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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 09-10-07, 10:03 AM   #1
Percist
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Choose car free Vs. necessity

Forgive the ramble, but:

I would venture to say that a vast majority of people reading this post CHOSE to be car-free. I pass people all the time who may not have the choice. People for whom a bike is their only choice.

Does anyone have insight to their psyche? I doubt they debate which $100+ trailer to buy to cart their purchases from Whole Foods. I have a feeling that these bike riders are not always proud of it and few would call themselves cyclists.

I'm not judging or being elitist, but there is an obvious class difference between middle to upper class cycle commuters and lower-middle class to homeless bike riders. How do we come together? Do people want to come together?

Has anyone had success reaching out to the bike as last resort people?

How do they fit into car free advocacy? Can they? Do they hurt public opinion of "car-free"?

So far I've found its hard to make advocates and activists out of people who are not proud of riding a bike. These are often the ones who would benefit from improved public cycling resources and rider education programs.

I'm frustrated. Thoughts?
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Old 09-10-07, 10:25 AM   #2
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I agree with your analysis of the two classes of carfree cyclists. I like to chat with these involuntary carfree folks from time to time. Mostly I talk about bikes, as that's a good neutral topic.

I've thought about putting on a "Carfree Picnic". Just buy a few goodies, spread the word that it's free to anybody who arrives without a car. And maybe take some tools so people can work on their bikes at the picnic. But I haven't done this yet and I'm not sure if I ever will. How do y'all think it would go over?

What I would tell involuntary carfree people, if I was the preachin' type:
  • Keep an eye out for better quality used bikes. Look for the Trek, Specialized or Giant brands, because the cheap bikes made by these manufacturers are plentiful and a good value.
  • Learn how to work on your bike. One guy said he wasn't riding any more because his bike has a flat tire. So I gave him a tube and told him how to change it.
  • Learn how to ride in the streets. Sidewalks are slow and dangerous places to ride a bike.
  • Put your damn saddle up higher! No low-riding!
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Old 09-10-07, 10:25 AM   #3
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Has anyone had success reaching out to the bike as last resort people?
Mike posted a recent thread that might interest you.

Helping out a car-free fellow bicyclist
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Old 09-10-07, 10:42 AM   #4
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How do we come together? Do people want to come together?

I have no potlucks planned, but when I've completemented bums or hippie tourists on their bikes before, especially ones that show creativity in hauling gear or the way they're put together. I took a picture of a "economically challenged" touring bike just last weekend downtown.

Milk crates and bungie cords often do a lot more work than expensive gear and panniers.

The only time I'm annoyed by the "unchosen" car free is when I need to yell "Other side of the street". (Or "Otro lado de la calle por favor!")
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Old 09-10-07, 01:28 PM   #5
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Seeing how my spanish isn't any good....

I do maintain a decent stock of used parts to help these guys out if I can. I also purchased a whole case of inexpensive lime green/reflective vests to hand out when I see someone riding along with no lights or reflectors. So far I have handed out a dozen or so of the 48. One of the first guys I gave one to I still see riding and he ALWAYS has it on. He shops at the same grocery store I do. His bike is a Ross MTB of unknown age, with mismatched wheels and a pink seat. I see him literally all over the county, up to 20 miles away from where the store is. He lives out past me somewhere.

Roody I like the concept of the picnic for cyclists. I have toyed with the idea of setting up a bike kitchen in our small town, but dunno if it would fly or not. Once I come in off the road and start working locally I may give it a shot.

Education of road rules would be a major plus for these guys. Most of them are clueless. I have printed off some of our state brochures to hand out, but I suspect many of these guys are functionally illiterate.



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Old 09-10-07, 01:51 PM   #6
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Forgive the ramble, but:

I would venture to say that a vast majority of people reading this post CHOSE to be car-free. I pass people all the time who may not have the choice. People for whom a bike is their only choice.

