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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 02-20-07, 01:25 PM   #1
Leisesturm
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Is It Possible (not Practical) To Be Car Free...

in semi-rural MI? Specifically Hamburg, MI with a daily commute into downtown Ann Arbor. Currently I live in NYC and I haven't owned a car for over three years. I have always done my bit as far as minimizing driving for unessential tasks but I always 'owned' a car and kept the insurance paid on it even as it sat most of the time. Thats relatively easy in Staten Island but in Brooklyn the alternate side parking killed me. I wasn't used to it. It was the best thing when the city towed it for parking tickets although I didn't see it that way at the time. But now I am looking to get out of NYC entirely. For less than what I pay for my illegal basement rental I am going to live in an 1100sq ft farmhouse on two acres. I have a job interview this Thursday and Friday in AA. Wish me luck. But I have enough hassles with figuring out how to get myself from NYC to MI with what stuff I have (two tandems, two folders among them) without needing to do the $1000.00 used car gamble.

My new landlord says there are no mass transit options. I believe him but I would like to know if anyone knows just how far the AATS does extend and whether I could say bike seven of the fourteen miles to the city and bus it the rest of the way. I've also been looking hard at the Ego electric moped. It has a 20 mile range but that would be under ideal wind and terrain conditions. Does anyone know how the land lies in that area? Is it hilly? Would an electric vehicle manage a 14mi one way commute? I can probably recharge at work. Unfortunately the Ego isn't really a moped, it does not have pedals so I really have to have the range in the batteries. There is another similar vehicle, the Izip - HG1000 that does have pedals and a similar layout to the Ego but I don't know... ... it 'only' has a 350W motor compared to the 1.5KW Ego motor. Any thoughts? TIA!

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Old 02-20-07, 01:49 PM   #2
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Did you look at the AATS site - http://www.theride.org/routes.asp ?

A lot of folks build kit bikes because there are some restrictions on manufacturers they avoid. Kits vary in complexity from wheels with hub motors laced in already to buying motors, drives, controllers and battery packs ala carte.

The best sources of information I've found on ebikes is the power-assist group on yahoo - http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/power-assist/. There are also forums at: http://endless-sphere.com/forums/index.php

A lot of people seem to use http://www.evdeals.com/Default.htm as a dealer. He's in MA. Another is: http://www.electricvehiclesnw.com/index.htm. I have no stake in either and in fact have not purchased from them.
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Old 02-20-07, 04:41 PM   #3
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I commute about 14 miles each way every day. Approx. 1,200 feet of climbing round trip.

It's not insurmountable.

Any of the mapping sites should be able to give you a good idea of the terrain... try toporoute.com or routeslip.com (Toporoute is easier, but routeslip gives you a better idea of exactly how much climbing on the route)

Edit: A sample route from Pinkney to Ann Arbor was nearly flat... a whole 76 feet of climbing the whole way. Heck, I couldn't find a single hill on the map.
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Old 02-20-07, 05:32 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm
in semi-rural MI? Specifically Hamburg, MI with a daily commute into downtown Ann Arbor.
Check with Roody. He lives fairly close to there.
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Old 02-20-07, 07:26 PM   #5
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If I were relocating, I'd try to make a carfree visit before picking a place to live, applying for jobs, etc. I'd scope out the local layout and evaluate the transit possibilities in person. That would help me make choices that better enable carfree living.
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Old 02-20-07, 08:07 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Platy
If I were relocating, I'd try to make a carfree visit before picking a place to live, applying for jobs, etc. I'd scope out the local layout and evaluate the transit possibilities in person. That would help me make choices that better enable carfree living.
+1, planning is the key.

As far as range on the ebike, while I can't speak for commercial ebikes, my simple electric gearless hub-motor conversion on my old Trek 1000 has a 700 watt/hour battery, and I do the thirteen mile trip out to the folks every weekend for the cost of two hours on the charger. I guestimate that equates to a cost of between 10 and 20 watt/hour per mile. If I were to actually pedal--oh the horror--I have been told on the power-assist forum that a "decent" ebike gets around 4 watt/hours per mile with reasonable rider assistance.
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Old 02-20-07, 08:53 PM   #7
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I can tell you that although MI drivers are typically extremely unfriendly to VC cyclists, Ann Arbor with it's large University and generally more progressive attitude is probably the best place to bike in the state. Almost all of MI is generally flat, but I am not sure about that area specifically.

