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Sometimes you want to share your cycling experience with a friend or loved one – not always an easy task. Different levels of fitness or comfort with speed can quickly turn a for-fun excursion into a bickering hell – especially when married partners are involved.
Jennifer Schwartz recently wrote about her parents’ experience for the Boston Globe magazine. After failed attempts at riding together, they found a solution to this age-old problem: The tandem bicycle. The bicycle-built-for-two ensures that the two riders remain together, for better or worse.
I joined them on my bike for one of their first tandem rides. At stoplights, they were horrendous: He’d lean to one side, she to the other. He’d stand up to stretch without warning; she’d buckle her knees. They’d clip out opposite feet and knock themselves off balance. Yelling and frustration (and eye rolling on my part) ensued. But soon, sharing a cadence, communicating the next move, and working as a single entity turned them into a machine that could beat me in any sprint. They assigned tasks (she’d signal, he’d steer), learned bike jargon ("Car back!"), and developed a method, however boilerplate, to take off when a light turned green ("One, two, three, go!").
It is no exaggeration that in the four years since the purchase of that bike, my parents’ life has changed. They finally share an equally enjoyed hobby. My mom is in better shape, and my dad is less competitive. They have a whole new set of "tandem friends" with whom they ride and go out to dinner. In September, they’ll take the tandem to Italy. I rarely see my parents happier than when they’re on that bike. The jabs and jokes are still around, but now the effect is far more endearing.
Good for the environment, the pocketbook, and perhaps even the social life, car pooling would seem, at this particular moment in history, to have a lot going for it. Environmentalists and traffic planners say it’s one of the easiest and cheapest ways for cities to decrease pollution and congestion – never mind helping individuals reduce transportation expenses, which as of 2006 consumed approximately 15 percent of the average American budget (12 percent for those in the Northeast), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And unlike public transit, a car pool requires little in the way of costly taxpayer-funded infrastructure or maintenance.
But Americans don’t carpool much. In fact, over the past quarter century, despite increased traffic, fuel costs, and growing awareness of environmental issues, we’ve been doing it less and less. According to the federal Department of Transportation, the number of solo drivers on US roads nearly tripled between 1960 and 2000. In 1980, when the US Census began tracking car pooling, almost 20 percent of American workers shared rides to work. By 1990, the number had fallen to 13 percent. In 2006 – the newest data available – it was down to about 11 percent.
These two issues are interrelated. Car manufacturers inevitably boost the “freedoms” that their vehicles supply: “Find Your Own Road”; “Grab Life by the Horns”; “Drivers Wanted”, ad nauseum. Sharing a ride, and one’s personal space, with others is at odds with the multi-million dollar images we’re bombarded with.
Singapore began charging fees to enter its downtown in 1975. According to data collected by the Environmental Defense Fund, the city has seen a 45 percent decrease in traffic and a 20 percent increase in the use of public transportation since then. More recently, Stockholm and London adopted similar schemes to encourage both transit use and ride sharing. The Environmental Defense Fund estimates that London traffic moves 37 percent faster and uses 20 percent less fuel than it did before the fees began in 2003. And in Stockholm, where a pricing plan went into effect in 2006, traffic is moving 15 percent faster.
The two libraries are now using a local bicycle delivery company called Bikes at Work (who primarily build bike delivery trailers) for an alternative, car-free interlibrary loan service. Using the bike delivery service has improved the delivery speed ("from 4.63 days to 3.13 days"), lowered the cost ("the cost per item is just 48 cents, while the average parcel -not always one item- last year was $2.48") and increased the types of materials that can be exchanged (notably CDs and DVDs can now be loaned).
The run is profitable for the delivery company, cheaper for the libraries, and better for the environment. What’s not to like about this?
via: Superpatron, photo via stuseeger
McCain’s proposed path doesn’t look much different. He’ already running an ad blaming Obama and the Democrats for $4 per gallon gas and he, too, is looking to lift restrictions and drill some new holes.
Federal legislation that promotes clean, alternative energy and reduces global warming pollution will reduce our oil imports four times more than drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the Rocky Mountain states, combined.
