Friday, April 18, 2008

Bicycle Transportation Report

We’ve been trying to use more energy efficient ways to get around. Bicycles are one form of transportation that doesn’t use energy (other than our own pedaling). With this in mind my mom and I have been going on biking field trips. We have been going further and further the stronger I get. Our goal has been to be able to go places where we can run errands on our bikes and we live in East Boulder, so we have to go several miles to get downtown to run errands on our bikes. First we went to the closest library and market (about a mile from our house) and then we went to Scot Carpenter Park (about two and two thirds miles). After that we got as far as the nearest bike shop, which is on Arapahoe and 28th St.. Later we got as far as Wallgreens, which is four miles. We also got as far as McGuckins Hardware, Whole Foods market: four miles, and Wendy’s. Most recently we went to Hillside school which is two and a half miles, the Farmers market, and the Main Library: about four and a third miles or about eight and two thirds miles round trip. We used a map and a ruler to estimate distances, we would need an odometer to get exact distances.
Last fall when we started taking bike field trips, we had many problems right away. Saddle soreness made it so we couldn’t ride every week. We were out of shape so we couldn’t go very far and couldn’t get to the places we needed to shop. Also later when we were able to go to the stores we were tired (fatigued). The wind chill made my ears and mom’s fingers hurt so much that we didn’t want to go at all. As the season progressed from fall into winter, it got really cold and icy so we had to take a break through December and most of January. We couldn’t carry enough on our bikes to go shopping (even if we could get far enough to shop).
So we came up with some solutions. We got a bike trailer, both of us got or made warm gear to wear, got padded bike shorts, and gradually rode more and more with breaks in between to rest our saddle sore bottoms (after all that we took a long time to get stronger). We got the bike trailer last October but we didn’t use it very much (until we were able to go shopping). This year we’ve only used it five times so far. The bike trailer is useful to us because it can haul much more than both of our bike baskets combined. If we have some relatives come by and visit us and they have a youngster, he can ride in the bike trailer (while we get some exercise). The bike trailer is also useful when you are running many errands on your bike because you can put all of the things you buy in it, especially when you are running a lot of errands. The things you buy won’t fall out because the bike trailer has an enclosed canopy over it and people are less likely to steal things from an enclosed bike trailer, especially when the things in it are hard to see. Fatigue is also important because you can be more easily distracted when you’re tired. When we didn’t have the bike trailer, we had to haul things around. Like when we had to go to Safeway and Blockbuster, we went to Safeway first and then we went to Blockbuster on our bikes because we couldn’t haul the stuff we got at Safeway to Blockbuster. Then we had to haul all of the groceries around in Blockbuster. It was a real pain to do all of that hauling around.

Pros of riding a bike for errands: It’s a good source of exercise for people who don’t get enough and exercise protects your health. It’s good for the planet because you’re not using energy that could contribute to global warming. You can go places where cars can’t and lots of times the routes are more direct. You’re closer to the natural world. We’ve seen prairie dogs, geese, birds, and squirrels. When we’re on our bikes, usually we go slow enough that we can enjoy them.
Cons of riding a bike for errands: The safety (if we make a mistake in riding we could get in an accident). Not many places to park your bike (especially when you have a bike trailer). Timing (it takes more time to ride your bike than to ride your car and the bus takes even more time than biking because of all the walking and waiting on bus stops). Temperature and wind chill. Can get stuck behind pedestrians on sidewalk. Traffic (pedestrians, other bikes, and cars). Some places dangerous. Fatigue. Hunger. Can take a long time to run errands. Need for bathroom breaks. The weather (rain, snow, strong winds, too hot, and too cold).
Our solutions for these cons are to wear the right clothing, knowing where the bathrooms are, bringing a lunch if your on a especially long errand, only going out in sunny weather, taking breaks (if your tired), bringing extra clothing because the weather changes rapidly here in Colorado, and try to find routes with less traffic and when necessary become a pedestrian and walk your bike.