I wanted to briefly float an idea past everyone to see if it had any traction. This site deals with so many aspects of our actions and their impacts on our planet and selves, but is strangely silent (or at least sporadic) about one major aspect of our everyday energy use: TRANSPORTATION.
There are many kinds of alternative transportation for us and our goods. Can this site support another category to cover this huge aspect of our lives?
I am willing to put my personal time and energy into this if it is of interest to the users and administration of this site. I am a certified bicycle mechanic with years of shop experience and a tonne of home tinkering to boot. I would be very willing to moderate a forum dealing with bikes and related things.
I am very glad to hear talk about alternative transportation, especially bicycles. At one time in my life when I could have used a bicycle the most it never even occurred to me how versatile a bicycle is and that is is not just a child's toy.
I have been guilty of thinking that animal power is the only alternative to motor vehicles until about 10 years ago when i started to open my eyes and my mind. Since then I have developed a great appreciation for utilitarian type bicycles.
At one time there was not a lot of information available on bicycles on the internet that were intended to be used to transport loads and use instead of an automobile in daily life, which led me down the path of various attempts to build the perfect bicycle.
Bikes are a hot topic! (If you really want to stir up controversy, start debating the pros and cons of helmet laws....)
My husband has a cargo bike, with an elongated frame. It can replace a good percentage of car trips, at least when temps are above freezing. (There was a time when he commuted to work across a frozen lake, on a bike with studded snow tires, so I'm not saying you can't ride in cold weather.) He can carry both kids to school on his xtracycle.
I'm a life long cyclist. I've done long commutes, short commutes, cross-contenental tours, and trips to the corner store. I can't imagine a life without bikes... it would seem so detached from my landscape and local environment.
I currently live above the 60th parrallel and there are challenges in being a year round cyclist so near to the arctic. But it can be done! I do admit that I broke down and actualy got a driver's licence since moving here. I'm 34.
I actually find for trips under 5km, the bike is faster, no need to warm up the engine block, scrape the windows... just dress apropriatly and jump on!
Clifford, your beach bike (nice ride!) is what a lot of folks use up here to ride on the snow-packed roads. The Pugsley by Surley is a popular model because it's so simple. http://surlybikes.com/bikes/pugsley
Julia, I've never riden an elongated frame bike. How does it handle?
My current bikes are:
1) a speedy road bike to get me around town. Steel frame with lightweight components and race level wheels. This is the most effiecient machine I've ever ridden. I think a lot of people have been turned off bike commuting/ transpotation because they have scrounged or bought the cheapest bike they can find. I love value, but low-end bike are not value. They perform like slugs and make people think that this whole bike thing is hard, where as, in fact, it's the least energy out put for significant gain, when done right.
2) a tough and low maintenance mountain bike for off-road travel and winter commuting. I've found I don't need studded tires after it gets below -15c or so. The roads are covered, but it's so dry that there is no water to make the snow/ice surface slippery. That being said. I no longer have any huge downhills on my daily commute.
Re: helmets. You look like a dork if you don't wear one. Plus, I'd be dead now if I didn't wear one. I guess I'm firmly on the pro side.
In "town" where we live now the bikes are used often (not as often as the could be) once we move... I am not so sure how they will work. 6 miles of dirt road and a bike?I am trying to figure out something besides the car to get that 6 miles twice a day every day if my daughter goes to the public school...
Chris, the controversy around helmets isn't about whether they save lives, because they do, but it arises from looking at the data on what happens when helmets are promoted heavily. Bike ridership goes down, significantly. In places like Copenhagen (which is northerly, but not above the 60th parallel!) large numbers of people bike, and they do it without helmets. In terms of statistical risk, we should all wear helmets whenever we are in a car, but we do not. Countries with the highest rate of bike helmet use also have the highest rates of head injury.
This was hard for me to consider, because I'm a pediatrician, but statistics like those found here: http://bicyclesafe.com/helmets.html are compelling. (This is just a web page I found when I googled bike helmets and safety--the original thing I saw was maybe a TED talk or something like that, given by a Dane.)
Fantastic! Thanks, Paul. There is so much information to be found on these forums! I don't envy you the task of trying to organize it and present it in a accessible manner. Keep up the fine work, and let us know what we need to do too!