Found an interesting site for you about commuting options in Ann Arbor:
http://www.getdowntown.org/

Good luck on your move and welcome to MI from a fellow former East Coaster. (I have been here 15 years, and although I like to visit I would never move back.)
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Old 02-20-07, 11:05 PM   #8
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I went to school in Ann Arbor. It has the most hills in SE Michigan, though that isn't saying much. You've been riding in NYC? It's a different type of hostility in rural areas, but I'm sure you'll adjust. Biking in A2 proper is just fine. If they've got bus racks on The Ride these days and there's a route that works for you, you could make the commute.

I think your main challenge will be stuff. Getting stuff home, groceries, etc. You might be used to smaller, more frequent shopping trips and the norm there is larger and less frequent. If I was going to be car free in SE Michigan, I think I'd go with an Xtracycle as one of my bikes. Who knows, with an Xtracycle, they may be less hostile due to bafflement at your choice of bike. Then again, it's been about 12 years since I was riding around there, so I may be totally off with my thoughts.
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Old 02-21-07, 07:49 AM   #9
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Although anything is possible, as a resident of this area, there would be NO WAY I would want to try what you are suggesting. There are no public transportation options available to you north of Ann Arbor and the weather is not conducive to a year-round, high-mileage commute.

That said, living car-free IN Ann Arbor would be very possible.
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Old 02-21-07, 08:51 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Platy
If I were relocating, I'd try to make a carfree visit before picking a place to live, applying for jobs, etc. I'd scope out the local layout and evaluate the transit possibilities in person. That would help me make choices that better enable carfree living.
Ideally yes. When relocating to Little Rock I didn't have such a choice. I moved there for the job, so that was a given. Having said that, it turned out well. Using the job as a basis, I was then able to survey the town with an eye to car-free living. I confess, I rented a car the first few days to scope the place out and investigate neighborhoods.

So now I live 2.5 miles from work. It's all hilly. But the area I live in is a nice valley with almost every amenity that you could want. Banks, restaurants, drugstores, grocery stores, movie theaters, big box discount stores all within walking distance and the neighborhood is safe enough that you can walk anytime of day or night.
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Old 02-21-07, 11:40 AM   #11
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What did the original settlers of the land do? I'm assuming this part of michigan was settled before the early 20th C. Probably they were a lot more self-sufficient than we are now though

14 miles would be a long ride - in a blizzard. Is there anyone else who is living nearby (within 3-5 mi or so) who might be amenable to carpooling when the weather goes bad?

If you are worried about endurance for a 28 mile commute/grocery haul you could look into an electric-assist system like the BIONX - there are a few on BF who have them. You pedal, and the electric motor provides a proportional assist (you can set it to different amounts of assist). You can even charge the battery when braking, going downhill, or by increasing your resistance. Grocery shopping and such might be handled by delivery in most cases.

By the way if you are used to riding in NYC - remember that your 14 mi commute will likely not include a lot of stopping and starting when you are riding in a rural area. This makes a huge difference to your average speed, especially when you consider that for long stretches you won't be waiting at traffic lights.

It seems to me that bad weather conditions are going to be the most difficult thing to handle - you need some kind of solution for blizzards, freezing rain, and summer thunderstorms.
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Old 02-21-07, 12:32 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm
in semi-rural MI? Specifically Hamburg, MI with a daily commute into downtown Ann Arbor. Currently I live in NYC and I haven't owned a car for over three years. I have always done my bit as far as minimizing driving for unessential tasks but I always 'owned' a car and kept the insurance paid on it even as it sat most of the time. Thats relatively easy in Staten Island but in Brooklyn the alternate side parking killed me. I wasn't used to it. It was the best thing when the city towed it for parking tickets although I didn't see it that way at the time. But now I am looking to get out of NYC entirely. For less than what I pay for my illegal basement rental I am going to live in an 1100sq ft farmhouse on two acres. I have a job interview this Thursday and Friday in AA. Wish me luck. But I have enough hassles with figuring out how to get myself from NYC to MI with what stuff I have (two tandems, two folders among them) without needing to do the $1000.00 used car gamble.
H
First, good luck on your interview. And I've known plenty of people from NYC who were happy with moves to Michigan.

Like most places in Michigan, Hamburg is very scenic and peaceful. Ann Arbor is a great city, but sprawl is a problem there as everywhere. The university and the central city are quite cosmopolitan, but Hamburg is going to be culture shock for you. You'll find it to be very different from NYC--good different and/or bad different, but definitely different!

