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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 05-09-08, 10:07 AM   #1
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The End of Oil but the Rise of Fumes?

In Saudi Arabia they have a saying. "My Grandfather rode a camel. My father rode in a car. I fly in an airplane. My son will ride a camel."

As gas prices continue to rise in the US, the obvious move towards car free living is clear. But I was wondering... do you think people will ditch their car for a bike or a vespa-type scooter?

Because I sure hope it's the straight-to-bike option but I fear that the streets will be littered with noisy smelly scooters and hundreds of sub-par vespa drivers trying to zip past us on bikes. Thoughts?
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Old 05-09-08, 10:10 AM   #2
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Hydrogen power, converted from water.
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Old 05-09-08, 10:17 AM   #3
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that's the way it is in europe, especially Rome. Why wouldn't it happen here as gas hits the $8-9 a gallon range?

I would rather have a vespa driver passing me than an automobile driver. Vespas generally go much slower, weigh much less and allow for more room to pass (unless you are in rome and they completely ignore any lane markings and stack the vespas 8 wide to a lane).
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Old 05-09-08, 11:00 AM   #4
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... do you think people will ditch their car for a bike or a vespa-type scooter?
My predictions for a two year time frame:

Retired and otherwise unemployed people will stick with cars but simply do less driving. There will be lots more people in this category, too.

Families with jobs and children will also stick with cars. They'll do the same amount of driving but with smaller vehicles.

Young single people are the ones who will increasingly choose to use scooters and bicycles. They will be in a position to make their life choices so as to reduce car dependency.

As between scooters and bikes, I think bicycles will be more popular. The scooter has few of the advantages we associate with cars, such as climate control, the ability to haul cargo, protection in crashes, visibility in traffic, protection from theft, etc. The bicycle makes a personal statement that "I am physically vigorous, mentally alert, and I can deal with just about anything." The scooter does not.
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Old 05-09-08, 11:34 AM   #5
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that's the way it is in europe, especially Rome. Why wouldn't it happen here?

Vespas weigh much less and allow for more room to pass (unless you are in rome and they completely ignore any lane markings and stack the vespas 8 wide to a lane).
Using your own reasoning, though, why wouldn't the lane stacking happen here?
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Old 05-09-08, 11:45 AM   #6
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Using your own reasoning, though, why wouldn't the lane stacking happen here?
a lot of it would depend on the enforcement. Many cities/states enforce a two abreast rule for cyclists. I imagine for safety's sake they would do the same for scooters. No way of really knowing until we see about a 1000% increase in scooter usage.
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Old 05-09-08, 12:18 PM   #7
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I would hope for efficient 4 stroke scooters with appropriately sized cat converters & mufflers.
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Old 05-09-08, 12:55 PM   #8
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An electric scooter is completely feasible at the present time, and they are starting to be marketed. As the a123 LiFePo technology continues to expand production capacity and lower prices, these will be come the cheap, non-emitting, silent, low-maintenance option of the masses. They will also pose no significant drain to the grid, comparable to air conditioning rather than the entire house's worth of current you want to pour into an electric car.

The new nano LiFePo are game changing: stable (powder based rather than an ionic solution, so they don't explode and when they do it isn't a big deal), comparable energy densities to existing lithium tech, long duty cycles (c. 2000 uses) and most importantly, they charge and dischare at high rates with low resistance. So you can charge them in five minutes and get sustained burst power from them, critical for acceleration. Also the voltage hardly changes across the discharge curve... they're sweet little tech, too bad they cost so much right now.

Taiwan is scooter dominant, and I like Taiwan. I'd like it even more if the scooters were quiet and non-emitting. Scooters tend to play well with bikes. I'm looking forward to it.
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Old 05-09-08, 01:33 PM   #9
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Hydrogen power, converted from water.

Not for a looooong time, the technology for the fuel cells just isn't there, and is not even close to being where we need it for automobiles. Not to mention the issues of safely transporting, storing, and refueling vehicles with Hydrogen. Then there are the issues of infrastructure, which needs to take into account what method we use to produce Hydrogen.

Basically what I am saying is Hydrogen powered cars will not be here anytime soon (think 4 to 5, maybe even 6 decades)
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Old 05-09-08, 02:05 PM   #10
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Americans are lazy. The guys I used to see commuting in their trucks now seem to be riding to work on their Harleys. Great to see more people on two wheels, but a Harley is the moto equivalent of a pickup truck. As people give up cars, they'll migrate to scooters--don't need a special license like a motorcycle, not as much work as those icky bicycles.

