The Right Tool for the Job

My employer is relocating their offices to the core of downtown Sacramento near the Capitol. Frankly, I’m not excited about moving from the historic brick schoolhouse that I’ve worked in for the past eight years to a modern high-rise cube farm in the city center. But there is a silver lining; I’m using the move as a catalyst to shift from a combination of telecommuting and driving, to multimodal commuting via bus, train, and bike. In the process we’re eliminating a car (we’ll now be a 1-car family of 5). Besides being the right thing to do in regards to the environment and our dependence on foreign oil, it’s the equivalent of giving myself an $8,000-$10,000 a year raise.

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A major issue with many mass transit systems is what is called the “Last Mile Problem”. As Bike Friday’s Alan Scholz describes it, “In personal transit terms, it’s the problem of getting from your house to your bus or train stop, and from there to the office and vice versa – twice a day, when it’s just that little too far to walk.”

My new 60-mile round-trip commute will involve around 12 “last miles”. My plan is to cover those transit gaps on either end by bicycle. Our trains and buses have only limited space for bikes and there’s no guarantee of getting a slot on the racks. Plus, the bike parking at my company’s new location is only marginally secure in a fairly high-crime neighborhood. The solution? A folding bike to carry on the bus and store under my desk during the workday.

The way I see it, a folding bike for regularly carrying on-and-off of buses and in-and-out of elevators needs to collapse down to a clean package no larger than a small suitcase, do it in under 30 seconds, and weigh no more than 25lbs.

The way I see it, a folding bike for regularly carrying on-and-off of buses and in-and-out of elevators needs to collapse down to a clean package no larger than a small suitcase, do it in under 30 seconds, and weigh no more than 25lbs. After much research and hand-wringing I ended up with a Brompton S3L. It’s a compact folder with 16″ (349mm) wheels and a quick fold, that rides very much like a full-sized upright bike (albeit on the “twitchy” side due to the small wheels and compact wheelbase). The most impressive aspect of the Brompton is the folded package; at 22″x22″x10″, it’s the most compact of the conventional folders. With a nylon slip cover pulled over the bike, the package looks more like a musical instrument or suitcase, a good thing when transit or building rules bar the entrance of bicycles.

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