Freewheeling: Bicycling and the art of being broke  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Grist has the latest in a series of articles on "Bikenomics" - Freewheeling: Bicycling and the art of being broke.

More and more of us have less and less money these days.

Fortunately, there are a lot of things you don't need money to do, and bicycling is one of them.

When you're broke, a bicycle can help a lot. Financially, for starters. Cars are expensive beasts. If you make less than $70,000 a year, you probably spend almost 20 percent of your household income on transportation. That's more than you spend on food.

But bicycling also has lots of other benefits -- the kind that shouldn't have anything to do with money, but that are all too elusive when you have none. Health. Lack of stress. Community. Fun. Joy. Civic participation. Bicycling makes you feel free, and when you feel that way you believe that more is possible.

So here's a short guide to bicycling through the new, not-so-great Depression.

In true Depression style, your first step is to not buy anything.

There's a good chance you already have a bike in your household -- most people do. Grab it! If you don't have a bike in your house, borrow one from a family member or neighbor, preferably someone who's about your height.

Borrowing will save you from buying a bike you hate, one that will fill you with guilt whenever you walk past it to the car or the bus stop. It will teach you what you do and do not want out of a bike. It will remind you that you have generous friends.

Once you have that bike, ride it! Ride it wherever you like. If this means down the corner to get milk from the store, don't forget to bring your backpack. If this means 5 or 10 miles to work, spend some time with a map first to find routes that don't suck. Some places, including New York and Chicago, are covered by an app called Ride the City that can tell you the safest and/or fastest routes around town, and Google Maps has also started offering biking directions.

If you can find someone to ride with, even better. Put some air in the tires -- if you don't have a pump, your nearest bike shop will gladly let you use theirs. Take a minute to familiarize yourself with some safe riding basics, and give the bike a basic checkup. And go!

There is one expense you cannot escape: Fuel. You may not be guzzling gas, but you'll be inhaling burritos. You'll eat more, and you'll find that the very cheapest food on the market, the fried and processed bready stuff, just doesn't get you up those hills. This all costs something, but it's nothing next to the price of inactivity.

Other things that tend to cost money are the key basic accessories: A $40 U-lock, a bell, a white front light and a red rear light -- the $7 ones are fine. Also consider a helmet and a front basket or rear rack. You may be able to borrow these things or find them at yard sales. If you can't, they're worth the investment. Everything else, you can find or cobble together. Garbage bags make fine rain capes in a pinch; milk crates will carry everything you need.

At some point, if you don't like your neighbor's bike or if they aren't interested in trading it for your old push mower, you'll need to do some shopping. Figure out your budget and what you absolutely need from a bike: Speed? Cargo capacity? To sit upright? Start shopping around. Try local thrift stores, rummage sales, and the internet. See if you have a local bike shop that sells used bikes. See if someone else you know wants to sell or trade you theirs.

You should also know that there is a huge worldwide network of places where you can fix your bike, get parts and gear, and even get a new bike, for free.

They're called bike co-ops or community bike projects. They host regular classes and also drop-in hours where patient volunteers will walk you through every step of fixing a flat or changing your brake pads. Everything is donated and then given away, though some places charge a small amount for time and parts. Many have programs where you can build up an entire bicycle for yourself, also for free, earning it through the hours you spend learning and doing.


Post a Comment


Locations of visitors to this page

blogspot visitor
Stat Counter

Total Pageviews




Blog Archive


australia (618) global warming (423) solar power (397) peak oil (354) renewable energy (302) electric vehicles (250) wind power (194) ocean energy (165) csp (159) solar thermal power (145) geothermal energy (144) energy storage (142) smart grids (140) oil (138) solar pv (138) tidal power (137) coal seam gas (131) nuclear power (129) china (120) lng (116) iraq (113) geothermal power (112) green buildings (111) natural gas (110) agriculture (92) oil price (80) biofuel (78) wave power (73) smart meters (72) coal (70) uk (69) electricity grid (67) energy efficiency (64) google (58) bicycle (51) internet (51) surveillance (50) big brother (49) shale gas (49) food prices (48) tesla (46) thin film solar (42) biomimicry (40) canada (40) scotland (38) ocean power (37) politics (37) shale oil (37) new zealand (35) air transport (34) algae (34) water (34) arctic ice (33) concentrating solar power (33) queensland (32) saudi arabia (32) california (31) credit crunch (31) bioplastic (30) offshore wind power (30) population (30) cogeneration (28) geoengineering (28) batteries (26) drought (26) resource wars (26) woodside (26) bruce sterling (25) censorship (25) cleantech (25) ctl (23) limits to growth (23) carbon tax (22) economics (22) exxon (22) lithium (22) buckminster fuller (21) distributed manufacturing (21) iraq oil law (21) coal to liquids (20) indonesia (20) origin energy (20) brightsource (19) rail transport (19) ultracapacitor (19) santos (18) ausra (17) collapse (17) electric bikes (17) michael klare (17) atlantis (16) cellulosic ethanol (16) iceland (16) lithium ion batteries (16) mapping (16) ucg (16) bees (15) concentrating solar thermal power (15) ethanol (15) geodynamics (15) psychology (15) al gore (14) brazil (14) bucky fuller (14) carbon emissions (14) fertiliser (14) ambient energy (13) biodiesel (13) cities (13) investment (13) kenya (13) matthew simmons (13) public transport (13) big oil (12) biochar (12) chile (12) desertec (12) internet of things (12) otec (12) texas (12) victoria (12) antarctica (11) cradle to cradle (11) energy policy (11) hybrid car (11) terra preta (11) tinfoil (11) toyota (11) amory lovins (10) fabber (10) gazprom (10) goldman sachs (10) gtl (10) severn estuary (10) volt (10) afghanistan (9) alaska (9) biomass (9) carbon trading (9) distributed generation (9) esolar (9) four day week (9) fuel cells (9) jeremy leggett (9) methane hydrates (9) pge (9) sweden (9) arrow energy (8) bolivia (8) eroei (8) fish (8) floating offshore wind power (8) guerilla gardening (8) linc energy (8) methane (8) nanosolar (8) natural gas pipelines (8) pentland firth (8) relocalisation (8) saul griffith (8) stirling engine (8) us elections (8) western australia (8) airborne wind turbines (7) bloom energy (7) boeing (7) chp (7) climategate (7) copenhagen (7) scenario planning (7) vinod khosla (7) apocaphilia (6) ceramic fuel cells (6) cigs (6) futurism (6) jatropha (6) local currencies (6) nigeria (6) ocean acidification (6) somalia (6) t boone pickens (6) space based solar power (5) varanus island (5) garbage (4) global energy grid (4) kevin kelly (4) low temperature geothermal power (4) oled (4) tim flannery (4) v2g (4) club of rome (3) norman borlaug (2) peak oil portfolio (1)