Sunday, January 29, 2006

More Maxshopper

Thanks to a reader, some further info on the Maxshopper is available. It's not in English, but it weighs in at about 15 pounds and retails for about $225 with bike hitch or $170 without. The photo above shows it in "shopping cart" mode.

It's nifty in that uniquely Swiss way, but there's no need gnawing nails until someone imports it. BicycleR Evolution, Burley, Bikes at Work, and others have you covered for now.

Rachel and I have been testing the BicycleR Evolution Heavy Duty trailer for a couple of months now. Two days ago, we hauled 60 pounds of groceries behind the tandem with no problems whatsoever. We recommend it highly, but all of the trailers above (and others, no doubt!) are great, too. It's a good time to be a cycler who wants to carry stuff.

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Friday, January 27, 2006


I recently received an email blurb about a Swiss product called Maxshopper. The concept is elegant. Maxshopper is a handcart that quickly converts to shopping cart or bike trailer. What it takes to go from cart to trailer is not immediately clear, but the idea has potential. Here is the blurb and a link to a video outlining (in a strange way) the concept:



In a recent note, Nick Thompson wrote, "Centerlines readers will be
interested to know, Whole Foods Market is setting up to test the
'MaxShopper transport system' in 4 Southern California locations as a
tool for people to reach stores on foot and by bicycle. The
'MaxShopper' is a pop up personal cart designed both for use walking
and as a bike trailer. Developed in Switzerland, where 6,000 have sold
in 18 months, the product rolls through the aisles, and checkout,
carrying 4+ bags of groceries. This project started when the managers
at the Whole Foods in Pittsburgh saw me ride into the parking lot
pulling mine (obtained via Vancouver, Canada because there is no US
distribution.) From there, Becky McLucas, with the company's Green
Mission initiative, picked up the concept as "something our customers
may really appreciate."

"My hope is to remove a few automobiles from our roads. Truthfully,
even drivers can use it stowed in the trunk to save the hassles of an
empty traditional cart. Product testing on LA sidewalks and streets
begins in February. Other regions in the Whole Foods chain are
interested. Progress depends on consumer reactions." (NCBW Centerlines Newsletter, #141 Friday, 01.27.06) [video]


I haven't had any luck finding a written product description, but I'll try to dig up something more concrete. In truth, the Bicycler Evolution trailer we have pretty much has us covered. But, the more the better for clever cycler gear, I say!

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Black Box

In addition to teaching this semester, I'm a student again. I'm enrolled in a Transportation Planning class in the Geography Department. It is fascinating to gain more of an inside perspective on how plans are developed. For those interested, a nice, non-technical primer:

A Transportation Modeling Primer

More to come, I'm sure.

Friday, January 20, 2006


My eyes follow the road up into snowy mountains I've never been to before--captivated, transfixed, almost failing to notice the German Shepherd coming on hard from the left. I had left home in worsening weather with a basket full of wool and bread to fend off the cold. I stopped by the shop to tell Rachel where I was going ("Up Butler Creek until the snow or cold stops me"). At the north edge of downtown, I circled a roundabout and rolled onto a brick-paved street along the tracks.

To my left, a bicycle caught my attention, and then the cycler, and I waved a hello.

"I like those handlebars," shouted the cycler.

I slowed and looked around, but there was so much to like about this fellow's bike that I couldn't seem to pick just one to compliment.

"I like your whole bike!" I replied, as he rode up alongside.

The smiling cycler rode a deep green Waterford adorned with all of Rivendell's finest: Boxy Bag and a Little Joe, Noodle Bars, bar end shifters--not the sort of bike one sees every day here. We chatted about Rivendell and the nice riding weather as we ascended and descended the spiral rise and fall of the bike/ped rail yard crossing. Usually, the expansion joints clang with each tire pass, but today it was silent.

"You can tell when it's cold when they're quiet," he noted. I had never put that together before.

We parted ways, but the cycler's friendliness set a warm tone to the grey afternoon. Riding along the northern edge of the valley, the usually stiff west wind was only a breeze, and the miles passed quickly. Past a school, I turned right, passed under the interstate, and felt the excitement of a road not yet ridden.

The valley opened up around tiny Butler Creek. Each bend surrendered expanding views of the snow-covered mountains the road led toward. I would only get to look today. I wanted to know whether I could access the National Forest from this valley, hoping to come back in warmer seasons to camp and explore those hills.

The road narrowed, and a few small ranch houses dotted my peripheral vision. It was then that the dog broke my eyes' trance. There would be no outrunning this dog up a grade in my low single gear. I was weaponless, carrying only a stowed mini pump today. One of the lesser known skills a seasoned cycler develops is a keen sense of canine intentions. I haven't developed it yet. I hopped off the bike to starboard, placing it between the two of us.

"It's all right, buddy; it's OK. Just passing through."

The dog was not convinced. One thing most dogs never develop is a keen sense of cycler intentions. With much noise and violence, the dog seemed intent on herding me up the road, which was exactly where I wanted to go. I tried remounting. He closed in. I dismounted. Just as things were becoming comical, an SUV approached.

The driver tried to mediate the situation. He tried to maneuver between the dog and I, which worked for a piece, but when the dog fell behind and saw through the diplomacy, he redoubled his efforts to catch me. I dismounted. Now there were three of us in this dance and if anyone was watching from the houses, or if the dog had a sense of humor, it must have been hilarious. The SUV jerked, I mounted and dismounted, and the dog ran from one end of the SUV to the other to make sure I wasn't pulling a fast one.