Does anyone have insight to their psyche? I doubt they debate which $100+ trailer to buy to cart their purchases from Whole Foods. I have a feeling that these bike riders are not always proud of it and few would call themselves cyclists.
I ran into one guy recently who I really enjoyed talking to. He was pushing his bike up a hill, so I slowed down as I passed and asked "Need any tools?" Nine times out of ten, the answer is "No, just walking for a while," but this guy yelled back, "You got a chain tool?" So I stopped and we chatted about bikes and about life in general as he fixed the busted link on his chain.

He's been homeless for about five years and is still a little addled from an old head injury, but seems like a really nice guy. A year or two ago he inherited a little money, which might have helped his situation if he'd spent it strategically...but he found himself burning through it unwisely, and realized that soon he'd be flat broke again and have nothing to show for it. So he took the cash he had left and bought the nicest bike he could afford, knowing that otherwise he'd just blow it on something trivial.

So now he rides a durable, mid-range mountain bike, and he's been learning to repair and modify it from a local coop. The guy is thoroughly proud to be a cyclist, and he calls it the first good decision he'd made in years. It sounds as if the bike has made a real difference in his attitude toward life...not just because of the mobility and the pleasure of riding, but because it had been a long time since any of his choices had turned out this positive.

Last edited by divergence; 09-10-07 at 05:29 PM.
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Old 09-10-07, 02:13 PM   #7
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I know a few people that bike cuz they're broke (me for one). I never talk about cycling too much but I did complement someone on their electric assist they had rigged up.
It would be good to get these peeps into polotics, as they probably have a lot of time to goto city meetings and one vote is one vote. I think that there are 20 broke cyclist for every middle class one.
Organizing them will help get things done locally.
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Old 09-10-07, 02:21 PM   #8
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one vote is one vote.
Yes! Exactly!

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Organizing them will help get things done locally.
The question remains of how to organize them and absorb them into predominately middle class bike advocacy groups????
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Old 09-10-07, 02:24 PM   #9
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There are very real and big differences between low income and homeless bike riders. At least this is my experience. I hope to set up a bike ride for both groups soon. The qualifying criteria being sobriety from alcohol and drugs. The more I have looked into doing this the more involved it becomes so it is looking now like it might not happen until next spring. It is really something I want to do though.

It will be open to all bicyclists but it will be a short ride in a supposedly dangerous part of town with lots of broken glass on the streets so the serious riders who have the nice bikes probably won't want to take part. Not necessarily because of economic class snobbery though.
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Old 09-10-07, 02:30 PM   #10
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The question remains of how to organize them and absorb them into predominately middle class bike advocacy groups????
Stop being so judgemental or aware of other's circimstance and just do it. There should be no
'class' consciousness involved as you've introduced whatsoever.

Don't offer a hand out.....Instead offer a hand up!
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Old 09-15-07, 02:17 PM   #11
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These aren't necessarily the majority of circumstances people can't drive. I think it's safe to say that somewhere around 1/3 of people in the US can't drive due to age, income, medical issues, legal issues, or location. Obviously, some of these people can't ride a bike, being infants or physically unable! The majority of the rest seem to get around within the limitations of transit when available, stay within a walkable radius of home, or just get rides with others, usually family. Some ride bikes, and a few of those who ride, ride for transportation. I don't think the voluntarily car-free cyclists will ever exceed the fraction of a fraction of this enormous group comprising the involuntarily car-free cyclists.

If anyone's looking to get more people out riding bikes for transportation, we've got a huge and mostly untapped resource available here. I think Portland's on the right track with a diverse bicycling community available to get the new people through the steeper parts of the learning curve.
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Old 09-16-07, 10:40 AM   #12
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A very close friend of mine... her boyfriend came VERY close to involuntarily living car-free, due to being caught driving on a suspended icense.

I believe she was giving him advice on what to do based on what I was doing to prepare to voluntarily live car-very-light, though.
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Old 09-17-07, 09:08 AM   #13
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From experience, some of the homeless guys you see on bikes, are bike people, they're just homeless.
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