Every county in Michigan has public transit. The service in Livingston County (where Hamburg is located) is called LETS. They appear to have on-request service. This means you call or E-mail the dispatcher and request a van to pick you up at your house at the required time. Three questions you would have to ask:
  1. Does the LETS service hook up with the Ann Arbor (Washtenaw County) bus service? It probably does.
  2. Will they carry bikes on LETS? Probably not, but maybe.
  3. What is the amount of time required for a trip on LETS? Some of those rural carriers pick up people all over the county and some trips take forever.
Another possibility would be to ride your bike to the nearest outpost of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. This is typically in a shopping mall or Meijer's store on the far outskirts of the metro area. It might be very close to Hamburg, or even in Hamburg, for all I know. As long as they have bike racks on the buses, you would have it made. Most transit people are pretty good with the public, so some phone calls or letters might get you more information than the web sites.

I once lived in a small town (Charlotte) about 20 miles from my work in Lansing. I did not find public transit to be practical there. I moved back to Lansing as quickly as I could. I hope things are better in Hamburg.

Welcome to the forum, Leisesturm. If you have other questions, please let us know.
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Old 02-21-07, 12:41 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by rajman
What did the original settlers of the land do? I'm assuming this part of michigan was settled before the early 20th C. Probably they were a lot more self-sufficient than we are now though

14 miles would be a long ride - in a blizzard. Is there anyone else who is living nearby (within 3-5 mi or so) who might be amenable to carpooling when the weather goes bad?

If you are worried about endurance for a 28 mile commute/grocery haul you could look into an electric-assist system like the BIONX - there are a few on BF who have them. You pedal, and the electric motor provides a proportional assist (you can set it to different amounts of assist). You can even charge the battery when braking, going downhill, or by increasing your resistance. Grocery shopping and such might be handled by delivery in most cases.

By the way if you are used to riding in NYC - remember that your 14 mi commute will likely not include a lot of stopping and starting when you are riding in a rural area. This makes a huge difference to your average speed, especially when you consider that for long stretches you won't be waiting at traffic lights.

It seems to me that bad weather conditions are going to be the most difficult thing to handle - you need some kind of solution for blizzards, freezing rain, and summer thunderstorms
.
I can guarantee that the original settlers did NOT try to commute to Ann Arbor on a daily basis. They all worked in Hamurg or a nearby farm.

The commute might be faster, but if Leisesturm is working in central A2, he or she will have to ride through a lot of suburban and urban traffic, and just a little rural stuff. Hamburg is actually an outer suburb or exurb of A2, more than it is a rural community.

Weather must be considered. I would guess that Michigan winters are a tiny bit colder and snowier, and the summers are a tiny bit hotter, compared to NYC. I doubt if delivery will be available for groceries in most midwestern locales. Of course, A2 has great restaurants, so maybe Leisesturm will be eating out. And I bet he/she would ride past a lot of groceries on the commute.
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Old 02-22-07, 01:32 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by rajman
What did the original settlers of the land do?
Small farmers in rural areas tended to form small local communities centered around a church, possibly a school, and perhaps a post office and a general store. Churches were sometimes shared by different congregations on alternate weeks. The post office would sometimes be in the back of the general store. Most of those old communities have disappeared now leaving few traces. They were about 5-10 miles apart, which means they were within long walking distance for youngsters going to school and horseless families going to church. The next step up from walking would be the horse or mule drawn wagon.

Extended families kept in close contact mostly by mail. They wrote letters back and forth in a way that's hard to imagine today. Before the Internet, people had what I call "Cousin Net". Even rural people were tapped into a widespread family news network, exchanging letters and spoken messages carried by travelling friends. People in Illinois had a good general idea of what was happening with their extended family in Georgia, for example. The subjects were things like who had died, disease outbreaks, agricultural prices, land prices, the weather, and who was migrating to where.

People who were not tied to the farm such as preachers, politicians, land speculators and businessmen could travel by water to cover long distances, then reach their final destinations by stagecoach, horseback, or wagon. Inland waterways were in much greater use for transportation than they are today. Until the development of the steamboat, river trips were often one-way journeys, though. Agricultural commodities were often floated downstream on rafts to port cities. After the cargo and the lumber from the rafts were sold, the crew would walk back upstream on trails such as the Natchez Trace.