Another thing you don't see here in North America like you see all over the rest of the world: Small displacement motorcycles. There are a handful of <600cc bikes on the market, but for the most part, anyone looking for a bike here in the states is looking at 600cc plus. In other markets, like China, most motorcycles are somewhere between 125-250cc. And these are the ones being used as taxis and carrying loads... like a refrigerator. Or sheet metal. Not that milage totally sucks for bigger bikes, but the emphasis on milage just isn't there--power still counts for more than economics. Makes me wonder if new fuel realities will bring the smaller bikes back, but with scooters getting bigger (up to 650cc), I'm not sure it will happen.
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Old 05-09-08, 02:17 PM   #11
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Not for a looooong time, the technology for the fuel cells just isn't there, and is not even close to being where we need it for automobiles. Not to mention the issues of safely transporting, storing, and refueling vehicles with Hydrogen. Then there are the issues of infrastructure, which needs to take into account what method we use to produce Hydrogen.

Basically what I am saying is Hydrogen powered cars will not be here anytime soon (think 4 to 5, maybe even 6 decades)
Come on- Think outside the box. People are doing this now. They convert the water to H & 02 in their
car. They just fill up on water. "Infrastructure" with auto fuel is a favored buzzword for people in the infrastructure business.
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Old 05-09-08, 04:41 PM   #12
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In Saudi Arabia they have a saying. "My Grandfather rode a camel. My father rode in a car. I fly in an airplane. My son will ride a camel."

As gas prices continue to rise in the US, the obvious move towards car free living is clear. But I was wondering... do you think people will ditch their car for a bike or a vespa-type scooter?

Because I sure hope it's the straight-to-bike option but I fear that the streets will be littered with noisy smelly scooters and hundreds of sub-par vespa drivers trying to zip past us on bikes. Thoughts?
I am not so optimistic that Americans will ditch their cars as gasoline prices rise. They didn't in the past, and they are not really doing it now.

I know some extraordinarily poor people who sacrifice health care, clothing, food, and other needs in order to drive their automobile. They didn't make the switch to scooters or bicycles.
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Old 05-09-08, 04:47 PM   #13
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Taiwan is scooter dominant, and I like Taiwan. I'd like it even more if the scooters were quiet and non-emitting. Scooters tend to play well with bikes. I'm looking forward to it.
I like Taiwanese people, but Taiwan is just about the dirtiest, polluted, and most noisy little island on the face of the planet. Taiwan - especially Taipei is a living squirming garbage dump.

The multitude of dusty, dirty, broken, noisy scooters stacked into every little corner of the country is unsightly and is itself pollution.

I hope that the USA never goes the way of Taiwan with families stacked onto noisy scooters burping along spewing out ropes of blue exhaust.
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Old 05-09-08, 06:19 PM   #14
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My predictions for a two year time frame:

Retired and otherwise unemployed people will stick with cars but simply do less driving. There will be lots more people in this category, too.

Families with jobs and children will also stick with cars. They'll do the same amount of driving but with smaller vehicles.

Young single people are the ones who will increasingly choose to use scooters and bicycles. They will be in a position to make their life choices so as to reduce car dependency.

As between scooters and bikes, I think bicycles will be more popular. The scooter has few of the advantages we associate with cars, such as climate control, the ability to haul cargo, protection in crashes, visibility in traffic, protection from theft, etc. The bicycle makes a personal statement that "I am physically vigorous, mentally alert, and I can deal with just about anything." The scooter does not.
I agree, but think you will also see more 50-somethings hit the road using bicycles for transportation. Like the younger set, they are generally unencumbered by offspring and seem to have a little more time.
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Old 05-09-08, 06:54 PM   #15
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In Saudi Arabia they have a saying. "My Grandfather rode a camel. My father rode in a car. I fly in an airplane. My son will ride a camel."
I was talking to my wife about this generational thing this afternoon. My grandfather rode in a dog-sled (living in Northern Canada...) and never drove a car. My father drove a car. I drove a car, but now mostly ride a bicycle. My sons? One of them smokes Camels.
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Old 05-09-08, 09:39 PM   #16
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Come on- Think outside the box. People are doing this now. They convert the water to H & 02 in their
car. They just fill up on water. "Infrastructure" with auto fuel is a favored buzzword for people in the infrastructure business.
Who is doing this now? Electrolysis in the vehicle takes far too much energy at this point, the technology, while useful for hydrogen production for industrial purposes, is too immature for vehicle power. Basically, at this point with electrolysis, it takes (more than) 1.4 units of energy to create 1 unit of energy in hydrogen.

Burning a gallon of gasoline, releases about 20 pounds of co2, whereas producing 1 kg of hydrogen (1 kg of hydrogen = approximately the same amount of energy as 1 gallon of gasoline) through electrolysis would release about 70 pounds of co2.
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Old 05-09-08, 10:22 PM   #17
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I agree, but think you will also see more 50-somethings hit the road using bicycles for transportation. Like the younger set, they are generally unencumbered by offspring and seem to have a little more time.
I tend to agree with you. Most of the people I see bicycling belong to one of two categories:

1. College-age people, or

2. People in their 40's or 50's.

I've seen more scooters lately, but, overwhelmingly, these, too, are ridden by people in their early twenties.

