Friday, June 27, 2008

Utility cycling

Have you noticed that there are A LOT more people getting around on bicycles lately?

I’m not talking about The Usual Suspects – the bike nuts, oddballs, kids without cars and the homeless. Nor am I talking about the recreational riders and The Lycra People. These folks are always on the road, especially during the summer. Their numbers are small, although there’s a spike in recreational riding when the sun comes out, especially on the weekends.

What’s been rare until recently is to see REGULAR people engaged in what’s called UTILITY CYCLING. That’s using a bike for regular transportation, like you would a car. You bike to work, the post office, Kmart, Safeway, a friend’s house, the Farmers’ Market, etc.

The new riders are obviously influenced by the price of gas. I didn’t see them when gas was $2.50, $3 or $3.50 a gallon. Somewhere between $4 and $4.80 a gallon, a bunch of folks decided that biking was a good idea. Trips they used to make with their cars they now make on their bikes. That makes sense. Why use a car when you can use a bike?

Don’t get me wrong – we all have different transportation needs. Bicycling may not work for everyone, nor for all occasions.

But it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Use a bike when a bike makes sense. Use a car when a car makes sense.

If something is within two miles of your house, you should seriously consider using a bike, especially in a flat town like McKinleyville. Visit this site and take the TWO MILE CHALLENGE.

You’ll have plenty of trips when you opt to take your car. Sometimes you’ll have legitimate reasons – the trip is too far, maybe it’s raining or you’re hauling two-tons of concrete to build a bomb shelter. Or, if you’re like me, sometimes you’re just lazy.

But if you commit to riding a bike for short distances, and factor in car use for a variety of reasons including occasional laziness, you’ll still realize serious gas savings, health benefits and lots of fun.

You’ll also discover that some of your excuses for using a car are bullshit – kind of like today when I was about to take the car to the office to pickup 2,000 inserts. At the last moment, I realized I could easily complete the task with my Schwinn Suburban.


I stuffed the inserts in my panniers, circa 1984, and transported them across town without incident. You can squeeze a lot of stuff in these bags.


Blogger Jen O. said...

Does your bike have a name? Just curious. I've enjoyed reading your blog and I admire your photography skills. Keep up the good work. Pedal happy.

1:16 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Savage said...

Excellent! I rode 40 miles Thursday – my first Ferndale commute in a long time (and the longest I've ever done in a day, and I only made it back to the Bayshore Mall, where my husband picked me up).

When I was on the highway, I only noticed two kinds of people on bicycles: Serious Bikers or Somewhat Desperate Looking Individuals. People were either decked out in matching tight bike clothes on pretty bikes with panniers or riding the wrong way on beaters, helmetless with hoodies flapping in the breeze.

Glad to hear it's not so strident in town.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Two comments, two Jens!

Jen o: Thanks! I simply call this my "utility bike" because it's set up like a utility truck, and weighs almost as much.

Jennifer Savage: Way to go! That's a mega-commute by any standard. I wonder how the street people manage to pedal and smoke at the same time.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Gordon Inkeles said...

Are cheap bikes still plentiful in thrift shops? I'm a reluctant BICYCLING MAGAZINE subscriber. It seemed like every bike in the latest issue cost $5000 + !

12:24 AM  
Blogger Aaron Antrim said...

Another reason to subscribe to the McKinleyville press... Have you considered a label that says "these inserts are low-carbon?"

I also feel there are more people riding, but I wish I had some numbers to back it up and quantify exactly how many.

Might be a worthwhile newspaper story, eh?

Maybe I should send a letter to the local or state DOT and ask for some surveying?

8:34 AM  
Blogger Aaron Antrim said...

Oh, and I noted your post over at the Green Wheels blog, which we're trying to do more with, by the way:

8:34 AM  
Blogger bobbi said...

Maybe you can post clip board with a sign-in sheet at the local stores, especially near the WinCo, Safeway, and Ray's and EKA mall stores. Also Henderson Center. Folks can sign in if they are using a car, bus, rollerblading,riding bikes, toting grocery carts, strolling babes in strollers, walking with their reusable totes!
TELL Safeway and Rays you are trying to find better ways to serve their community and consumers. Tally these figures and you will have accountable data to see how many people are doing what for alternative transportation. I use a combination of some of the above! I would be interested in seeing the facts since I want to see more buses and routes, not just for myself, but for our community. Bobbi

10:46 PM  
Blogger Aaron Antrim said...


Green Wheels has batted around the idea of giving bicycle-friendly businesses and organizations awards for a while now. Criteria would include convenient bike racks for customers, amenities like showers and bike lockers for employees, etc.

Would you like to help us survey and rate businesses?

After we have some data & info we can decide what to do with it -- send out press releases and put something in the Community Wheel.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

So the inserts were gone with the Schwinn?

8:06 AM  
Blogger OrangeElmo said...

Jack said...
"...The Usual Suspects – the bike nuts, oddballs, kids without cars and the homeless. Nor am I talking about the recreational riders and The Lycra People."

I'd add one more category of bike riders... those with too many DUI's. No drivers license. See a bunch of those in Eureka.

3:49 PM  

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