The best refutation of Bush and McCain’s claims may come from an unlikely source: billionaire Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, whose funding and now-infamous Swift Boat campaign helped put Bush Jr. in office the first time around. Pickens has seen the writing on the wall and has turned his attention to building wind farms.
And what the 80-year-old T. Boone Pickens says, in a $58 million campaign, is that we can’t drill our way to lower gas prices. By implication, anybody who tells you otherwise — including the fellow Texan he helped put in the White House — is a fraud.
This is a political parable for the ages: the guy who was behind one of the knockout punches to John Kerry four years ago is now doing Democrats the biggest favor of the election by calling Republicans on their phony energy campaign.
“Totally misleading” is the way Pickens describes Republican attempts to convince the public that if we just opened up all these forbidden areas to oil drilling then gas prices would fall. He’s not against new drilling, but he is honest enough to say it wouldn’t do anything.
Photi via flickr by vphill.
“Our nation’s spending priorities allow crumbling schools, millions of children with no health coverage, dependence on Middle East oil and deficits as far as you can see,” said Ben Cohen, president of the Priorities Campaign.
The Pentagon’s spending, which accounts for more than half of the nation’s discretionary budget, is the group’s primary target. Their goal is to snip 15% of the Pentagon’s bloated budget and redistribute the funds to alternative energy, education, hunger, and health care. Of course, we at Carectomy would like to make sure that alternative transportation gets a little slice of that tasty pie as well.
To drive the point home, Kennedy welded two school buses together, installed an indoor video system, powered the rig with biodiesel, and followed the campaign trail for the presidential primaries to promote a change in spending-as-usual.
Here’s an external link to the video the group played on the bus to viewers across the country.
Photos via flickr by nomadfotog
The good news, reported by Time:
…it’s true that Americans are finding options where there seemed to be none. They’re ready to change — and waiting for their infrastructure to catch up. They are driving to commuter-rail lines only to find there are no parking spots left. They are running fewer errands and dumping their SUVs. Public-transit use is at a 50-year high. Gas purchases are down 2% to 3%. And all those changes bring secondary, hard-earned benefits. Here are Time.com’s 10 things, with my thoughts added.
Their list of “10 Good Things About $4 Gas” celebrates the positive effects of expensive fuel. So, quit yer bitchin’, ride your bike, take the commuter train, and climb aboard the bandwagon.
Here are 10 reasons to get psyched, according to Time, neatly summarized by EcoStreet:
1. Globalised jobs return home – Yes, it seems that the high fuel price will mean that local will once again be the most sensible option. Without cheap oil, the world is getting bigger again.
2. Sprawl stalls – It’s too expensive to schlep all the way from the country into the cities for work these days. People are moving back into the cities and taking the bus. Time to stop the plans for building all over our greenbelt land.
3. Four-day workweeks – These shortened work weeks are becoming popular in some part of the US, but I doubt whether the British boss would be able to stand it despite the benefits of energy saving and fewer employees off sick, they’re far too mean for all that.
4. Less pollution – Goes without saying.
5. More frugality – Truckers and the like are joining the ranks of the .
6. Fewer traffic deaths – Fewer cars on the road mean fewer accidents.
7. Cheaper insurance – Not sure whether this one would apply to UK insurers. Perhaps one of our readers could shed some light?
8. Less traffic – Yup!
9. More cops on the beat – A very American benefit that probably wouldn’t happen in the UK.
10. Less obesity – Walking is cheaper than driving, and with food prices on the up, less is more!
Source: Time, EcoStreet; Photos via flickr by ParaScubaSailor and caseyhelbling
First the car-marketing: Rather than actually producing vehicles that are, you know, efficient, Chrysler is offering buyers a locked-in fuel price of $2.99 for 3 years. The program, dubbed “Let’s Refuel America,” looks like this: You buy a gas-guzzling car, continue to support oil businesses with the help of Chrysler’s subsidies, keep on polluting and then, at the end of three years, are stuck with a piece of crap car that no one can afford to fuel. Brilliant.
And now that Americans everywhere are freaking that we’ve designed our towns around cars and can no longer afford to run them, lotteries are looking to further impoverish citizens by dangling the possibility of free fuel for life. As the NY Times reports, second prize in Florida’s Summer Cash awards “26 prepaid gas cards, each worth $100, every year until death.”