Among teenagers, the car is still king. Just today, I did an informal poll among my students to see if they'd be willing to use scooters, public transportation or bicycles to get around instead of cars, and the overwhelming consensus was that, if you were old enough to have a car and didn't have one, you were a total loser. When I pressed them, suggesting that gas prices might make a car unaffordable in the near future, the list of transportation options, in order of attractiveness, was:

1. scooter/motorcycle
2. bus
3. walking
4. bicycle

Most were willing to concede that fuel prices could force them onto a scooter, which about 3/4 considered tolerable if necessary. Every single one of them, though, said they hated the idea of riding a bicycle. It wasn't so much the sweat and bother, but the "dork factor." In particular, they hated the idea of being seen wearing a bike helmet.
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Old 05-09-08, 10:48 PM   #18
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It wasn't so much the sweat and bother, but the "dork factor."
So we just need to get bikes cooler in the culture. Having been in San Francisco for a month now, it's pretty obvious that biking has been 'cooled' here - with little pre-pubescent hipsters riding around on tricked out fixed gear bikes their parents bought them (and not wearing helmets).

But if that's what it takes to make biking cool and combat the 'dork factor,' then I say AEROSPOKES AND PHIL WOOD HUBS FOR ALL!!

Exactly what you're describing is what I've seen in my sister. She's 17 and thinks that biking anywhere would be tantamount to standing in front of her class in her underwear. Wouldn't be caught dead biking.

That is, until she visited her upcoming college campus and saw all the cool college kids riding around on bikes. THEN she called me and started in with bike-culture talking points: "You know, ryan, it's faster to bike around here than even to drive. You might as well bike than take the campus bus."

I was shocked. But I didn't react. I just am quietly letting her go the way of the 2 wheelers.
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Old 05-10-08, 12:04 AM   #19
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I owned a Honda Metropolitan 49cc four stroke scooter a few years ago. It could go everywhere a bicycle could go but not legally. The three horsepower scooter had a top speed of 39 mph when new and eventually dropped to 35 mph with 7000 miles on the odometer.

The thing was a blast in crowded traffic because it was so small. It was shorter in length than a bicycle. My insurance bill was $139.00 per year for full coverage. I locked it to bicycle racks because it was so light that it could be carried away by a big guy.

I have a motorized bicycle right now and it only gets 132 mpg with its 32cc two stroke motor (some other motors get much higher mileage). The top speed varies a lot depending on the wind. Without wind it will go about 28 mph. The benefit to motorizing a bicycle is the compact size and weight. It allows relatively inexpensive travel for people wanting to go farther than they could otherwise pedal.

It would be good if electric motors could be more reliable. Custom electric set-ups on bicycles can go fast but they aren't available to everyone. If the same technology used in the GM EV-1 and the Tesla Motors cars were available for bicycle motor kits they would be very reliable and more viable than gasoline powered bicycles.

Europeans have endured high fuel prices for decades and they just drive smaller cars. The prices in the USA are just reaching the prices of fuel Europe had ten years ago. Most Americans won't give up their driving habits.

The idea of using a bicycle as transportation didn't even enter my consciousness until four years ago. I wish it had thirty years ago.
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Old 05-10-08, 01:27 AM   #20
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...As gas prices continue to rise in the US, the obvious move towards car free living is clear. But I was wondering... do you think people will ditch their car for a bike or a vespa-type scooter?

Because I sure hope it's the straight-to-bike option but I fear that the streets will be littered with noisy smelly scooters and hundreds of sub-par vespa drivers trying to zip past us on bikes. Thoughts?
In the US, total-loss 2-cycle engines are already well on their way to being legislated out of existence, and I understand the situation is similar in western Europe.

New small engines in California are required to have catalytic converters on them (as of January 2007 IIRC) and these can cut the emissions by about 85%.

The catalytic elements are built inside special mufflers. I have a bicycle with a 4-stroke gas engine on it and I tried (back around mid-2007) to buy a cat-muffler for the engine and the local dealer said they couldn't get them then, even though new Cali-legal engines were shipping with cat-mufflers on them. The only way to get one was to order a Cali-legal engine that came with one. Perhaps I shall go bother them again and see if the situation has changed....

