Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Alternative forms of Transportation

Seems that in the “Gas and Food Prices” post, one of the key points was transportation and how to move around or go to the city, carry whatever needs to be carried or purchased and doing so spending a minimum amount of money, time and energy.
Here are a couple comments I’d like to address;
Anonymous said…
Even in cities and close packed towns you can only do so much with a bike or scooter.
You can’t take home a lot of groceries on a bike or scooter. Can’t make stops at 3-4 stores to pick this & that up, I don’t see how you’re going to take a child or two to school or day care…and forget about it in the winter.
Don’t bet the farm on a bike or scooter. Without a car American life changes dramatically!

Exactly, the point being it WILL change dramatically if there’s no other choice left. Your points are correct, of course you can carry lots of stuff and people in a big car, and off course we’d all love to drive around a big fancy pickup truck, or even an old one. But what if you can’t afford it anymore? What if you can’t even afford the price to fuel it? That’s the point of this discussion, we already know that its nicer to carry a hundred pound of goods and several people in your car, have AC during summer, but at some point there will be people that simply wont be able to do so, that’s the issue some people may eventually have to deal with, and they will if they don’t have any other option.
back when scooters or under 100cc motorcycles cost $300 new and $50 used (1970′s), they were great…now spending $1000 for a 20 year old junker to $13,000 for a vespa is kinda pointless. my car gets 36mpg and new it was only $13k (toyota yaris) new. i see them for $3000 used with 50k miles and a toyota is just getting going at 50k miles….!
unless you get a small motobike for cheap/free..i dont see the point…?
also…if you want a real laugh, look at the prices for electric bicycles…LOL!
March 29, 2011 11:54 AM

Scooters, mopeds and such only make sense when affordable. Around here you do see a good amount of mopeds but its not crazy as in Asian countries.
People that just can’t afford any better mostly stick to these two, and there may be something to be learned about these typical 3rd world alternatives.
1) Horse and cart. Its usually the choice of the extreme poor. The poor horses are sometimes kept in awful conditions, only to die soon and be replaced by another one, often stolen. You see these horses pulling carts full of paper and cardboard, sometimes picking glass, metal, anything they can sell, therefore their slang name “botelleros” (something like bottle scavengers) The carts are made from anything, from wood, to metal, I’ve even seen large fridges being used. They often include a scavenged car axis for wheels.

2) The bicycle is a classic for the poor around here. Its used so much that trains have special wagons for people with bikes so they can hook them up and stand next to them. And yes, I’ve seen parents take one, even two kids to school on a bike, one seated on the knees, the other seated in the back structure intended to hold a small package. In spite of this, the bicycle, while relatively fast and practical, it still has a very limited cargo capability. I’ve done the 7 lakes trail in Patagonia with my bike and used side saddles. In spite of this I see its not practical for when you need to carry grocery bags and such.

Still, there’s an alternative that I’ve seen a lot here and mentioned it before in the blog because I really like the idea. I’ve seen it used a good amount, people carrying considerable loads, including mowing machines and more. The good old 3-wheel bicycle. Locally its often custom made, but it can be bought directly from some bicycle manufacturers as well.
Schwinn Meridian Adult 26-Inch 3-Wheel Bike (Blue)
Schwinn Meridian Adult 26-Inch 3-Wheel Bike (Blue)
The advantages? A lot more cargo space. The ability to carry heavy stuff, not only more volume. The tricycle is much more stable too. Some of the comments I read on Amazon are by people that have some sort of injury, age or disability, and can’t move around a bicycle or have trouble keeping balance, but can handle one of these 3 wheelers all right.
Its really isn’t a bad idea for short distances. Yes, I understand you cant carry half a ton of stuff like with a pickup. That’s where you have to compensate for the limitation with creativity and just cope with it. Since you’re also working out, it could be part of a daily or 3 time a week routine, getting groceries with it or whatever, compensating for the lack of space with more trips combined with the exercise. Anyway, just think its and interesting concept and see it used here often enough.
Take care folks and see you around.

Join the forum discussion on this post



hsu said...

Can't get by without a car in a city or close packed town?

You need to move to a better city, or even just a different part of town.

When I lived in a small town in Indiana, I was still able to live a lot of my life without a car, and Indiana is definitely one of those states that was designed around a car.

So how was I able to bike and walk places in a small Indiana town? Because I chose to live 1.5 miles away from the local college.

That put me about 0.5 miles away from all of the businesses that catered to the college kids (including grocers, pharmacies, restaurants, etc). But my location was just a little too far away to walk to class, so very few college kids lived near me, which meant my neighborhood was peaceful at night.

When you live within a half mile from multiple businesses, it changes the way you shop. Instead of taking an hour a week to get groceries, you spend 15 minutes a day, 4 days a week to get those same groceries. You can get away with frequent trips, because the travel time is so short.

