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  1. #1
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Carfree Cycling -- How to get started -- Noobs and lurkers please join in!!

    I've been a carfree cyclist for several years, and it seems easy and natural to me now. But I vaguely remember that it wasn't always easy, and I could have used some help. (In fact, I sometimes still need help, and I've found that the people on this forum are good at providing it.)

    That's the purpose of this thread--to start at the most basic level and provide some support and guidance to those who are new to carfree living, and/or new to cycling. No question is too simple for this thread! So, if you're wondering how to change gears on a bike, or how to signal a left turn, or where to park the thing while you go into a store, or anything else at all, this is a great place to ask.

    I really hope to get some new members involved in this thread. Obviously, some new members have a need of information, and they are encouraged to ask questions on this thread. Less obvious, maybe, is the fact that novices are often most qualified to give advice to other noobs who are just slightly less experienced or knowledgeable than themselves. "Experts" often give advice that's too detailed or opinionated to be useful to the new carfree cyclist. Other newbies are likely to give advice on the level that's needed. In other words, someone who's been riding for a month is often able to give better advice than somebody with a PhD in bike-ology, since they're more aware of the problems faced by a true beginner.

    So I hope many of the newbies and lurkers will get involved in this thread. I know a lot of you have questions that you might have thought were "stupid". Here's a place to ask those questions. Also, if you're new, here's a chance to answer some questions for the first time, and find out how rewarding it can be to help others on an internet forum. And of course our regular bike-ologists will also be getting involved, so don't worry about making a mistake.



    If you've never posted on Bikeforums before, it's really quite simple. First follow the links to register, a process that takes less than a minute, usually, and is totally free. Then click on one of the buttons in the thread that has the word "Reply." Just type in your message and submit it.


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  2. #2
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    How did you guys prepare to go Carfree? Currently I would say I am close to car lite. But it seems like there is more to it then just "stop driving." What kind of gear did you get? Did you have a backup plan? What were your first experiences?

    Thanks for doing this because I have a lot of questions.

  3. #3
    Dare to be weird!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Freud View Post
    How did you guys prepare to go Carfree?
    That's a great question to kick off this thread. I started going car light in 2002 by using the city bus system for my work commute, and walking for errands in my neighborhood. I saw other riders loading and unloading their bikes on the bus racks. At one point I asked a cyclist to show me how to work the latches and clamps on the bus's bike rack. Not long after that I got my own bike.

  4. #4
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    My first shot a car free was easy...I never had one that ran and couldn't afford to keep it running as it were. I basically ran car free from 1976 until I got married in 1982(first time) then stayed car light until 1996. The second time around is a lot harder...I am still working on it My "big" advice is to really think about any decisions that will affect your carfree/light lifestyle. Quite often alternatives to the car are staring you right in the face but it is easier to just make an excuse and use the car. Work on long range plans along with alternates...that is what I am doing at the moment...now if that durned lottery ticket would just pay off..... It can be done, for some people in some situations it is easy, the rest of us have to work at it, but I think the payoff is worth it in the long run. The only other advice is don't advertise that you are car free, just let people think you are into it for the fitness. Also have more than one bike or good access to mass transit.

    Aaron
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  5. #5
    Senior Member stevegor's Avatar
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    I'm not there yet, but as much as possible I'm car-free, eg: I ride most days anywhere between 30-80 kms, I ride to work, do messages and pay bills by bike etc. As much as possible I use my BoB trailer for grocery shopping...... (just got to get the wife's head around that one though), and my son and I often ride our tandem to outings and meeting with friends and even my wife is starting to come with me to do messages.
    It's just that the family needs me there to drive them at times, in other words, they want my companionship, so until they catch the cycling bug, that's my lot.

  6. #6
    grungepit grungepit's Avatar
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    I want to be carfreee, but it's easier to drive sometimes. Plus there are days I'm just too ****ing tired.