An award of $2600 per year, which you can spend as you please, sounds infinitely more appealing. How about we work to decrease the amount of gas burned rather than encouraging “winners” to pump $200+ worth per month?
Here’s hoping that both of these ideas represent the death throes of an unsustainable mentality and will be seen for the farces that they are.
Photo via flickr by bitzcelt
On Caltrain, the leg of the Bay Area’s Rapid Transit system (BART) that runs from San Jose to San Francisco, transit officials are struggling to resolve increased ridership and more crowded trains with the issue of bringing bicycles aboard. Previously, Caltrain had been progressive in welcoming cyclists and had even designated “bike cars” to accommodate them. The agency even removed seating to create space for bicycles. Now, however, Caltrain must find the means to make room for everyone.
Now, some cyclists are being shunned from crowded trains. "We have a very liberal policy, and we have done a lot to accommodate cyclists," Christine Dunn, a Caltrain spokeswoman, told the L.A. Times Bottleneck Blog. "But I think we’ve been victims of our own success."
Dunn told the L.A. Times that Caltrain isn’t interested in expanding or adding more bike cars because bicycles merely take up extra room—without paying extra fare. A surcharge for bikes, she said, is an unattractive option. The preferable plan, according to Caltrain, is one that would encourage cyclists to have two bikes: one they leave at each station for their departure and arrival. (Hello, bike sharing.)
Currently, Caltrain, which has an average of 41,890 passengers on weekdays, is struggling to make ends meet. "Like every other transit agency, we’re all about trying to break even and we’re not doing that," Dunn told the Times. "We’re essentially losing money every time a bike rider gets on board with the bike."
Photo via flickr by vandys.
From Bicycle Retailer and Industry News:
Barack Obama, in a private 20-minute meeting with members of the Bikes Belong board of directors, told them if he were elected president he would increase funding for cycling and pedestrian projects. And the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee also said he would support Safe Routes to Schools programs.
He also told them he seldom makes promises on what he would do if elected president, but that this was a promise he would keep. Tim Blumenthal, executive director of Bikes Belong, laid out the industry’s position on boosting funding for cycling-related projects and for Safe Routes to Schools at the meeting.
Stan Day, [bicycle component manufacturer] SRAM’s president, said that Obama “gets it.” He pointed out that Obama understands that bicycles can be part of a solution to issues as diverse as health care, obesity, energy and environmental policy. “He does his homework and he can connect the dots,” he said.
Cycling websites were abuzz with the news that Obama celebrated his primary victory with a family bike ride. Now he’s promising to improve conditions for car-free commuters if elected to US president. Perhaps the sky-high gas prices will increase the significance of Obama’s pro-cyclist stance in the election. American drivers have already dramatically decreased their driver-miles while bike purchases and mass transit ridership have soared.
Industry sales for this year haven’t yet been published, but Tim Blumenthal, executive director of Bikes Belong Coalition, an advocacy group, told the Times, "Bicycles for transportation has not been a big thing until very recently… April and particularly May, and now June, have been phenomenal months. This is across the board and across the country."
The cycling trend is growing—and quickly. Jim Whitsett, owner of Cynergy Cycles in
Michael Hall, a television editor, has begun cycling a 25-mile round trip commute to work and saves $150 per month by doing so. The price however, is his compromised safety.
He told the Times:
"It’s definitely saving me money, but may be taking years off my life due to the fact that it’s a terrifying experience” …The problems, he said, include the cellphone-using, "coffee-drinking, shaving, makeup-putting-on person who’s not paying attention" and the furious motorists who swear at him if he slows them down "for a nanosecond."
For now, Hall and fellow bike commuters may not be entirely safe alongside absentee drivers, but they can take solace in knowing that they’re smarter than the driver applying lipstick while eating breakfast, conversing with a client, and checking e-mail on her iPhone. Steering a bike makes multi-tasking impossible—just one of its many awesomely simple side benefits.