Obviously, I still needed my car for certain things, but you can do quite a lot with a bike and a backpack.

gaga said...

$13,000 for a vespa??

You can get, new, 50cc scooters in Poland for around $400. The prices they charge in some countries is extortion, the Chinese are making them very cheap. With the correct luggage (secure top box for instance) the carrying capacity of a scooter is remarkable. The Italians for instance have had a range of three wheeled vans and trucks based on a 49cc scooter engine.

Anonymous said...

My son, who is autistic and has trouble learning to ride a standard two wheel bicycle, has a 3 wheeler very similar to the one shown. Quite a bit can be carried in that basket.

Also look into push bikes if you have to move cargo. Push bikes has a two wheeled platfor in front of you, making negotiating tight spaces easier. I've seen quite a few people in Mexico use these to move some surprisingly bulky items, even several pieces of furniture all at once.

Twinedog said...

Wow Ferfal great post. I also have a different solution for hauling stuff with your bike. I use one of those pull behind things that I got off of AMazon for 50 bucks. The nice thing is you can detach it when you don't need it and it folds up. Whereas the three wheeler can't be made lighter or more compact. I am sure its not as stable or easy for a disabled person to use.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of cars in second wolrd nations (which is where the US is probably headed--not dirt-poor third world).

Mexico City, Cuba, etc. are filled with cars. They are old beaters, but still, they are tons better than a bicycle. You've never lived in the northern or midwestern states in the US--it's damn near impossible to travel in a midwestern winter by bicycle. You'll freeze to death.

People will give up their other luxuries to keep a beater car running.

There are cars running in Cuba from the 60s.

In the US, you can buy a honda or toyota from the early 90s for under $2,000. That's less than many bicycles or scooters. A 1993 toyota can be kept running for a long time without severely damaging your wallet.

What kills middle class budgets in the US is that people want to upgrade cars when their car is 5 years old. That will stop.

When you drive 10-20 year old cars instead of 0-5 year old cars, you can afford $10/gallon gas.

FerFAL said...

Hi Anon 8:43 AM, I lived in Boston and NH so I know how cold it gets. Again, its not about how much nicer it is being in a heated car, its about not having any other choice, and yes, even in places like northern USA or worse, Ushuaia IS worse and people do use bikes there too, at least those that dont have another option. I've seen them mylsef. If there's a storn they stay put, if they have to ride a bike freezing their butts well they cope with it.
You mention Cuba. Those crappy old cuban cars you see, most Cubans dont own cars, those cars yo see are terribly expesnive for Cubans. They can't even afford microwaves, let alone cars. The great mayoirty of the cuban population moves around in bikes, walk or use public transportation, not cars.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ferfal,

Those people who said you can't carry a child or groceries on a bike are totally out to lunch! I lived car-free from age 18 to 27 and carried just about EVERYTHING on my bike! I still bike a lot at age a54. My max was 3 bags of groceries: one in a pack on my back, one in the saddle bag and one I carried in my arm while I slowly biked one-handed home. (When I biked in China, I would see people eating or holding and chatting on their cell while biking w the the other hand! If you bike a lot, you get really good at multi-tasking while biking!) I once carried an ironing board 5 miles balanced on the handlebars. Ditto my new toaster oven. I also bought a new set of luggage and carried that home on the handlebars, too. One has to go very slow of course, but you make it. I carried a kid in a backpack on my back. A second small one could fit behind me on a rack. (They have to keep their feet up a bit on each side to avoid hitting the chains, etc) and one has to go VERY slowly. Bikes can be used perhaps 330 out of 365 days a year in most of the northern US where I live. Snow is not a big deal unless it is over a foot high. Once it is cleared off, it is easy to bike. After the USA collapses and there won't be much salt or snow clearing, it will get pounded down in ruts and away one will go! Ice can be a real problem and one must realize one has NO brakes on ice! But even ice biking is possible, as I have biked on ice many a day....Then you usually use your foot very gingerly to stop.... For really elderly people, a tricycle is much better... It all just depends how desperate one is to get something done and what other options one has.... I had only the bike, so I turned it into my work horse! Biking in the rain--no problem! plastic liners on my pack and an extra set of clothes inside... My main concern about bikes after collapse is that roads will get so bad that one will barely bike faster than walking. Also spare parts especially tires will disappear....My guesstimate using a bike for everything for 9 years is that bikes can do 90% of what cars can do.... tammy

Anonymous said...

I live close to the San Francisco Bay Area, and there are usually about a dozen or so old diesel Mercedes Benzes for sale on Craigslist at any given time. These cars usually date from the late 70s up through 1986 when the old type diesel engines were outlawed in California. They can be had as cheap as $1200, and they will run forever, being one of the highest quality diesel cars in the world at that time.

