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March 21, 2008

Transportation Alternatives

Walking is an alternative form of transportation that's been around for centuries. Many people have the ability to walk without additional equipment or training. That we learn at a very young age.
It's a viable form of transportation that works. It carry me from my living room to the kitchen to refuel. It can carry me from the kitchen to my car, about 30-40 paces. It can magically carry me from my car to my office cubicle, another hundred or so paces because I have to park farther away. Walking doesn't have to carry me to the bank anymore because it's all done electronically now.
Lets look at my alternatives.
A. I can drive my car to work
B. I can ride in a car with other people to work
B. I can ride in several busses to work
C. I can ride a bike to work
D. I can walk to work
E. I can combine any of the above
To drive a car to and from work takes me about 50 minutes each day
To ride bussess to and from work takes me about 3 hours each day
To bike to and from work takes about 2 hours and twenty minutes each day
To walk to and from work takes, um, well, I only walked home once, late at night when the busses stopped running. Around midnight my wife got angry with me for walking alone in the dark through a 'troubled' part of town so came and picked me up in a car. Another fourty five minutes and I would have been home on my own two legs.
But walking is probably the cheapest form of transportation overall. The most affordable, requiring very little extra equipment. I'd need the same stuff to walk from my house to the car in the dead of winter. And I don't need to pay for mandatory liability insurance in case I hit someone, or something, with my body while walking. There are many other hidden costs, the larger and more complex the moving machine is. As with many things in life, simpler is less expensive and healthier.
Of course, I can't carry much with me while walking. It gets tiring after a while! I might need a cart or one of those super-light modern baby strollers to haul my stuff around. And there is the cold and the ice. It gets harsh being out in the elements in our winter. But I can do it. If I put enough on and cover all exposed skin.
It's no wonder we love our cars in this country. They have afforded me all kinds of possibilities and opportunities I would not have had without fast, comfortable, powerful transportation.
But sadly, A look at the recent auto shows where car manufacturers unveiled all of their modern fuel-alternatives cars and SUV's, shows that there is really nothing new there. All they have done is upped the fuel efficiency by a micron. Many of the vehicles are smaller, but the prices of these modern wonders aren't getting more affordable with less vehicle. It is simple math though to figure that the less weight you carry around the more fuel efficient you are. Thus the invention of carbon fiber bikes. For racing it makes sense. For exercise it means you have to ride farther to get the same workout. But lighter bikes are more fun when going up steep hills. Gravity works.
So, the thoughts are brewing around in my head to create my own affordable alternative form of transportation that protects me from the elements and allows me to get around faster than I can on foot. My goal would be to get me to and from work and other places faster than I could on a bicycle, but maybe slower than a point to point drive in a car. I could trade off a little time if I had to.
My ideas are not new either though. But maybe the time is right to bring back some old ideas, like velo cars. This one was created in 1938.
In Minnesota an enclosed tricycle sounds like just the thing to keep me from getting frostbite in the sub-zero weather and keep me from falling over on the ice. Mine would be electric assist so I don't get as tired and so I could haul bigger loads.
Something like this modern velocar looks more comfortable than the 1938 version. Still the same concept.
What do you think? Do any of you have a velo car and want to chat about the pros and cons? I would especially love to hear about ideas that would improve on this idea as I contemplate designing and building something for myself. Anyone have a used one for sale?

Posted by carl1236 at March 21, 2008 6:14 AM | Bicycles