  7. #7
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    The hardest part for me is doing all of my days errands, say running to the post offices, grocery store, hardware store, home. Especially when they are all spread apart like that.

    Also having to do things more frequently, like grocery shopping.

  8. #8
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Freud View Post
    How did you guys prepare to go Carfree? Currently I would say I am close to car lite. But it seems like there is more to it then just "stop driving." What kind of gear did you get? Did you have a backup plan? What were your first experiences?

    Thanks for doing this because I have a lot of questions
    .
    I don't remember how I first became carfree, because it was so long ago, it was in the early 1970s, and as they say, if you remember the early 70s, you weren't really there.

    But I do remember when I became a carfree cyclist, as that was only about 5 years ago. I had a very crappy bike, but that's OK, to start out with a POS bike. I just started by taking very short trips, mostly on residential streets and the bike trail in my city. My first rides were just for fun and exercise.

    I remember the first time I went to the farmer's market, about 2 miles away, and bought a couple things and carried them home in plastic bags. I felt so happy and proud, realizing that a bike is really a form of transportation. I bought a backpack the next day and life became much easier.

    I think I practiced my first commute for a month, even though it was only 7 miles round trip. I was so nervous the first time I rode home from work. I worked evenings, so this was also the first time I rode in the dark, and I didn't even know about lights at that time. But I survived, and that winter, just a couple months later, I learned by trial and error how to ride in the cold and snow.

    My advice if you're new to riding, based on my own experience:
    • Any bike is fine when you're first starting. After a while, you'll figure out what kind of bike(s) are really right for you.
    • Don't sweat the gear and equipment at first either. You'll figure it out gradually, but pretty quickly. The important thing is to just start riding on/with whatever you have.
    • Make your first rides fun. Don't worry about trying to accomplish a lot. Just explore your neighborhood and start to get a feel for bikes and riding. It is supposed to be fun, dammit!
    • Make early rides short. The muscles you use for riding are different and you need to build up to it gradually.
    • However, do challenge yourself. Try new things and greater speeds and distances. Just don't try to do everything all at once.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    Ok i'll bite...i'm planning to be car free by the end of this month.

    any car-free people:

    What are the greatest challenges you face in being car-free and how have you overcome them?

    Also, do you ever get depressed/frustrated by your limitations? Like wanting to be able to go somewhere but its too far to ride or will take too long?

    Do you end up doing less things/missing out on things because of not having a car?


    How has your life changed since being car-free? Has it made life better or worse overall?

    Oh yeah one more q - security-wise: How do you lock your bike personally?

    And what do you do if theres nothing to lock your bike to?

  10. #10
    Dare to be weird!
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    What are the greatest challenges you face in being car-free and how have you overcome them?
    Lots of people get their panties bunched up when they interact with a carfree person. At first it's difficult to deal with that. Later on it's just amusing.

    Also, do you ever get depressed/frustrated by your limitations? Like wanting to be able to go somewhere but its too far to ride or will take too long?
    This is true to some extent. However, there is a compensation. You get to know your local area much better and discover resources you would have never noticed from a car.

    Do you end up doing less things/missing out on things because of not having a car?
    Not really. I live a lot more locally now. Maybe it works out because I'm fortunately located in a well balanced urban area. If I were way out in the exurbs or a rural county, it might not have worked out so well.

    How has your life changed since being car-free? Has it made life better or worse overall?
    It's much, much better. I'm in my mid 50s, my kids are all grown and I'm technically single, so I have minimal family responsibilities. For me, the only thing standing in the way of early retirement was that I would have to carry my own private health insurance policy. The savings of not owning a car almost exactly covers the cost of my medical insurance, making early retirement possible.

    Oh yeah one more q - security-wise: How do you lock your bike personally?
    I have three bikes. For two of them I carry a U-lock and a cable lock. The third is my beater, an old Sears 3-speed I fished out of a dumpster and did some minimal repairs on. When I ride my beater I don't even bother to lock it up. One of our regular posters, chephy, pointed out that a beater should be just sketchy enough so that it would be a relief if it gets stolen, so that's the attitude I've taken toward it.

