news
Q: Can you really replace a car with a bike?

A: Only if you never really needed the car in the first place.

It turns out I’m not one of those people. I need my car, at least on weekends. I don’t drive to work. In order of commonness I ride MUNI, telecommute and ride my bike. The trick is however, that’s just me. I’m only responsible for myself and the contents of my backpack.

On weekends add in a spouse with two artificial knees, a child who is deaf and blind and two dogs. Not exactly an ideal cycling brood. Though I am always looking for ways to decrease my car dependency. Try this. Keep a log of all your trips, driving, riding, walking whatever. Are there any that could have been accomplished with a less intrusive mode of transportation? I did and found that very few of my trips could be done with an alternate means of transport.

The only regular trip I could downsize is taking the dogs to the fenced in dog park in Golden Gate Park. This could be accomplished with a bike trailer. I could also use the bike for solo trips to the grocery store, but since my spouse is the primary shopper and coupon queen these solo trips are pretty rare in the first place.

But lets say I was to give up the car. What kind of bike would I get? That question is in itself part of the problem. We have been trained to think of personal transportation as a singular object. The car. The truck. The bike. That thinking makes sense when talking cars and trucks because they are very expensive machines. We don’t pick the best car for every circumstance we buy one that is a compromise of our most important needs. Of course in the days of yore the standard family usually had a second car to fulfill the more mundane duties.

But what about bikes? I personally have three bikes or four bikes. The first handles everything not listed below. The second is for going really fast. Then a folding bike for RV trips. And finally, maybe, a mountain rat bike that I was building with the idea of selling but I’m starting to fall in love with. That’s four specialized vehicles that combined cost less than a thousand dollars. That’s sixteen thousand dollars less than I paid for my car.

So what other bikes might I need. One option would be a cargo bike, but for me and dogs a trailer would be a better option. The everyday bike has a triple chain set so I’ve got the granny gears for hauling heavy. Weather? That’s a tough one. I have this fantasy about getting a electric-assist enclosed velomobile with room for the wife, kid and dogs, but given the hills in San Francisco and that I’d be the only one pedaling that would have to be one hell of a motor. A full electric car seems a more practical and safer option, but even full electric cars are still dependent on the grid, so that’s only a baby step in the right direction.

So I’m not a candidate for freedom from cars. Does that mean nobody is? Of course not. I know bike-only people. I even know walk or mass transit only people. For a single person, or even a young healthy family it’s entirely possible. It’s just not right for me.


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