Finally, the dog looked around, seemed to realize how far he was from home, and gave up the chase. The driver caught my eye, and we exchanged laughs. He turned in a driveway, and I went back to pedaling and staring up the road. The pavement ended, and I began to hit some patches of ice and snow in the shade. The valley closed in and gathered creek, road, and trees close together. A couple of steep climbs winded me. The road continued gaining altitude.

Another steep climb, and the valley opened up now to the right. Right near the top, as I slowed to a walking pace, a sign read "Slow Down!" I tried desperately not to follow instructions. Soon after, the road split, and I took the fork that didn't have a Dead End sign. The sign was somewhat redundant as any road leading through those mountains ahead seemed unlikely.

More climbing and finally a sign explaining that the road squeezed through private land to access the National Forest. Success! And, just in time, as snow began to deepen on the dirt road. I continued for another mile to the gate my map had shown. I rolled up to the gate, pulled out a rolled up pancake I had tucked away, and imagined what lay up the steep road and ski tracks beyond. I'll be back.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Cycler Friendly New Orleans?

I was surprised to see this recap of Mayor Nagin's plan for rebuilding New Orleans. The new city would seem to be a dream for cyclers and other car-lite/less folks. The skeptic in me wonders what will get cut in budgeting. The optimist remembers a past visit to New Orleans--it is a special place and great at bucking trends. If it happens--and works--who knows? Worth a look!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

9 things that are better on a bicycle

the top of a hill
leaning into a curve
flat tires
traffic jams

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Cyclers use fossil fuels, too

In our economy, cheap energy rules, and it really doesn't matter who you are--Hybrid Driver, Cycler, Walker. I did some quick hunting after Michael's comment about cyclers requiring more calories. Well, Bicycle Universe has a feast of thought provoking statistics (Note: If it's not clear from the site name; the site has an obvious bias). While some of the underlying methods are a bit suspect, thinking is almost always a good thing! Here are a few selections that beeped my cycleradar (references available at the site):

1) Bicycling actually uses fossil fuels, if you consider the fossil fuels that go into producing the food to fuel the cyclist. Eating meat is most wasteful because of all the energy required to produce animal foods, while eating fruits, grains, and vegetables is more efficient.

2) The energy and resources needed to build one medium-sized car could produce 100 bicycles.

3) Bicycling is 117% more efficient than walking.

4) Traffic congestion wastes three billion gallons of gas a year.

5) [Private] Cost per mile is $0.517 [. . .] One interesting thing we can do with the car costs is convert the car costs into time. The average American earns about $17/hr., or $14/hr. after federal taxes. So $7,754 in annual car costs takes 554 hours to earn. That's over three full months of work each year. [We spend about $1200/year on bicycles, which with our hourly income, takes us 92 hours to earn -joe].

6) Average all-day urban automobile speed is about 25 mph, but slower during peak hours.

7) Thirty percent of morning traffic is caused by parents dropping their kids off at school.

The truth is that it's hard to make the case that cycling is hit-you-in-the-pocketbook cheaper than driving. I think it can be, but the logic to get from here to there is not going to convince many. I don't know if you can really convey to non-cyclers the real compensation for riding, which is. . .it's so much more fun!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Perceived Transportation Costs

I am teaching a small winter session class here in Missoula. Students divided into groups based on how they get to campus most often. The groups were to list things that would be most likely to change their transportation choice. The hope was that they would begin to understand how different factors (costs, substitutes, income, tastes) affect their decisions as "consumers" of transportation.

The discussion was lively, and, as usual, I found it very hard to understand the rationale of the group that drove and parked on campus (though it follows other findings). Fuel, maintenance, depreciation, insurance and most other car operation costs were not seen as affecting the decision to drive. The three things most likely to change the decision to drive were parking costs, parking availability, and the need for a car before/after classes. An $80 increase in parking costs per semester would change all of their decisions, as would missing class due to no vacant space. The (perceived) need for a car to get to and from work or daycare/children's school was also an important component in the decision.

When asked to clarify why fuel, maintenance, etc were not weighed in the decision to drive to campus, the response was unanimous. Since the tank is filled, maintenance done, and insurance paid already, use is essentially "free." This corroborates the idea that the perceived cost of operating a car is much lower than the actual cost. And, this includes only direct private monetary costs, leaving out private nonmonetary costs (health), indirect costs via taxes (roads), and social costs (congestion, pollution). It also demonstrates why density (tough parking) is so much more conducive to alternative transportation.

For the curious, only 2 out of 25 students used bicycles primarily. Weather was the main factor in their decision.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Something new

Rachel and I had some money left over from selling our old VW van. We decided to do something special with it, something to signal our commitment to living carfree. After lots of wild ideas, we settled on a very special tandem.

One month ago today, our Tandem Two'sday arrived from Eugene, where it was custom built by Green Gear (the Bike Friday folks). It wasn't until Saturday that the last of the parts came together. We couldn't wait, and rode in the new year Friday night. We took it for groceries and to visit some friends yesterday. This morning, we did something really fun.

I had the day off, and Rachel was running late for work. We decided to take the tandem. Wow, what fun! If there were any lingering (positive) memories of a car, they were of riding and talking together. Well, the tandem ride was fast, and we could talk the whole way at a normal volume. Wonderful.

We pulled up to the door, and I dropped Rachel off before pedaling the tandem home. I'll pick her up this evening. Thanks to Paul C. for the idea. My sense is that American tandeming has gone the way of road biking. Most tandemers we asked advice from assumed that we wanted to go faster than we could separately. We imagined grueling tours through the desert with matching plastic jerseys and laughed. We just wanted to ride together. Tandems make great utility bikes. I think ours will see a lot of use this year!