“On June 4, 1896 in a tiny workshop behind his home on 58 Bagley Street, [Henry] Ford put the finishing touches on his pure ethanol-powered motor car. After more than two years of experimentation, Ford, at the age of 32, had completed his first experimental automobile…The two cylinder engine could produce 4 horsepower…achieving a top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h). Ford would later go on to found the Ford Motor Company and become one of the world’s richest men.” —Wikipedia
I’m gradually reducing my car dependance. I enjoy traveling to meetings, hauling groceries, and taking my kids to their dental appointments all on my bike. But one of the few remaining compelling reasons for using my car is to carry adult passengers. For a variety of reasons my adult friends and family do not feel comfortable hopping onto my longtail cargo bike. Can bicycles ever fulfill the role of carrying adult passengers? I believe they can, and (like Henry Ford) I’ve built an experimental vehicle to test my conviction.
My topic for today’s post might appear to be at odds with the main subject of our blog, which is how we can use bikes of various shapes and electrical enhancements to address practical transportation needs. However, if you’re patient enough to read (or skip directly) to the punch line, you’ll see how this relates.
We bought our electric car (a Nissan Leaf, which I described here) exactly one year ago, and we bought a fairly large solar panel array two years ago, so I now have enough data on each to draw some conclusions about their costs and benefits. As I look at the data, there are no huge surprises, but having this data in hand helps me understand how these might fit into our nation’s energy future. I hope my observations will be helpful to you too!
Today’s article comes from a guest contributor, Shawn McCarty of Venice, Florida. Shawn is an avid cyclist who has completed bike tours through various parts of the United States and Europe. His blog (aworldspinning.com) has some nice photos of his European adventure. And his custom electric cargo bike is amazing!
If you have biking facts, photos, or a story you think our readers would enjoy, let us know. We’re interested in presenting a variety of topics and points of view as we build our biking community.
Today I got to combine a couple of my interests: cargo cycling and e-waste
recycling. Almost five years ago I helped found Richmond, Indiana’s Hardware
Co-op. The Hardware Co-op is a re-use and
recycling program for e-waste. The project has operated at a fairly small scale
until the last year, when we’ve been attracting more donors and volunteers.
Today the project had our first event presence– a booth at the local Earth Day
Our booth consisted of a thin-client demo lab, which showed
how some systems from the Windows-98 era can be made to perform at modern
speeds. It works by sending most processing to a server, like the old mainframe
systems with “dumb terminals”.
Using the Bikes-at-Work trailer seen the background of the photo above, I
carried over 3 desktop systems, a laptop, a 32 inch display and some other
supplies. While our booth was effectively two blocks from a parking lot, I
was able to roll the trailer through the door and right up to our booth. Had I
carried the equipment by car, several trips back and forth to the car would
have been required to get all the equipment inside.
On Saturday morning my 4 year-old got to take her first ride on the back of
our Xtracycle, using stoker bars instead of a kid seat. She loved it.
That was no suprise, but I enjoyed it more than I thought as well.
I expected it to feel more loosey-goosey without the constraint of the
seat, but it actually felt more stable and easier to ride. I’m guessing
that’s due to three factors: First, the weight of the seat has been
subtracted, and replaced with some rather light handlebars. Second, her
weight had dropped about 6 inches, lowering our center of gravity.
Third, I expect her ability to lean side-to-side more may have
contributed to a more natural feel. We’ll continue to use a kid-seat for
her on our electric Yuba Mundo, but I expect we’ll use the stoker bars
for most trips on the Xtracycle now.
Yesterday I wrote about my 4 year old’s success with her first cross-town bike trip. I closed with a promise to tell the story of her ride with an unfortunate ending the day before.
Here’s that story, with more thoughts on kids and bike crashes.
We had ridden about 1.5 miles uneventfully through Richmond to
drop off a package at the Post Office. A Cardinal Greenway trailhead is
practically behind the Post Office, so we proceeded to ride up to Springwood Lake Park. Heading home, she had ridden just over 4 miles when she was suddenly thrown over the handlebars in a tangle of body and bike.
It seemed like the safest of conditions: She was on a flat stretch of paved
trail, with no one else close to her (except for me following her). I soon found there had been a singular rock on the trail– a golf ball-sized stone that had a similar color to the pavement. She impacted the front of her helmet. I think she would have had no injury at all, except she had recently bumped and bruised her
forehead on a fall while she was running. This time the helmet pressed against the bruise and made it hurt.
Last Sunday my daughter rode her own bike across town to church for the first time. She recently turned four, and made the 3 mile trip on her bike with 12 inch wheels. It was her idea to try that day, and she was indeed ready.
With plenty of practice already with shorter trips and riding on trails, we made the trip together on the city sidewalks, stopping at all the alleys and streets to check for traffic, and wait for dad’s signal to go.
She handled the trip well in terms of behavior and skills. We averaged about a 4 miles per hour on the sidewalk, so the trip took 45 minutes– about twenty minutes “extra” for the experience.
Sections of the sidewalk were frustrating for me with the frequent stopping, but other times there would be a long block without driveways crossing to check out. In those moments, it was like a little stretch of private bike trail through the city. (I don’t recall passing any pedestrians at all on the trip…).
While this trip went well, our ride the day before had an unfortunate ending. I’ll write more about that tomorrow. (See one more ride photo after the jump)
I’m blessed that both my young children enjoy bicycling. My four year old daughter now rides her own bike on 3 to 4 mile trips on sidewalks and trails. The 10-month old simply enjoys the experience… and the naps.
My daughter’s behavior is mysteriously good on her bike outings. Just as video games can foster addiction by providing a series of small successes, I think sidewalk-biking is also working to build confidence and self-esteem. At each block or alley, she successfully stops, checks traffic, and waits for the signal to go- she’s “cleared a level”. There’s also encouragement for good hill climbing and careful braking when going down hill.
On this day, we found ourselves returning home at dusk with a large red sun on the horizon. and captured the photos above and below.
No Virtue Required: Car-Lite Family Transportation Is Less Expensive, Faster, and More Flexible than Car-Encumbered Transportation
In his recent post, my co-blogger Don writes about “the virtue in choosing the right [transportation] tool for the job”. I realized that my own family makes regular use of five, count ’em FIVE transportation options: walking; bicycling; busing; driving various CarShare and rental vehicles; and (in dwindling amounts) driving my wife’s tiny red Mini. Yesterday epitomized our highly flexible family transportation: we criss-crossed Ithaca together and separately and then at the end of the day we all landed together on our couch like the opening sequence of a Simpson’s episode.
I had this large dish of fresh pasta to deliver to a friend. How to carry it to a bike? It’s not a good match for a bungee treatment. The plastic lid would collapse and the aluminum pan would get distorted. It needs to stay flat so it’s not spilled. Yuba’s Bread Basket works great for this kind of load.
I had first tried a regular milk crate on a different bike, but the milk crate was too small. Other solutions to the casserole-by-bike problem could have included using an oversided milk crate as seen here: