Just for fun, here are a few numbers I measured this morning, in an effort to make my blog a little more precise:
70 pounds — the unloaded weight of my Hammer Truck, battery, motor, bags, lights, etc. That’s actually somewhat heavier than I expected. And that doesn’t include the canvas shopping bags, rain cover, bike lock, water bottle, bungee cords, and other things I keep in the side bags for easy access. No wonder I feel a little weak when I turn off the motor (only occasionally) and try pedaling up our hill.
30 pounds — the weight of my non-powered bicycle for comparison. But I almost never ride it if the cargo bike is available.
10% grade — the incline of the road in front of our house.
18% grade — the incline on the steepest section of road on our way to school every morning. It lasts for about 100 yards. When I’m hauling a 70-pound kid and 20 pounds of books and instruments up that part of the hill, the motor and the human are both close to their limits. This is when you begin to appreciate the miracle of cars. Just press that accelerator a bit more towards the floor, and 10 times the mass of my load leaps up the hill at 5 times the speed. But that challenge only lasts for 100 yards, and most people don’t have 18% inclines in their daily routes. The 10% grade feels more reasonable, as you can see in the first part of my Electric Cargo Bike video (http://mycargobike.net/2010/05/06/cargo-bike-video), where I haul my son and his stuff around the corner and up the hill.
7 months — the length of time I’ve been riding my bike down that hill, often with two kids as passengers, without any brake replacements or adjustments. I think that is the best aspect of the BionX regenerative braking system. I’m just beginning to think that an adjustment might be necessary in the next month or two. My wife wore the brake pads on her traditional bike down to the metal in that same span of time.
Good news: I’ve found an owner as well as two local bike shops who have the Kona Electric Ute. I hope to take it for a test drive this weekend at a local sustainability faire!
Cars are comfortable. Cars are practical. But this comes at a cost. Worldwide it was estimated in 2004 that 1.2 million people were killed (2.2% of all deaths) and 50 million more were injured by motorists. That’s a lot of carnage. Why does this happen?
A lot of accidents are caused by frustrated people in a hurry who forget that they are operating heavy machinery. People who would use the utmost caution operating a table saw will think nothing of flinging their massive tools of transportation at babies in strollers crossing the street. And they generally add insult to injury by honking at the parents.
The other day I was studying how people interact at the grocery store. The store was pretty crowded and some people were growing frustrated with their ability to get their shopping done on schedule. Occasionally I would see one of them tailgate a slower-moving patron and then zoom ahead in a huff. At first I thought it was funny seeing their little dramas, but then I realized that this is the same behavior I’ve seen on the streets, and it’s behavior that has seriously threatened my life. It’s one thing to bump into someone with your 30 pound grocery cart. You can apologize and move on. But it’s a different matter to roll over them with your 3000 pound grocery cart. And yet people approach these two situations with the same inconsiderate behavior. Scary.
You motorists might argue “Well I’ve never killed or maimed anyone personally. Don’t get all in a snit about it!” Even if you haven’t killed anyone with your car lately, you are perpetuating a system that is continuously threatening to kill. And this threat of death keeps people off the streets and diminishes our communities. Before cars you could walk around pretty much anywhere and stand around pretty much wherever you pleased. Now we have what I like to call Zones of Terror. You may have seen these zones—they are paved areas that surround our houses. Whoever lingers too long in one of these zones is facing severe consequences from their fellow citizens. Pets and children must be fenced in to prevent them from wandering into one of these zones. Is that how we want to live?
When you enter your metal box, you lose some of your humanity. You can no longer fully interact with me. I can barely hear you. I can barely see you. To me you look like a big hulking menacing robot. I invite you to exit the box to join me and the other humans.