    And what do you do if theres nothing to lock your bike to?
    There's always something to lock to, the only question is how far away are you willing to park.

  11. #11
    del dot
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitram View Post
    Ok i'll bite...i'm planning to be car free by the end of this month.

    any car-free people:

    What are the greatest challenges you face in being car-free and how have you overcome them?
    The biggest challenge was getting up the initiative to go car-free in the first place. Fortunately, my car was a piece of crap, and my attempts to fix minor mechanical problems always seemed to turn them into major problems. Sooner or later, it was such an adventure just figuring out how to get the engine started, that it was a real relief to remember that I'd been talking about going car-free anyway for other reasons...so why not now?

    Once I started riding everywhere, it was way easier than driving my rapidly disintegrating entropy-mobile.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nitram
    Also, do you ever get depressed/frustrated by your limitations? Like wanting to be able to go somewhere but its too far to ride or will take too long?
    No. Even if I never left a twenty-mile radius around my home, there's more interesting stuff to do than I ever have time for anyway. When I do want to do something further away, my favorite ways of dealing with it, in order of preference, are:

    1) Cool! Great excuse for a long bike ride!
    2) If there's no time for a long bike ride, I'll take a bus or a train, or grab a ride with someone else who's going to the same event. Bring something to read, and it's less wasted time than driving.
    3) Last resort: rent a damned car. Definitely the least enjoyable of the three options. Cars feel claustrophobic now that I'm used to a bike, and I've lost my tolerance for traffic jams and parking-space hunts.

    When I first gave up owning a car, I figured I might need to rent one once a month or so. Turns out it's more like two or three times a year. Still, I'm glad the option is there; on the rare occasion that a car really would make my life better, I go ahead and drive one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nitram
    Do you end up doing less things/missing out on things because of not having a car?
    No. Exactly the opposite; I end up doing a greater variety of things and enjoying them more.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nitram
    How has your life changed since being car-free? Has it made life better or worse overall?
    Way better. The regular exercise is great for my physical and mental health. I know things about my town and the surrounding landscape that would never have noticed in a lifetime of driving past it. And now I look forward to the process of getting to places, as much as to whatever I'm going to do when I get there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nitram
    Oh yeah one more q - security-wise: How do you lock your bike personally?
    And what do you do if theres nothing to lock your bike to?
    I use a Kryptonite U-lock. It's a combination lock, because I have a bad habit of losing keys. (I used to lose car keys all the time when I had them.) My lights and panniers are easy to snap on and off, so I usually take them with me when I park the bike.

    A U-lock plus a chain would be even safer.

    If there's no safe place to park, then I'll either bring the bike inside with me, or park it somewhere safer and walk a block or two to my destination. Almost always, though, there's a good parking place right outside wherever I'm going. Street signs, parking meters, and fences all work fine during the daytime in well-traveled areas. (Careful with street signs late at night, though...people have been known to unbolt the sign from the post, then lift the bike off.)

  12. #12
    Senior Member marcusprice's Avatar
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    great thread!

  13. #13
    Je pose, donc je suis. gcl8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitram View Post
    Do you end up doing less things/missing out on things because of not having a car?
    To me, this can be the mose significant drawback to being car-free. I live in a city where being car-free is as just about as easy as it gets: excellent bus service, and convenient, though a little expensive, train service to pretty much anywhere.

    I don't so much mind going to the store, or running errands on my bike. Yes, a car would be easier, but most of the time, I enjoy it, and the rest I slog through, if need be. (Heck, I carried a 3x4x5 foot box with a new gas grill on the trailer the other day -- that was a sight). My wife takes the kids to school on the bus, and I pull them in the trailer and on the ride-behind on the weekends.

