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Car-less: The Daily Commute,The Use of Public Transit, and The Pitfall of the Modern Automobile

by Kohl Martin

THE DAILY COMMUTE

Most you know how the everyday commute is a stress reliever as much as it can be a stress inducer. It took me quite awhile to find the route with the least amount of traffic as well as the all-around safest route i.e. dodging sketchy neighborhoods and avoiding pothole strewn streets as well. The one really interesting aspect of the daily commute that I never thought about until I started riding my bike is the idea of extra time.

I arrive at work with a about 10-15 minutes to spare. I do that for 2 reasons: 1. So that I can cool off a bit and put on a dry shirt. 2. Just to give myself a few extra minutes in case I have a mechanical problem; most likely a flat. I never thought twice about something like that when I was driving. Perhaps that might because that if there were to be any mechanical failure, I would not be able to fix it on the spot. Whereas on the bike, I can fix a flat in about 5 minutes.

The dreaded flat on the way into work

I learned along the way with the help of a few youtube tutorials. I also learned the hard way a few times but I did learn how to cyclocross carry my bike when I had a flat and I left my pump. It also poured down rain that day so it really felt like I was a legitimate cyclocross racer in Belgium. Early on, I would get discouraged and page through the local craigslist for another car. But I kept fighting through the issues and eventually I figured out the right tools and other items to carry. One issue that came up was rain. I packed dry clothes and that seemed to be okay but I thought about other ways to prevent having to carry unnecessary items.

In Southern Arizona, riding in the rain is rare experience and we actually enjoy it!

USING PUBLIC TRANSIT

It started slow but I began to supplement my commuting with partial use of public transit. In St. Louis, we had the Metrolink. It is a light rail system that had a station about 3 miles from my apartment and would drop me off about 2 miles from work. It was essentially perfect for a rainy day. I utilized it on days when I was just dogging hard as well: Got up late, long day at work, etc.

Use public transit when you can. People have to support it otherwise it may no longer exist.

After some conversations with other commuters and cyclists in general, there seems to be a sort of animosity toward public transit. I feel as though we should embrace it. Most public transit now has a means of carrying bikes. Maybe these commuters feel they have something to prove and show how tough they are. I say that is great because I can assure you that some of the people that commute by bike are some of the most badass people I have come across.

There are days when using the bus or the local light rail may just be the boost you need or maybe as a means to stay dry.

Using public transit wouldn’t make you any less of a badass. With the new streetcar here in Tucson, there are a lot of angry cyclists out there. It is here and it is open. There is not a whole we can do about it. We as alternative transportation aficionados, should welcome anything that has the possibility of removing cars from the road. I am actually looking to move from current residence so that I can use it. This is the start to making the American culture less reliant on automobiles.

PITFALL OF THE AUTOMOBILE

Don’t get me wrong, I do love cars. Mainly because they are a marvel of technology and it is amazing that a mere century ago, most people got around in a horse and buggy. The days of the modern oil and gasoline combustion automobile are numbered. Bikes, public transit, and some other powered personal propulsion vehicles are the wave of the future. I know some don’t see the end of the automobile but 50 years from now, they are going to be drastically different.

Bike vs. Car. Bike Wins! Finish Him/Her!

Over the next few years, hybrid and fully electric cars are going to are going to be a more common sight. The automobile as a means to transport multiple people to and from destination is great. Carpooling is a great way to get the most out of your vehicle. It is the primarily solo driving that is really killing the purpose of the car. Your average car has 4 seats and typically 3 are left empty. Those short trips are what kill the combustion engine on the fuel consumption as well as just the overall performance. Using a bike for those short trips could save on gas, maintenance, and help the environment.

There is another reason the common automobile is failing: the environmental impact. Not only the pollution but the impact of production of the vehicles themselves as well as the refineries and shipping. There are a ton of reasons to ditch the car. Maybe not entirely because of the way the American cities are built but maybe for 3 or 4 days week could do wonders not only for the environment but on your mind.

Choosing your bike will save you tons more money.

I say we ditch the stigmas and the bad rap that public transit has gotten for one reason or another. We should embrace a car-less life or at least become less dependent on our 4 wheeled fossil fuel drinkers. When I was in Europe, there was as vastly different culture when it came to automobiles. Yes, people owned them (not for daily use, however) but it was so few and far between because of trains, a safer bike culture, and the fact cities were built to be walked in. We obviously cannot rebuild all the American cities and redesign the infrastructure but we can take the layouts that we already have and make them more accessible by bike, by public transit, and on foot.

 
Burley nomad 269

13 Responses to “Car-less: The Daily Commute,The Use of Public Transit, and The Pitfall of the Modern Automobile”

  1. People should mix bikes and transit in whatever proportions work for them. I have a 10-mile commute to my office in Downtown Phoenix. Heading to work in the morning, I almost always pedal five miles and then catch light rail for the second half of the journey. Going home in the afternoon, an uphill ride back to my neighborhood, I usually bike the same amount, but if it’s well over 100 degrees, I have no shame in taking my bike on the bus for all but the last mile.