Usually the automatic transmission will give out long before the engine does, so if you can drive a stickshift, you will find cars that have almost bulletproof powertrains. If you change the oil regularly, you will find that some can go up to a million miles! Plus, they are old and weird enough so as not to be very attractive to car thieves.

Past episodes of prosperity have left Americans with much greater options with transportation than you will find in Argentina, where poverty has been the rule, not the exception, since the 1960s. I suppose one day we'll see horses on the streets here, perhaps hooked to old cars that have had the engine compartments removed, which was called a Hoover Wagon during the 30s. The bed of an old pickup could be used as a "cart", hooked to a horse. That's probably a decade or two in the future though.

We'll also see older cars used and abused until the engines fall out, since people won't have the money for new cars, presuming there will be any new cars to begin with. Prices of scooters will go down as scooter makers realize that Americans can no longer pay $13k for a scooter. Some Chinese scooters can be had for around $3k new.

lemmiwinks said...

One of your best posts Ferfal. People need to HTFU and realise that a little bit of sweat won't kill you. Neither will rugging up against the cold.

Frankly I find it astonishing that anyone would be so stupid and short sighted as to build a city without facilities to enable people to walk around it, but I don't doubt that it's happened. As for carrying junk on bikes, it's not hard (unless you are a pussy in which case HTFU already) and people have been doing it for decades.

Unfortunately there's a lot of smugness associated with it these days, but that doesn't diminish the practicality and usefulness. Here's just a few options:


TW Bents cargo trailer

Which is an affordable knock off of the BOB Yak.

If you have some welding skills (or a friend who does) you can knock up all kinds of variations on these for yourself for cheap.

Bikes won't save the world, and there will always be a place for a larger vehicle of some kind which is capable of carrying more people and cargo in comfort, but some of the commenters (mainly on the other post) sound like the furthest they ever walk is from the couch to the car.

hsu said...

Lots of people walk outside to do shopping during the winter. If you cannot do that, it means you live too far away from shops.

I live near Boston now, which is a mecca for pedestrians, and I walked a lot during the winter. With all the snow we had, in many cases, it was actually easier to walk than to deal with (non-existent) parking.

It really is hard to express just how much easier your life becomes when you are only a few blocks away from a dozen businesses.

gaga said...

"Some Chinese scooters can be had for around $3k new."

Seriously, those are sold ,new, in Tesco's hypermarkets for $400.

Riding a motorbike in the cold is painful, I'll admit. However, on a bicycle you produce a lot of heat so keeping cool is the problem, not that you would realise it if you spend your life inside a car.

A. ruiz said...

I live in Chicago and biking is my main form of transit day to day, except when there is snow on the ground. Otherwise it is bus and trains. But lots of people bike year round in Toronto even, it's a matter of having BALLS or just toughness, because I see plenty of skinny 17 year old girls bike in the winter!
My dad when he realized how much I saved by not driving, being the evil genius/handyman that he is, attached a small gaoline (50cc) motorkit to his bike and added a motorcycle sprocker to the rear wheel and a motorycle chain attached to the rear-wheel. The whole set-up cost less than $150 dollars, it could be done under $50 dollars if you live near a really good junkyard.
It worked great, except that his back have only one crappy rear brake, so we never went faster than 25mph but you could go faster, easily.
But the concept is sound, harley-davidson and honda originally started as company selling kits.
This is the exact same set-up.

It has the same capabilities as an electric bike, but instead of paying $1200 dollars. You can do it for $150-200 with a used bike. It is basically a diy moped.


These are common in Cuba, more common than someone owning a car. They scanveged old soviet machinery to accomplish this.


Do you live in southern indiana? my girlfriend went to IU and we talk about moving to souther indiana all the time. It's our long term plan.
You're right, it's completely bike friendly. I think it's the right mix between liberals and rural people. You have the good stuff from each accessible and you can avoid the bad stuff, if you so choose.
So if you live 15 minutes out of town, you can live in a former farm with 2-3 acres per lot and still have multiple neighbors on a street. While being 1 hour away from a city of 1-2 million.

A. Ruiz said...

More on cuban motor-bicycles. They're called "riquimbilis" in their slang.


As for the people who live in massive suburbs with no sidewalks and 6 lane-roads and have to drive 2 hours to work. Well, I'm sorry but not being able to bike and having to use tons of gas is the price for that lifestyle. It was fine when gas was cheap.
But with high-gas prices, you either need to drive less and/or get a new car thats efficient or move closer to work/somewhere you can walk/bike to shops. Because gas is never going to be a dollar ever again.
That is reality and you can either deal with it, make the best of it or stick your head in the sand and whine.
Most people will choose to stick their head in the sand and just whine.