and it is a Total Blast!
By Dave Cohen
For many of us who are concerned with energy issues and climate change and are thinking about or have adopted the “tailpipeless dream” of the electric car, it might be good to know about another transportation movement that’s afoot.
Emerging just in time for us is a bicycle design and technology revolution that is profoundly extending the range, comfort, hill climbing ease, carrying capacity and overall utility of bike transport. This is vastly important to consider because, while the electric automobile might help in some regards, it may deeply exacerbate other problems like car-centric planning, sprawl, obesity, unsafe communities, massive resource consumption and our general disconnect from the real world outside the car. The word “automobile” has been telling to us for decades that it is about a form of “automatic mobility” that disengages our bodies (and what we think we can do with them) while largely subverting our sensory and emotional connections to the more-than-car world. The electric car is an “automobile” and in many respects may represent the everything-stays-the-same approach to transport.
So, it is great news that in cities and towns across the US there is a flourishing bicycle mobility renaissance taking place. In fact, biking has become the indicator species for healthy communities and a lot of what is driving this is the millennial generation (Generation Y). They are incidentally driving 24% less and biking, walking, and using public transit proportionately more. This has had an effect; in the past 10 years alone there have been 38 major, multi-million dollar bike-share programs launched in the United States. These projects are being built because these regions are all vying for the same thing – the millennials. Many communities understand that the key to remaining economically and socially viable is to attract a younger population and that by remaining with a latter-twentieth-century vision of transportation, you and your community are going to suffer.
I’d like to introduce you to VBike, a non-profit organization working to update and rejuvenate Vermont’s bike transportation culture by introducing new bike innovations and technologies like cargo bikes and electric-assist options. Formed in January of 2015, VBike has accrued a solid list of accomplishments. The organization earned a groundbreaking contract with Vermont’s alternative transportation state agency, Go Vermont, to provide free bike consultations, helping Vermonters choose a cargo bike, electric-assist option, or really anything related to bike transportation. Along with this, VBike helped the VSECU develop Vermont’s first low-interest loans for bikes. For all this and many other accomplishments the group just received the Project of the Year award this April at the 2nd Vermont Walk/Bike Summit.
VBike now has its sights on getting many more families and households on bikes. To do this, VBike has established a fleet of e-cargobikes and e-bikes to showcase around Vermont. These bikes will also be used for the launching of VBike’s Take it Home pilot project this spring in Brattleboro, allowing households to take a bike home to try out on their daily errands. VBike plans to expand this program to e-bikes for businesses, e-trikes for seniors and great innovations like the ELF, a solar-electric-human-powered vehicle, including a partial enclosure, room for passengers, built in solar panels and a full lighting system, including directional signals!
Look, electric cars are quickly transforming into self-driving cars or “carbots” and will likely bring about a dystopian, robotic landscape (we are almost there right now). That’s a great reason to bring a human face and our human bodies, senses and emotional connections back to the “real world” as soon as and as much as we can.
Dave Cohen has over 30 years of experience promoting human-power for everyday transportation. He also works as an integrative psychotherapist in Brattleboro, VT
Is your organization sending out surveyors on bicycles in Washington, VT? There’s been a guy around who says he’s out trying to help folks reduce their carbon footprint. Thanks.