    The trouble is that we are a fairly "outdoor-sy" family, and we like to go on hikes in the woods, or to the beach, and we are limited in our selection by either proximity or bus service. Add to that getting my wife and kids to playgroups, and it can be difficult, since it gets to be a hassle to be asking for a ride for the kids to/from the train stop, or to a place without bus service.

    Somehow, we have made it all work so far. In all honesty, when we move back to the US, or if we take up more permanent residence here, we will likely buy a car, mostly to overcome the drawbacks listed above (although maybe not, depending on the circumstances). Hopefully, though, we will retain as much as we can from our current lifestyle and not rely on it too much.

    In short: Living car-free can be difficult, but once you do it, you realize how easy it is do so much without one.

  14. #14
    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    I am car light. I am a kids softball and soccer coach. How do I do car-free with 5-7 kids of ages 5-10 to haul around, anywhere from 3 to 15 miles?
    Not too much to say here

  15. #15
    Tossed some weight Redrom's Avatar
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    Kids are hands-down the hardest part of living car-lite for me. I've spent a lot of time & energy making it possible for them to join me, but as they get older it becomes apparent that they just aren't enjoying it like they did when they were younger. I'm afraid that my encouragement is creating a distaste for them, which is causing me to back off a little for now. Consequently, I am missing out on the long rides that I've come to need and appreciate. Car-free with kids seems a daunting proposition.

  16. #16
    rhm
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    multimodal commuter rhm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redrom View Post
    Kids are hands-down the hardest part of living car-lite for me. I've spent a lot of time & energy making it possible for them to join me, but as they get older it becomes apparent that they just aren't enjoying it like they did when they were younger. I'm afraid that my encouragement is creating a distaste for them, which is causing me to back off a little for now. Consequently, I am missing out on the long rides that I've come to need and appreciate. Car-free with kids seems a daunting proposition.
    +1.

  17. #17
    i like mud discosaurus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitram View Post
    What are the greatest challenges you face in being car-free and how have you overcome them?
    My biggest challenge is still owning a car. I use it for trips home (about 100 miles, there is no train in my town) and epic grocery shopping.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nitram View Post
    Also, do you ever get depressed/frustrated by your limitations? Like wanting to be able to go somewhere but its too far to ride or will take too long?
    No. At first, when I was only commuting a day or two a week, if I ws feeling lazy I'd give in and take the car. I recently moved to a tiny college town and I've been riding every day, if only a few miles, plus recreational rides here and there (hooray for cycling club!) and hanging out with other biking type people, so it's far easier to ride. And the car just seems that much less easy. It's kind of a pain to drive, actually. I used to feel guilty for driving, even when I did it more, but now I don't mind it as much since I do it so seldom.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nitram View Post
    Do you end up doing less things/missing out on things because of not having a car?
    No. I do more with my bike than I ever did with a car.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nitram View Post
    How has your life changed since being car-free? Has it made life better or worse overall?
    I think this response is probably like anyone else's--I'm healthier, happier, and have more money in my pockets. There is absolutely no reasonable downside to cycling over driving. Except maybe kids, but that's not an issue for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nitram View Post
    Oh yeah one more q - security-wise: How do you lock your bike personally?
    I lock it to a bike rack, if available, or a sign or light post. U-lock through the rear wheel, between the stays and a thick-ish cable to secure the saddle and front wheel to the frame. I'm considering replacing my quick-release with locking skewers or even just bolted ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nitram View Post
    And what do you do if theres nothing to lock your bike to?
    Take it with me. That is extremely rare, though. A bike can be locked to anything secure. Not always with my favorite U-lock method, but definitely with a cable or chain.

  18. #18
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    What are the greatest challenges you face in being car-free and how have you overcome them?

    I would say:

    1) Inclement weather. When there's snow and ice on the road (which gets thrown to the right of the road), and/or it's snowing outside, then I have to either walk to work (too long, and difficult itself) or take the bus. Even often when it's raining I take the bus.

