Another Last Mile Problem Solved

Transportation planners talk about something they call “the last mile problem”; the challenge of bridging the gap between a public transit stop and a person’s final destination. Typical solutions include walking, bicycling, and so-called Park-n-Ride lots. Walking is an option for able-bodied individuals, though time and distance can be major drawbacks. For obvious reasons, the Park-n-Ride solution is popular, though it presents a number of issues including neighborhood traffic congestion and limited flexibility. Bicycling combines efficiency with flexibility while solving the congestion problem; arguably, this makes it the best “last mile” solution.

Folding bikes are the perfect solution for a different, less-common type of last mile problem.

Folding bikes are the perfect solution for a different, less-common type of last mile problem. Let’s say a car-lite or car-free person needs to travel to an area that’s not served by transit and is left to drive there. And let’s imagine they have to stay in that location for a few days but they were unable to bring a full-sized bike due to storage issues or lack of a bike rack on a rental car. Typically, a person would have no choice but to use the car more than they’d like. But, with the addition of a tiny folding bike, they can park the car once they’ve made their long trip, and then use the folding bike for getting around the area during their stay. This often overlooked use for a folding bike saves gas, cuts down on emissions, and provides some exercise while on a road trip.

17 Responses to “Another Last Mile Problem Solved”

  • nick says:

    I have to say that if I owned a Folding-Bike I would be very tempted to leave it in the back of my Jeep. Not necessarily out of laziness or not wanting to ride it, but to have it as a back-up plan in the event of a vehicle problem or for random excursions after driving some where like you said Allen. I don’t drive to often seeming I live in a city that I can comfortably get anywhere on bike, bus or walking, but my laziness of leaving my bike polo bike in the back of my jeep has saved me a few times. Ran out of gas(my fault), pulled the bike out, strapped a gas can to the rack, rode to the gas station and back and then was on my way. Alternator died, yet again I was able to pull my bike out, call a tow truck and then ride home from across town. Yes I do have to say my examples were instances of maintenance/operation issues that were faults on my part, but I still feel the concept and convenience of having a bike on board is huge advantage regardless of your situation.

  • Bob G says:

    I agree that a folding bike just gives a person that many more options and flexibility. I’ve been doing a multi-modal commute for nearly a year now combining my folder, light rail and/or car when necessary. The folder does indeed gets me through the “last mile” (in my case, it’s closer to ~2 miles from the light rail to the office). If needed, the folder can take me 20-plus miles comfortably (1-way) and carry all that I need for a day at the office (laptop, clothes and lunch). Definitely worth considering if you have the choice.

    Bob G
    Granite Bay, CA

  • Don says:

    If you have a folding bike anyway, that’s a great idea. Of course, the ideal scenario needs to be weighed against the likelihood of such situations occurring and the cost of folding bikes, which is considerable. If multimodal needs/opportunities abound in one’s life, the investment is sensible, like a lifeboat on the yacht. For more limited budgets, sometimes a bike on a roof or hitch rack will suffice if the bike is modest and the locking options are secure.

    Now, car rental companies may want to consider auxiliary bikes, folding or not, as an option. Even those paying for the ride may choose to be multimodal at the destination if they don’t have to go hunting for a rental bike.

  • Helton says:

    Can’t you take an asymmetric photo of something? lol… :oP

  • Gord says:

    Good point here. I’ve owned a folding bike for 2 years and have enjoyed being able to put it inside, out of the elements, when car-ing and being able to hop on the train and get off anywhere and have transportation.

    BTW, what’s the bike in the photo. Looks sweet!

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    Don, I’m not sure a folding bike really is a lot more expensive than an ordinary bike. A 3-speed Dahon Ciao or Curve costs about the same as an ordinary 3-speed non-folding bike here in Sweden. There are nicer folders, but a Dahon will often do fine.

    Secondly, people have a way of finding uses for their toys. For example it’s often said you need a car for grocery shopping, and the assumption is that you shop weekly for a large family. If you have a smaller family, say two or three people, and if you shop twice a week on the way home from work, a bike will do fine.

    So in my opinion, a folding bike is about as easy or difficult to justify economically as a car.

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    We have this problem a lot and would benefit from folding bikes. And I love Bromptons. The problem is that we would need 2 rather than 1 in order for it to make sense, and can’t afford that right now.

  • Don says:

    @Erik,

    I’ll buy that. I’ve always thought of folding bikes as auxiliary. I guess it’s a matter of the type and location of riding and what one needs overall. None of my LBSs carry folding bikes, so the option is rather abstract to me, and in my circumstances a folding bike is unnecessary. But if the quality and price make trade-offs negligible for one’s type of riding, then why not have your one bike be a folding bike?

  • John B says:

    In a perversion of this, for a while I drove to work but the car park was about 500m from my office, so I packed the brompton in the boot and cycled the last bit.

  • Alan says:

    I’m guessing folding bikes are the most common in urban centers where bike storage is at a premium in small apartments and flats. Ironically, they can be at least as useful for suburbanites who commute using a mixture of transit and biking. They may also be useful for students who need transportation on campus, but may not have secure parking available. I don’t necessarily see them as replacements for non-folding bikes, but if one takes the time to think through all of their potential uses, there are certainly many situations in which they provide great advantages.

    Alan

  • Chris Morfas says:

    One reason I loved our 3-speed folding Breezer was that because of its telescoping seatpost, both 6’1″ me and my 5’1″ kid could ride it. For several years, it was a fun back-up bike for me while providing core transportation for my kid.

  • Will says:

    That’s funny, logistics researchers here in NYC also call a particular trucking problem the “last mile problem.” That is, it’s easy to get goods to warehouses in NJ by truck, but delivering those goods to Manhattan street addresses is an order of magnitude more difficult considering congestion, parking rules, etc. Sorry to ramble off topic…

  • Alan says:

    @Chris

    When I ordered my Brompton, I spec’d a telescoping seatpost for the same reason. Makes for an extremely versatile bike…

    Alan

  • No says:

    I think for ‘a mile’ – which is 15-20 minutes walk, that it can’t really be called a ‘problem’ for any able bodied person. But accepted it’s concept is wider than the absolute statement. And definitely a folding bike sounds like an excellent idea – I really should get one, but I don’t currently _need_ one.

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  • brett says:

    I keep looking for an excuse to covet a folding bike, as they do seem way cool. But since I work at home, live downtown in a bike-friendly city (which means plenty of bike racks, easy bike storage on buses and light rail and streetcar), live on the ground floor of a building with a bike room (so I don’t have to lug it upstairs), and don’t travel that often to places where a bike would be all that useful … I just can’t justify it. Yet. Every time I think about test riding one, I ask myself why I’d want to carry a bike inside when I can leave it locked up on a rack outside wherever I”m going, and in my flat when I’m home.
    So my trusty Oma remains my only steed. But if anyone out there wants to tempt me with rationalizations, by all means tempt away!

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    Brett, bikes don’t always need to be useful. They can just be fun!

    On the other hand, I kind of like your dilemma. Bicycles are simple things and they bring simple pleasures. If you can integrate cycling into your daily routine, you already have the simple pleasures built in. So the maybe fact that you don’t need anything else is just the best problem you can have :)

 
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