Car-Free Living?

Background Reading

This rather revealing discussion (supposed not bike-related) took place. Here is how it was introduced:

Posted by h’ 1.0 on October 3, 2014 at 2:32pm
I ‘rented‘ a car through relayrides to get up to a family affair in the N suburbs, but I’m drawing a blank on what else I should try to get done while I have it (besides drive to the things I’d normally bike or transit to.)

So– for you carfree folks– what would be your top priority to get done if you had use of a car for a weekend?

The replies were even more revealing than the introduction:

Reply by rwein5 16 hours ago
Drive my bike out to quiet rural roads for a long ride through the fields.

Reply by h’ 1.0 16 hours ago
Thanks, rwein. Unfortunately cycling in and of itself hasn’t been enjoyable for me for a bunch of years due to lack of scientific advances in pain medication….

Reply by KayCee 16 hours ago
Need anything from Ikea?? Or go to a pumpkin patch? I usually wind up doing a Costco run when I have a car rented- TP and Paper Towels and such that take up a lot of space on the bike. I like rwein5’s idea better though.

Reply by h’ 1.0 16 hours ago
I was thinking about IKEA. Haven’t been there in many years now. My family thing is in Grayslake so I could combine trips possibly if I were to somehow get my rear in gear early enough on Saturday.

Reply by David P. 16 hours ago
Bulk shopping! I’m not car-free (in fact, I have three and dream of more), but while I do almost all of my shopping by bike, my car is handy for periodic trips to Target (substitute Costco if you have a membership) for large-volume or heavy stuff.
If the car in question is a convertible, nice fall drives in the country 🙂
David

Reply by Duppie 16 hours ago
Get bulky stuff at a home improvement store. The dstuff that is to hard to carry on a bike and cannot be shipped.

Reply by Jaik S. 15 hours ago
Lumber & maybe ikea.

Reply by Tom A.K. 15 hours ago
Stock up on bulkier items from the big box stores. Get logs for the fireplace. I’m trying to get a Craftsman 21″ single stage Snowblower for this winter’s coming blizzards to clear the property’s sidewalks. My back got hurt shoveling the past couple of winters and it affected my spring bike rides. And yes, visit relatives in the boonies that mostly have to come into the city to visit. Then act like any ‘cager’ would act. NOT !

Reply by Cheryl 14 hours ago
Costco, pumpkin patch or apple orchard.

Reply by Haddon 13 hours ago
I would go to Starved Rock. Its awesome.

Reply by Louis K 9 hours ago
How about a nice, long walk? Don’t spoil your weekend sitting in traffic just because you can.

Reply by KevinM 9 hours ago
Walgreens drive through

Reply by h’ 1.0 9 hours ago
Well, it’ll be the second time I have a car this year; just wanting to make sure I don’t forget something and need one a third time.

Reply by Matt M. 18.5KM 9 hours ago
Construction, interior decoration, remodeling (again construction) and yeah, bulk shopping.

Reply by Anne Alt 6 hours ago
Botanic Garden? Volo Bog?

Reply by Jerry Lee 24 minutes ago
This weekend I would go to Schaumburg and see the Hobby show, too far to bike and no public transportation avail. Wish it was still in Rosemont convention center.

Summary

Simple Solution to Complicated Problems

Simple Solution to Complicated Problems

My first reaction to this thread was to wonder why the ‘True Believers‘ would be stooping to the use of an automobile for something as inconsequential as a ride to visit relatives in the North Suburbs. But it seems to me that some of the realties of 21st Century life are bearing down on those for whom the bicycle is the Simple Solution.

Well to begin with nothing is simpler than turning over pedals to reach a destination unless you are of course ‘in pain‘. So aging and nagging injuries are going to be obstacles to having the lowly bicycle be the replacement for something as ‘evil‘ as the automobile. That has to be a bit of a sore point for True Believers.

Riding In The Cornfields?

To listen to the general defense of city living one would get the feeling that it is the proximity to the things we call necessities as well as luxuries that endear urban dwelling to the True Believers. So why rent an automobile to carry your bike to the Boonies to then ride through farm land?

Cargo Space Is Limited?

Gathering toilet paper and paper towel seem to mundane for the likes of the True Believers. I was under the impression that the countless Roll Calls had sufficiently boosted the presence of the venerable Cargo Bike in Chicago. Evidently not.

But this brings up another point, and that is the bicycles do not ‘scale up‘ very well.

If you think about it most people have more than one bicycles. That includes people who are in fact unmarried and live alone. Why is that?

Well, if you are likely to ride with a group on invitational routes and need to be speedy, that calls for one kind of bike frame. Generally plastic with a bit of carbon fiber sheeting to provide rigidity and really unsuitable tires for all but the smoothest of roads.

But if you need to ride back and forth to work that sort of bike is impractical. So you need either a beater with room for wide tires and racks or perhaps you can afford a really nice Atlantis or H. Homer Hilsen and thus ride in style. But neither of these alternatives really ‘cuts it‘ when trying to haul home sheet rock or lumber or rock salt or much of anything else is needed.

For that you would need a cargo bike. And eventually it turns out that ‘the garage space you saved‘ when you went ‘car-free‘ is crammed full of bikes hanging from the rafters or piled against the wall where your car once sat. In fact cargo bikes and tandems tend to take up as much space as a car, which is really curious. If you have more than one tandem you have got to find a fair amount of space to store your stable of bikes.

Now Here’s The thing…

Organic Transit Elf Model

Organic Transit Elf Model

Over time everyone ages. Buying a bicycle for each and every single ‘distinct‘ kind of riding you do is impractical. You do not see mentioned in the list above bikes like the Organic Transport Elf. You should have.

But this is a vehicle that represents a level of commitment that is rare. Yet it offers an ideal option for urban living which is both human powered and has electric-assist. And to really make things wonderful the battery is charged via a flexible solar panel.

In fact this model is supposed to be capable of toting loads that weigh-in at 250 lbs! But as you can see they take up as much space as a small automobile.

Being ‘Car-Free’ Is More Of A Mind-Set Than Anything Else

What this thread says to me is that when it comes to those simple issues like visiting folks at a distance or hauling around bulky stuff, the automobile is still the best option. There will never be a chance to take public transportation to any place you desire to go.

There will always be some under-served location where a car is the only convenient way to reach the folks you want to see. And then of course there is the fact that it takes time to pedal to a remote location. I judge that on average most folks will need one hour’s travel time for each ten miles travelled. I have found this to be a reliable gauge of travel rates for most groups.

In the ‘real world‘ which is that place where even ‘True Believers‘ are stuck a bicycle can never be more than a ‘stop gap‘ in your multi-modal strategy for transport. And that is how it really should be. I think this nonsense about being ‘car-free‘ makes about as much sense in the long run as being ‘unhooked‘ to the internet.