    2) Moving. Not having a driver's license, I can't even get a U-Haul, so when I have to move from one place to another, I have to get a moving company, and it can be difficult to find one available at the particular time I need to move.

    3) Inhaling the filth that trucks, buses, and cars put into the air. Interestingly, even if I were in a car, I would still have to inhale the stuff though it would be less obvious -- I've read that some of the worst air is inhaled by passengers in taxis. When possible, I try to travel roads with less traffic.

    4) A certain degree of mental stress in dealing constantly with cars. Again, I choose roads less traveled.

    5) Bumps (potholes, etc.). At times I've arrived at my job with my head hurting slightly because of all the bumps I have to go over. I'm looking into bicycles with better suspension than my beloved Challenge Hurricane.

    6) Transportation of groceries being limited. Alas, a bicycle simply can't bring back nearly as many groceries as a car. Still, if one has a good pannier, one can bring back a not insignificant amount. Perhaps two or more trips might be necessary.

    Also, do you ever get depressed/frustrated by your limitations? Like wanting to be able to go somewhere but its too far to ride or will take too long?

    On rare occasion. Fortunately, in the Internet Age, there are more ways to meet this limitation. For example, there was this one conference that I would have liked to have attended but it was a few hundred miles away. Solution: I got the papers read at the conference from an online archive.


    Do you end up doing less things/missing out on things because of not having a car?

    A little bit, but not much. Often there is more than one good thing that I could do, so I just do the good thing that doesn't require the car.


    How has your life changed since being car-free? Has it made life better or worse overall?

    I have always been car free. I never had a driver's license to begin with. I have saved LOTS of money over the years being carless, and in addition, the exercise has kept me moderately slim, so therefore, my life is better overall.

    Oh yeah one more q - security-wise: How do you lock your bike personally?

    I must admit to using a cheap combination lock, but then my Hurricane is pretty old, and not many people can ride a recumbent.

    And what do you do if theres nothing to lock your bike to?

    Take my chances.

  19. #19
    Senior Member donrhummy's Avatar
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    This is awesome, a great idea (make it a sticky?).

    I'd say the biggest questions I get are what a person needs to get (cost) and learn to be able to be a carfree cyclist. IOW, how much will they be looking at spending (and on what) to be able to ride in hot and cold weather, to keep up their bike and what skills will they need. I think people usuallt both over and undershoot the estimated costs. It's not going to cost $3000 (unlike road biking) but it's not going to be $50 either. I think for most people it'll be in the range of $200-$600 that first year (assuming you need to buy a bike).

    Things you'll need:

    1. Bike
    2. Fender
    3. Light
    4. Shoe covers, gloves, face mask.
    5. Chain lube, chain tool, spare chain link.
    6. Cycling tool (allen wrenches, etc) that can be carried.
    7. Portable bike pump (for on the bike)
    8. Patch kit/spare tube.
    9. Bike bag to carry stuff.
    10. Ability to change flat tire.
    11. Helmet
    12. mirror (for most people)
    13. Bike lock.
    14. Either backpack or panniers.
    15. Bike insurance (I think most people can cover this with their home insurance)

    Am I missing something?

  20. #20
    Livin la vida mestizo spiritualmonkey's Avatar
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    First time responder here. Hey.

    We went car-free when the Car Repairs of Damocles came crashing down. We didn't so much prepare to live car-free as much as I stumbled and ignored our way into it. Luckily, we had bikes in storage that only took a little bit of refurbishing to get them rolling.

    The combination of a bike and a monthly bus pass get me just about anywhere I need to go in the greater Bay Area. I live in Oakland and work as a catering bartender all over the place, so I'm constantly rolling to gigs with a change of clothes in my Chrome bag, a ziploc full of baby wipes, and a microfiber camp towel.

    Yeah, I suck exhaust fumes while pedaling. So what? Are you telling me you've got some hermetically-sealed air-filter system in our gas burner? At least you're exercising on a bike while you breathe urban air.