Photo via flickr by chilcy
Unsurprisingly, employees are outraged that they’ll no longer be getting a free ride. The local police union in has told Haverhill, MA Mayor James J. Fiorentini that he has “no right” to raise the bar or scale back on the use of city vehicles by the police force. (First, how many cop cars at the
Fiorentini plans a 15 percent cutback on use of his city’s take-home fleet of 60 vehicles. In total, the city owns 230 vehicles. Despite a grievance filed by the union, Fiorentini is requesting that bosses provide “written justifications” for employees who claim they must have a car ‘round the clock.
Thanks to Fiorentini’s unrelenting strategy, the city of
Other cities throughout
Photo via flickr by meltingnoise
The Antro Solo is a new Hungarian car model that combines solar, gas, electric, and pedal power to propel the vehicle. The on-board solar panels give a renewable energy-supplied range of 9 to 12 miles – not very far, but enough for local errands or to get you started.
From there, pedal power comes into play. Each of the three seats across the front have pedals in front of them, a set up similar to the ride of a recumbent bicycle. The car’s body is constructed of carbon fiber, making for a lightweight setup (270kg, about 600lbs.). The design is also low to the ground and extremely aerodynamic, which means that pushing the pedals might actually be a viable transportation option with this vehicle.
If the passengers get tired or are looking for higher speeds, the small combustion engine, which can run on on either gasoline or ethanol, has a top speed rated at 87mph and gets 150 miles per gallon. It sounds like users could increase this efficiency by pedaling while running the engine to add extra juice to the batteries.
The prototype was recently on display at the Budapest Museum of Transport. Plans are to have the car in production for 2012 with a price tag of $20,000. Here’s a chance to minimize gas use while getting some exercise and staying healthy. Sounds pretty cool, we’re looking forward to more info on the Solo.
A recent study by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of Access America Travel Insurance and Assistance has quantified the shift. 67% of those surveyed have already adjusted their driving habits because of gas prices.
$3.20 is the median price where respondents said they would alter their driving. At $3, 35% said they had already made changes; at $4, 74% foresee an alteration; and at $5, 85% anticipate making concessions.
Hits to the pocketbook seem to be the key to driving change. It’s not easy to root for difficult economic conditions – but we at Carectomy like some of the results. In January we asked the question whether $4 per gallon could be a good thing, and the repercussions are already far-reaching.
Many economic and industry experts predict that, unlike during the oil embargo of the 70’s, the cultural transformations happening now – from shrinking suburban sprawl to the ditching of SUVs in favor of smaller, fuel economical vehicles – are here to stay. Time will tell, but is this latest economic shake-up, coupled with increased environmental awareness, finally jarring us out of complacency?
Face it people – as Rachel Gibson and Peter Walsh say, “You’re fat and you need to ride your bike!”
Photo via flickr by ndanger.
The Indianapolis 500 and Nascar drivers aren’t feeling the squeeze – increased gas costs represent a minor component of their overall sponsor-supported budgets. But the smaller-scale racers, most of whom have full-time jobs elsewhere, are feeling the full brunt.
The high-octane race fuel costs $8.25 per gallon, but the true hit comes from transporting the racecars and gear around to events. It’s the $5 per gallon diesel for the big trucks with towing power and terrible fuel economy that’s making racers alter their plans. Drivers are competing at events closer to home, racing less often, and scaling back on their expenses across the board.
Prize money doesn’t typically pick up the slack. As racecar driver Bryan Kobylarz told the New York Times, “Basically, you have to finish in the top three [out of an average of 28 competitors] to come out with a positive cash flow.”
Even car racing programs are being forced into reduced car driving and a partial carectomy of sorts. Habits are changing across the board, the nation is driving significantly fewer miles, and the real winner here is the environment and, by extension, ourselves.
Source: NY Times with accompanying cool slideshow feature.
Is a faltering economy good for the environment? If rising gas prices aren’t a sure enough sign that we need to change our ways, a recession may be just what Americans need to reduce waste, stop driving, and wake up to impending ecological crises.