Putting an engine on a bicycle greatly expands its usefulness as a means of transportation, by the by. The main problem with motorized bicycles in the US is that they're not considered motor vehicles in most states, so there's not consistent regulation of them--it's left up to the individual states, and state laws range from few restrictions, to various restrictions, to not allowing them at all. The lack of a national-scale market means there's not a lot of development in them going on.
---
I expect we'll see hybrid motorcycles and scooters in widespread use long before we see electrics, for the same reasons as with the cars presently available. Electric vehicles have lousy range and are very expensive compared to gasoline engines, even with fuel costs at 3X what they are now. Battery technology is always improving, but batteries don't grow on trees and they ain't filled with milk and honey. When battery-powered vehicles do come into widespread use, there will be pollution problems associated with manufacturing and disposal of them as well.
---
Hydrogen is a nice idea but the low energy densities coupled with the lack of a distribution infrastructure mean it's even farther off into the future than electric vehicles are.
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Old 05-10-08, 05:08 AM   #21
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I tend to agree with you. Most of the people I see bicycling belong to one of two categories:

1. College-age people, or

2. People in their 40's or 50's.

I've seen more scooters lately, but, overwhelmingly, these, too, are ridden by people in their early twenties.

Among teenagers, the car is still king. Just today, I did an informal poll among my students to see if they'd be willing to use scooters, public transportation or bicycles to get around instead of cars, and the overwhelming consensus was that, if you were old enough to have a car and didn't have one, you were a total loser. When I pressed them, suggesting that gas prices might make a car unaffordable in the near future, the list of transportation options, in order of attractiveness, was:

1. scooter/motorcycle
2. bus
3. walking
4. bicycle

Most were willing to concede that fuel prices could force them onto a scooter, which about 3/4 considered tolerable if necessary. Every single one of them, though, said they hated the idea of riding a bicycle. It wasn't so much the sweat and bother, but the "dork factor." In particular, they hated the idea of being seen wearing a bike helmet.

I believe you are correct. A lot of teens and even people in their twenties would rather get mooch rides -even from their parents instead of going by bicycle. When I was a teen and a young man, getting a ride from parents was the pinnacle of being uncool.

I know a young fellow in his early twenties. A little down on his luck, living with his pregnant girlfriend. HHe didn't have a car, so his girlfriend gave him rides everywhere including to/from work.

I gave him a bike that I personally tuned-up and made road worthy (lights, fenders, etc). I suggested that he might need it for when the car might break down or when the baby comes and his girlfriend can't drive him.

Guess what. His girlfriend left him. With no car, he didn't ride the bike to work - he just chose not to go to work. Just blew it off and never went back. He got himself a new girlfriend who has a car and then got a new job - where the new girlfriend drops him off and picks him up every day. The bicycle remains locked to the post in front of his apartment, slowly rusting.

Some folks right here in America have a way of thinking about transportation that is just far away from mine. That said, my neighbor kids who are now in their teens and twenties DO bicycle everywhere, so we have to be careful with stereotyping.

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Old 05-10-08, 06:20 AM   #22
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I have not noticed more bikes here, but I have noticed more scooters. 50cc smelly, stinky, 2 stroke scooters.
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Old 05-10-08, 01:03 PM   #23
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So we just need to get bikes cooler in the culture. Having been in San Francisco for a month now, it's pretty obvious that biking has been 'cooled' here - with little pre-pubescent hipsters riding around on tricked out fixed gear bikes their parents bought them (and not wearing helmets).

But if that's what it takes to make biking cool and combat the 'dork factor,' then I say AEROSPOKES AND PHIL WOOD HUBS FOR ALL!!
If a practical means of transportation like cycling became as cool as skateboarding in the US, we might begin to see a phenomenon like Holland's cycling scene.
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Old 05-11-08, 04:41 AM   #24
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I agree that the U.S. is going to go the way of Asian and European countries where gas has been comparatively much more expensive than it has here. It will be a slow transition, but I think it has already begun.

People will be driving smaller and more fuel efficient cars and trucks, and there will be a lot more scooters on the roads. A few people will choose bicycles for transportation, but not many simply because it's easier and faster to get from here to there using a motor rather than muscles. I doubt most Americans will ever buy into the health benefit reasons for cycling.

I know a couple of people that don't bicycle. They also don't canoe, and they don't kayak, even though we have some absolutely gorgeous rivers and coastal areas right here, almost in their backyard. When asked, I have heard them make statements along the lines of, "Oh, I don't do anything that doesn't use a motor." Sadly, I think the vast majority of Americans are just like this.

When they say this I keep forgetting to ask if they would starve without a motorized can opener.
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Old 05-11-08, 08:55 AM   #25
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As gas prices continue to rise in the US, the obvious move towards car free living is clear. But I was wondering... do you think people will ditch their car for a bike or a vespa-type scooter?

.....

streets littered with noisy smelly scooters and hundreds of sub-par vespa drivers trying to zip past us on bikes.
New Vespa scooters come with 4-stroke engines and catalytic converters. Skilled driver is not included.
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