    Overall, MUCH BETTER LIFESTYLE! No gas to buy, no broken windows to fix, no insurance, no EXPENSIVE REPAIRS, tighter ass an over all improving health (including better, more frequent sex), I feel so much more in tune with my environment. I stop into store and explore new neighborhoods rather than burning dinosaurs and pushing a ton of steel around just so I can be kept isolated in my box till I arrive at my destination.

    The world is a smaller, healthier, less stressful, more interesting place on a bike.

    The median price for a new car today is HALF the median income for a US Family. And we're fighting wars in Mesopotamia over what's left of the dinosaur juice in the ground.

    I say ditch the car as soon as you can and get a bike. Not only will you feel healthier, but ask yourself if you really can afford all that gas and insurance and broken windows and car payments and pollution and war and soft, jiggly, jelly-like unexercised butt you get from sitting on it all day, even when running errands?
    Last edited by spiritualmonkey; 09-10-07 at 01:41 PM. Reason: add sig, also change "TWICE" to "HALF"
    The American urban wilderness was made for neither coyotes nor bicycles.
    And yet, coyote thrives in hostile territory.
    Bike like a coyote.

  21. #21
    ****** squegeeboo's Avatar
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    Simple three step program:

    Step 1: Crash car into tree, face plant into windshield now optional!!
    Step 2: Buy bike
    Step 3: Ride bike
    In the words of Einstein
    "And now I think I'll take a bath"

  22. #22
    two wheels! hugo's Avatar
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    Snow and ice...

    One of the biggest challenges for me was getting used to riding in bad weather. I rode last winter for the majority of the time, but walked when the snow was really bad. This year, I will not be walking, as I am determined to be comfortable biking in every situation that presents itself.
    Do those of you who have to deal with severe winter weather buy better tires/chains, etc? I ride on old, skinny, bald street tires and use a little extra caution, but I have a feeling that might not cut it in the heavy snow or ice.
    I also want to say, for those of you who have not attempted the winter biking yet, it is one of my favorite things to do on a morning when it's so cold you can hardly breathe. With some layers the cold doesn't even matter anymore. It's refreshing. I'm almost looking forward to it now.

  23. #23
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spiritualmonkey View Post
    The world is a smaller, healthier, less stressful, more interesting place on a bike.
    YARRR Matey!!!

    Welcome to LCF. Your blog is one of the best I've ever read. I hope you link to this forum.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  24. #24
    Senior Member
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    In relation to donr's post about cost and gear that you need. Can any other car free cyclists chime in on recommended gear needed for both hot and cold weather cycling? Did you buy the best or did you hit up the Goodwill? What are some things to save on and what the things to spend more on?

    Thanks

  25. #25
    Senior Member shumacher's Avatar
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    I think about this pretty regularly. I live 1.8 miles from work, 1.6 miles from an Amtrak station, .6 miles from groceries, 1.4 - 1.7 miles from my favorite watering holes. It never snows here, but the rain and heat can be vicious. Work has a small protected bike rack, and a distinct lack of car parking. I have the option to telecommute some days. There is no bike shop here, or within reasonable riding distance, which is my biggest concern. Car costs are around $450/mo for me, so I'm feeling like killing that expense would be wise, especially with everything so close.


    I'm weak, I know it. I have two weaknesses:
    1. I'm prone to poor scheduling in the morning, so I'm always running slightly late when going by car. Switching to a bike when I'm already late seems wrong.
    2. I love cars. I love trucks too. I love little ones, and big ones. I love the quirky Land Rovers and the cheeky Miatas; the absurd Hummers and the plucky Samurais; the refined C-Class and the noisy old 300TD wagons. I can't help it.
    Yeah. I'm weak. I own that. The only other thing is a habit for visiting a friend who lives several miles down a notoriously dangerous two-lane late at night. I simply can not find a bike friendly alternate route for this narrow, shoulderless, curvy, bit of asphalt.

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