Outside writer Elizabeth Hightower posits this possibility in the June issue of the magazine. In the aftermath of economic bust, Hightower describes an eco-utopia, where people (reformed big spenders and S.U.V. owners, to be sure) pad around in hemp slippers and engage in sustainable gardening. With tongue sharply in cheek, she writes:
“Imagine waking up on a clean, bright day in post-recession
Hightower’s description may be a hopeful stretch, but it’s certainly possible that a poor economy will encourage consumers to heighten their eco-awareness—even unwittingly. Consumers will make an effort to save money and cinch their wallets—which, in turn, will help save the planet. Already, Americans are driving less, due mostly to the high cost of gas. People are turning to public transit, cycling, and other pedestrian options to get around, in lieu of spending $4 per gallon to fill up the tank. In a culture that’s governed by capitalist desires, it suddenly pays to go green.
Yvon Chouinard, founder of
Photos via flickr by taichi_UK andCaesar Sebastian.
This fall, Baltimore is scheduled for a serious carectomy. Under persistent pressure from Greg Cantori and his staunch supporters, including Sunday Streets, the city will host a Ciclovia during which pedestrians—cyclists, skaters, walkers—will dominate the streets. As in Bogota, a Ciclovia celebrates pedestrian traffic and bans cars from road travel (or, at the very least, limits it to certain lanes or sectors of the city).
Kudos to StreetFilms for helping advocate for the Ciclovia and for convincing Baltimore’s city legislators that it was a worthwhile idea.
Source: StreetFilms and Baltimore Spokes.
Photo via flickr by themikebot.
See also: Car Free in Bogota: Ciclovia
My complaints about Los Angeles are cumulative. I appreciate L.A. as a city and love to visit, but know I’d never hack it as a resident (nor, for that matter, would I want to). I’m put off by the culture of collagen, the glitz and the greed, and the simple fact that Angelenos have little choice but to drive everywhere to navigate the sprawl. Worse, most California highways are as clogged as Harvey Weinstein’s arteries.
L.A. city councilwoman Wendy Greuel, a long-time crusader for car-free transit, told StreetFilms, “Traffic has become the number one issue in the city of Los Angeles…and we want to change that…we want to say people have options…They don’t need to be able to get in their car to get to their ultimate destination.”
Greuel is reasonable in her expectations of how Angelenos might utilize public transit. Taking public transit instead of driving even once a week would make a difference, she said. She also emphasizes the importance of creating a mixed-use, walkable city that combines residential space with nearby nightlife, amenities (i.e. groceries), and business. Ideally, said Greuel, people would have the option of walking to work.
Greuel and her supporters are striving to find ways to transform car-reliant L.A. into a city that supports public transit; a city that walks, bikes, and rides the bus. Check out the StreetFilms clip for more on L.A.’s hopes for ped-friendly progress.
The incentive has garnered the dealership a ton of international media attention as well as a dramatic boost in sales. As the company’s website proclaims, “We are aware of the gasoline and crime problem in America. Max Motors, the Country Dealer, wants to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t the gas and crime problems center around the fact that there’s too much fuel consumption and a plethora of guns readily available?
In spite of the nation’s surging gas prices, customers are lining up for the free handguns. Dealership owner Mark Muller says that sales have quadrupled since the start of the offer with an overwhelming majority taking the $250 credit towards a small semi-automatic handgun. “It’s a protection you can use for a long time,” says Mueller. “With the gas card, it’s only about two fill-ups.”
That last statement points to the variety of vehicles being sold – $125 to fill up a tank!?
The local Missouri ABC affiliate is running an online poll asking whether the free gun promotion is a “good idea.” 66% of the more that 8,000 respondents said “Yes.” Aint that America?
It’s the ‘buy a car, get a gun’ deal
Real Costs also displays the amount of “tree years” it would take to offset the travel and has links to various carbon offset packages.
By bringing this information to the forefront of any travel page, it’s hard to feign ignorance about the effects of transportation choices. The current incarnation of Real Costs looks like a great tool for air travelers looking to lighten their load. Future editions of the Real Costs plugin will also work with mapping software (mapquest, google maps, et al), shipping sites, and car rental pages.
As Real Costs says, “Think of it like the nutritional information labeling on the back of food… except for emissions.”
Visit the Real Costs wiki for a list of currently compatible sites and more information about the inner workings of the emissions calculations