Sorry for interrupting the OP's thread, but I think this was an interesting question.
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Old 02-27-07, 06:46 PM   #15
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Wow. Thanks for all the good info generated during my absence. The interviews went well I think. I had bus cancellations and delays due to weather both ways. Its been quite an ordeal. NYC is rarely stopped by weather to the degree that I witnessed in the general Northern Ohio, Southern, MI area. I should mention that about seven years ago I lived in Royal Oak, MI for a year or so and also Clawson and Warren for shorter than that. I did notice the extreme amount of hostility from motorists. I was actually run down and screamed at (windows rolled up) by a middle aged woman of all things. My friends at the time were completely unsympathetic. They said I had no business in the road and that the sidewalk was where you were supposed to ride! I said I couldn't function like that and sold my bike but shortly thereafter moved to Salem, OR where ironically enough I never owned a bike though I did get a lot of hiking done. In NYC motorists might be rude but they do not find bicycles presence on the roads objectionable. They do not try to scare you onto the sidewalk. It's illegal to ride on the sidewalk in any case though sometimes the street surface is so bad on some roads that I have done it just for some relief from the pounding. I noticed that the road surface in even the smallest of towns in the Midwest was far smoother than the best of NYC's streets! No bikes though! I never saw a single bicycle in use during my trip although in downtown Ann Arbor I did see bike racks and they were full of bikes. I have a Bob Yak trailer for groceries. Usually it is pulled by my tandem and with two riders. Currently I am without a stoker but I imagine I could manage a moderate load by myself. My folders would not have a problem being accepted on a bus, even in rush hour. The electric bikes are probably not bussable, well the Ego certainly isn't. The other suggestions for e-bikes are ones I have looked into. But I appreciate the suggestions. I think I will not be able to escape getting at least a used Civic or something like that for the worst of days. I was just hoping its use would be minimal or could be minimal.

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Old 02-27-07, 07:53 PM   #16
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My experience with drivers in Michigan (Lansing) has been very positive. I know from conversations that a lot of people don't feel that bikes should be ridden in the streets, but their actual behavior on the road is quite tolerant. As for the pavement conditions, the pothole season is just starting and for the next couple months the roads will be pretty bad. The road crews will be working as hard as they can just to keep up with the new potholes that spring up.

As for getting a car, fine, but after you get to know the area I hope you no longer need it. But I guess there's only one way to find that out!
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Old 03-01-07, 06:21 PM   #17
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I used to ride to work in AA, and it was no problem at all. The bike racks on the front of the buses are very easy to use and work well. I don't know about commuting in from Hamburg, though - the rural roads are quite narrow and I'm sure they're a nightmare in winter.

You might want to check out this blog : http://www.cfa2.blogspot.com/ for advice on living car-free in AA.
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Old 03-01-07, 09:35 PM   #18
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I'm speaking here for myself, not my wife. I bicycle 95% of the time, but sometimes the weather is just too severe, and there's no transit for the 8-mile trip to work.

This week, I'm on business in St. Louis. I have a (newly purchased used) folding bicycle with me. I'm now combo riding the bike / taking the Metrolink / taking the bus. I could definitely go car-free with this setup.
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Old 03-01-07, 10:26 PM   #19
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I'm speaking here for myself, not my wife. I bicycle 95% of the time, but sometimes the weather is just too severe, and there's no transit for the 8-mile trip to work.

This week, I'm on business in St. Louis. I have a (newly purchased used) folding bicycle with me. I'm now combo riding the bike / taking the Metrolink / taking the bus. I could definitely go car-free with this setup.
How did you get from CO to MO "oil free," let alone how are you posting oil free"?
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Old 03-01-07, 10:44 PM   #20
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How did you get from CO to MO "oil free," let alone how are you posting oil free"?
Easy big guy! I don't recall ever telling anybody I live an Oil-Free lifestyle all the time. I espouse "Oil-Free" when I'm cycling, and even when I'm taking mass transit, because that Light Rail or Bus would still make the trip whether I'm on it or not - kind of like Oil-Avoidance, since my company would have paid for a Rental Car.
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Old 03-01-07, 10:52 PM   #21
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Easy big guy! I don't recall ever telling anybody I live an Oil-Free lifestyle all the time. I espouse "Oil-Free" when I'm cycling, and even when I'm taking mass transit, because that Light Rail or Bus would still make the trip whether I'm on it or not - kind of like Oil-Avoidance, since my company would have paid for a Rental Car.
So "oilfreeandhappy" is a misnomer.

Got it.
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Old 03-01-07, 11:25 PM   #22
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No, it's my website name.
Quote:
Originally Posted by R. Danneskj÷ld
So "oilfreeandhappy" is a misnomer.

Got it.
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Old 03-02-07, 12:03 AM   #23
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No, it's my website name.
Which would also be a misnomer considering the patches, clothing, some bicycle components, the server the site is hosted on, etc. all contain/use products derived from oil.

Yes, I get it.

Hyperbole.
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Old 03-02-07, 11:37 AM   #24
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Yea planning is key to happiness.
I would buy everything online.

Who would ever thunk Phoenix is a great place to go car free?
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