I envy people who live a 100% car-free lifestyle. They have it easy this time of year; when the weather is rotten, they have no choice but to buck up and head out on their bikes. On the other hand, car-lite people like us are tortured by the constant temptation to take the easy way out and hop in the car when it’s miserable outside. To improve our odds of overcoming the urge to wimp out, we try to always make it convenient and easy to hop on the bikes by doing the following:
- We park our bikes inside, near an exit door. Keeping the bikes within plain sight is a constant reminder to use them. Parking them near an exit door makes riding more convenient. Plus, an unridden bike always looks a little sad and adds to the guilt. ;-)
- We store our cold weather gear, helmets, and bags near the bikes. This eliminates the need to go hunting every time we head out.
- We have duplicate cold weather garments in case we fall behind on laundry.
- We keep our bags, panniers, tool kits, lights, water bottles, and whatever else, on the bikes and ready to go.
- We perform bike maintenance on a regular schedule. This includes topping off tires, charging batteries, lubing chains, and keeping the bikes clean. A flat tire or a squeaky chain is just another unwelcome excuse to take the car.
Besides trying to always make riding the convenient choice, we also try to encourage each other when the going’s a little rough. And when we get a break in the weather, we always take the opportunity to go for a joy ride for the sheer pleasure of it, because keeping it enjoyable is probably the best motivator of all.
The New York Times has included an article on “Bicycle Highways” in their 9th Annual Year In Ideas piece. From the article:
In October 2008, an association of U.S. state-highway officials approved the concept of a national Bicycle Routes Corridor Plan —the first step in potential American bike Interstates. But this amounts to little more than a go-ahead for states to put bike-route signs on existing roads.
As much as it sounds like an appealing idea, bicycle infrastructure expert Jan Gehl says building bicycle highways before providing proper infrastructure at street level is backwards. Again, from the NYT article:
“Some cities will go for the bicycle highways and let people fend for themselves once they reach the city,” he says. “You get off the highway, and then you’re in the desert. In Copenhagen we have first irrigated the desert, then built the highways.”
Read the article →
The UPS regional office in Silicon Valley has employed around two dozen bike delivery people to deliver packages during the busy holiday season. As an alternative to their usual solution of renting Budget trucks, the office purchased a fleet of bikes with trailers this past year to handle the holiday overflow. The bikes will save UPS approximately $45,000 to $50,000 in fuel and maintenance costs while reducing pollution and creating goodwill in the community. Good stuff.
Via Mercury News →
From the EPA website:
On December 7, 2009, the Administrator signed two distinct findings regarding greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act:
- Endangerment Finding: The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases–carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)–in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.
- Cause or Contribute Finding: The Administrator finds that the combined emissions of these well-mixed greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution which threatens public health and welfare.
EPA Climate Change Webpage →
What a pleasure it is, when you’ve been locked up inside due to bad weather, to take a bike ride to a coffee shop on the first sunny day in weeks, and sit outside sipping coffee and basking in the glow. Ahhh.
We briefly tried fostering dogs for a local rescue organization but we found it impossible to continue because we too quickly became attached; continuing would have meant a house full of dogs and a visit from the County. Dogs are wonderful, living creatures, and we’re certainly not saying they’re in any way comparable to inanimate objects like bicycles, but testing bikes can sometimes be analogous to fostering dogs: some you just can’t let go and end up becoming a permanent part of your life; others you let go, but not without a measure of regret; and some you can hardly wait to get packed up and out the door (don’t ask ;-)).
We sometimes question all this shipping bikes back-and-forth across the country. We’ve even talked about giving up road tests altogether, though we’ve managed to talk ourselves out of it. Our hope (rationalization?) is that our road tests provide a much-needed platform for what are generally under-marketed transportation bikes. Our thinking is that if we promote bikes that function well as car replacements, more people will be successful in their attempts at going car-lite or car-free, which in turn will encourage further sales of these types of bikes, which in turn will make for more success on the road, and so on in an upward spiral. We’re probably giving ourselves way too much credit for having an influence, but at minimum we hope our positive impact on bicycle use offsets the negative environmental impact of shipping our road test loaners across the country.
I’m fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to ride an extremely wide variety of bicycles over the past few years, including everything from recumbent tandems, to belt-drive commuters, to compact folders, to English roadsters. A high percentage of these bikes were well-designed and a pleasure to ride. All were limited in some way, because no one bike is appropriate for every use, but most came close to meeting the criteria set forth by their designers, which in my opinion qualifies them as successful designs.
Where things go awry is when we (us riders/consumers) mis-match a bicycle with a use. For example, a recumbent tandem is a lovely bicycle for day-tripping in the country, but it makes a lousy commuter or city bike. A carbon fiber racer is perfect for racing (go figure), but it’s a complete failure as a loaded touring bike (go figure again). And I’d venture to say that I won’t see a lugged-steel touring bike on the podium at Alpe d’Huez in my lifetime… ;-)
I see an awful lot of mud being thrown around the i-net at various bike-types, materials, and brands. In my opinion, much of this criticism is mis-placed because of our proclivity to judge any bicycle only in the context of how we’d personally use it, instead of taking into consideration the goals of the designer and how he/she intended the bike should be used. Judging a bike in the context of its intended use (and considering its intended audience), then comparing it to other bikes intended for the same use, is the only way to get a true measure on the success of a design. Anything short of this is just conjecture and personal preference (something we have plenty of around here, too).