Auto Manifesto

February 22, 2008

Beyond Biking to Work, Part 2

Following up on yesterday about making bicycles a viable alternative mode of transportation, the way to do that is to build or dedicate bicycle lanes between hubs within areas of a city to maximize potential usage and minimize cyclist exposure to motorized traffic, and provide showers and changing facilities there on a membership basis – like a gym without the space requirements of exercise machines. Pairing that with bike sharing programs like those initiated or proposed in various cities would really boost the number of participants. Here's more info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_bicycle_program
http://web.mit.edu/dzshen/www/about.shtml

Bike paths have to be accessible most of the time. That means day and night (need lighting) and throughout most or all of the year, in varying weather conditions. Currently the best way to deal with that is by wearing the appropriate attire for a given temperature, and being prepared for changes by carrying rain gear. It’s do-able, and not too cumbersome.

However, to get maximum long term benefit out of these concepts, the landscape will have to adapt as well. Some cities such as Minneapolis, Des Moines, and Indianapolis make use of elevated “sky walks”, enclosed, climate controlled walkways between major downtown buildings. Wouldn’t slightly larger versions of these be useful for pedestrian and bicycle transportation, especially in colder or rainy climates?

Finally, to extend the range of bicycles, electric assistance can do that. There are range extenders on the market now that will help propel a rider and bicycle many miles, depending on the amount of user effort. Imagine riding a bicycle that requires so little effort you always feel like you’re going downhill. The ultimate PHEV is a human-electric bicycle.

Yes, I said it. Automotive engineer, racing enthusiast, and die hard car fan that I am, I believe the automobile has become a victim of its own success. When this many people use them they start to lose their utility, the cost is starting to exceed the value. And it’s only going to get worse as the developing world attains lifestyles that we in America have now.

If we’re going to change the way we live for the better, the place to start isn’t so much building more automobiles. It starts with redeveloping cities and towns in ways that reduce our dependency on them, and encouraging cleaner, safer, and more convenient modes of transportation. And the final kicker? Barring inclement weather I can usually arrive at my destination faster on a bike (without trying) than a car if it’s within 2 miles of where I start.

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