  2. Kevin Love says:

    “We obviously cannot rebuild all the American cities and redesign the infrastructure…”

    Why not? The Dutch did just that with their cities. Transforming them from car-clogged hell-holes to decent places to live. For example, see:

    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2009/11/before-and-after-in-s-hertogenbosch.html

    They changed. We can too.

  3. Ted Johnson says:

    Ahem… The preferred term is “car-free.”

  4. Kohl Martin says:

    Kevin. If America embraced bike culture the way the Dutch do then I would agree. But the fact is most Americans are not willing to throw money into something like this so at least for now we have to work with the infrastructure we have. I would love for the US to take to biking like the Dutch but unfortunately that isn’t the reality right now.

  5. Kevin Love says:

    In my opinion the vast majority of people in The Netherlands have not done anything at all that could be called “embracing bicycle culture.”

    Certainly some have, and go recreational cycling or tinker with their bikes, etc. But most people have embraced bike culture about as much as they have embraced vacuum cleaner culture. For them, the bicycle is a transportation appliance.

    Indeed, I met plenty of people in The Netherlands who bust the Dutch stereotype because they really hate cycling. They only cycle everywhere they go because it is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting there.

    And Dutch cycling infrastructure is cheap. It costs a not-so-whopping annual per capita total of 30 euros for all maintenance and new construction.

  6. Kevin Love says:

    “I arrive at work with a about 10-15 minutes to spare. I do that for 2 reasons: 1. So that I can cool off a bit and put on a dry shirt. 2. Just to give myself a few extra minutes in case I have a mechanical problem; most likely a flat.”

    Kevin’s comment:

    I arrive at work with about two minutes to spare. Because I realize that getting to work is not a race. So I don’t need to cool off or change any item of clothing.

    Also, I ride a bike that has been designed to not have any mechanical problems. This bike came with factory-installed Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires that do not get flats. And with internal hub gears and internal hub brakes that require little maintenance and do not break down.

  7. Matt says:

    Careful what you wish for. The “bike culture” as it stands today would probably whine miserably if it were joined by thousands of “practical” cyclists. I can hear it now… “they’re not doing it right!” would be the cry. The unique-ness of being a commuting cyclist would go away, much like when your favorite band became popular and suddenly you felt like they “sold out.”

  8. Kohl Martin says:

    Kevin, I ride with tires that are very flat resistant but there are certain things that are inevitable. For example, the other night was riding with my lights on and still hit a screw that was 3/4 of an inch long. There is not a tire on the market (without running solid ones) that could have prevented a screw like that from causing a flat. I was even running flat attack tubes. I am not racing to work either but this is Tucson in the summer. Its hot.

    Bikes have been apart of their culture for a long time and their cities are built around it. The Dutch are clearly embracing bike culture. Not like here in the US where there are people actively trying to prevent cyclists from using roads.

  9. Josh Lipton says:

    @Matt

    I don’t hear anyone complaining in the Netherlands or Denmark. In fact I’d say that their reaction to an abundance of practical cyclists sounds quite a bit like gloating. See this video:

    https://www.facebook.com/BikeShopHub/posts/10154442702410384

  10. Nina Love says:

    This is Kevin’s wife, and he just showed me the cartoon on top of this page.I just have to say that I relate so very much to the wife in the cartoon. My man too will weather all storms, hails, etc on his bicycle, but as soon as he gets home it is hard to get him to do a single important chore that has been left undone for days!!! :)

  11. Graham Wilkinson says:

    About 3 weeks ago I bought a Dutch bike. Included in the very modest price were three speed hub gears, full metal mudguards (so no getting plashed with water), a full chain cover (so almost no maintenance or worry of getting clothes blathered with oil from the chain0, large wheels that roll over holes in the roads, coaster brake, fitted lights, a lock on the back wheel, bell, sit-up-and-beg seat and handlebars, solid rear rack and a side stand. I added some panniers so now no more sweaty back from a back-pack.

    Despite the cycle-unfriendly UK infrastructure (we are where the Netherlands were in the 1960s), when you ride it the urge to rush quickly disappears and the joy of cycling for pleasure overwhelms. It has to be experienced to be believed.

    The Dutch have got it right. Bikes are ridden by people of all ages and cycling is not in any way elitist. Helmets and lycra are seldom seen. They ride bikes that are simple, reliable and practical on safe infrastructure.

    How I wish the UK would follow their lead and prioritise people not cars.

  12. I don’t hear anyone complaining in the Netherlands or Denmark. In fact I’d say that their reaction to an abundance of practical cyclists sounds quite a bit like gloating.

  13. Steve Dominiak says:

    I fully agree with combining public transportation with commuting by bike. I live in Switzerland and have about 50km one-way between home and work. I usually ride the complete distance 1-2 times a week (typically going home in the afternoon when it’s somewhat warmer). For the other times I bring my bike with on the train. All the regional trains in Switzerland are very bike friendly and they usually have at least 3-5 bike racks per train. I have about 5 different bike routes that I can take with varying distances and I just get into the train at different stations. Having showers at work and a very bike friendly culture in Switzerland also helps.

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