Monthly Archives: April 2018

“Considering the constant fatalities, rampant pollution, and exorbitant costs of ownership, there is no better word to characterize the car’s dominance than insane.” Edward Humes

America’s infatuation with driving may be a lust for speed, or we just developed and continue to maintain a dependency born out of convenience!  Europe and the US differ greatly in their approach to transportation. For awhile, from the 20’s to the 50’s, Europe tried out some of the infrastructure changes the US invested widely. That changed in the 60’s. Europe went a different direction and now we are seeking to emulate the European models.

Americans drive over 1.2 TRILLION trips per year. Over 690 BILLION of those trips are two miles or less. 28% of those are one mile or less. Americans drive over 85% of their trips by car (versus transit , walking, or bicycling). Europeans do about 50-65%.

America’s infatuation with the car started with both the desire for speed and the mechanization of the assembly line. In the late 1800’s the League of American Wheelmen lobbied for the first roads. Cyclists were at odds with horses, wagons, and pedestrians as roads were mud baths, and out in the country they often encountered farm vehicles. As the assembly pumped out cars, America started building roads. Our current transportation principals primarily still follow many tenets that were developed as the need for roads increased after WWII. The VA provided loans for vets to build, but the caveat was they had to be outside of city limits.

Transit, with streetcars and trolleys helped provide much of the transportation in early 20th century America. That fell away by the 1950s. Then came government subsidies for both transit and roads. Taxes on autos for both licensing and road use is much higher in Europe. The price of gas has curbed the European diet for driving. While in America we rely on much lower vehicle use requirements when it comes to taxes. Gas taxes are half of what they might be in places in Europe.  Transportation funds get almost no competition from other government entities. In other words, the budget has been separated from the general fund. These dollars should compete with general fund budgets. We would see a different tune to road construction. According to an article by Ralph Bueler,  “Over the last 40 years, gas taxes, tolls, and registration fees have covered only about 60 or 70 percent of roadway expenditures across all levels of U.S. government. The remainder has been paid using property, income, and other taxes not related to transportation. These subsidies for driving reduce its cost and increase driving demand in the United States. In European countries, meanwhile, drivers typically pay more in taxes and fees than governments spend on roadways.

Convenience provides people with the reason to love their cars. The car gives immediate gratification for wants. With a bus, train, or even a taxi, the delay is real.

Another reason for car-centricity stems from unbridled resources available. The USA maintains a wealth of resources, some of which are finite. If our resource base differed we might be riding transit more such as Europeans do. Layton Hill made this statement- “…..some blame individual metropolis’ large size for auto-orientation. This is also wrong because it gets the initial causal chain backward. Cities are able to be larger, land-wise, in the US precisely because of the automobile. The other answers summed up by, “I live 6 miles from the nearest grocery store” would simply not be the case if cars were less convenient or affordable- grocery stores would be smaller and closer to people.” Three out of four jobs are located more than three miles from downtown. One in four homes are in an urban setting.

While the results of our car centric society keep mounting, telling us its killing us in so many ways, we still put huge investments into sedentary practices that keep us sitting and inactive.  The real story will be how we get on a car-diet! If you’d like to learn more about ditching the car for more economical travel, read







Buying a bike can be as big a deal as a new car, or TV, or a new cell phone. Lots to consider! Doing some homework will pay off when buying a bike. The benefit will be  a bike that fits properly and comfortably, whether the purpose is to learn to ride, mountain biking, commuting,  or just purchasing a new adult bike for health and recreation. Here are some tips that can ensure you have chosen the right bike.

First, to get the right bike, consider what type of riding you plan to do, not just for today, but what about next year or the year after? Have plans to do a bit more at some point? Hybrids will probably be the most common type of purchase for many. Commuter, hybrid, road, gravel, mountain, recumbent, cruiser, or fat bike are some of the types of bike to consider. What fits you the best is key. The optimum experience that will pay off is to go to a bike store and try out a few machines once you have an idea of what TYPE of bike would fit your aspirations.

Here are a few other tips for size. The rule of thumb is age determines wheel size.

-A three to four year old, with an inseam about 15 inches, needs a 10-inch-12-inch wheel size. The child should be able to put their feet flat on the ground while seated, and can reach the handlebars without bending forward very far, if at all.

-A four to seven year old, with an inseam around 20 inches needs a 16-inch wheel size. The child should be able to put her feet on the ground while straddling the top tube, with a few inches of clearance and turn the bike easily without stretching out uncomfortably.

-The six to nine year old is up to a 20-inch wheel size. A child shouldn’t look too cramped or stretched out, can turn the bike easily at slow speeds, and can stop and put her feet on the ground without toppling.

-The nine to thirteen years old, with an inseam around 26 inches or more, is ready for a 24-inch wheel size.

-Thirteen and above are ready for an adult bike, wheel size is 26-inch or 700 c. Adult sized bikes still need the same approach. BE SURE THE RIDER CAN STRADDLE THE BIKE WITH BOTH FEET ON THE GROUND AT ANY POINT ON THE TOP CROSS BAR! This general guide can be of help:

Your height / Bike SizeHybrid Bike Size Chart

  • 4’11” – 5’3″ = 13 – 15 inches
  • 5’3″ – 5’7″  = 15 – 17 inches
  • 5’7″ – 5’11” = 17 – 19 inches
  • 6’0″ – 6’2″ = 19 – 21 inches
  • 6’2″ – 6’4″  = 21 – 23 inches
  • 6’4″ and taller  = 23+ inches

Find a reputable bike shop. You might feel you saved a boatload of money buying at a rummage sale or discount store, but you walk away with no guarantees, unsure of a fit, and perhaps a bill for maintenance on an unsafe or poorly built bike. Bike shops offer trained sales people who back up bike reliability, help adjust your bike properly, help you purchase the best bike for your loved one or yourself, and support it by offering expert mechanics for maintenance. The biggest option bike shops offer is peace of mind. Keeping mind that spending a bit more for a quality bike, especially for youth, keeps the bike a sellable item when they grow out of the size. There are plenty of families looking for quality used options for their youthful riders.

While a guide was offered an the aforementioned paragraph, you or your child are unique. Consider your personality or that of the person you are purchasing a bicycle for in terms of coordination, size, timidness, and aggressiveness. These all change the make up/type of the bike you buy. Your bike shop expert can help you make the right adjustments.

Next, for youth, avoid the notion that your child will grow into their bike. While adjustable handlebars and seats can work within reason, there are problems. Too-big bikes are hard to control, making it more likely the rider will crash. Always remember the keys to a small child fit: being able to safely put both feet on the ground as they stand over the top bar, and being able to turn without reaching uncomfortably far. Youth bikes should be as low weight as possible so that developing skills comes more readily.

For older youth and adults, consider wheel size and width. Tire size does not make a bicycle more stable. That is the riders job. A tire size can help with comfort and roll. The wider the tire the more vibration it absorbs. The smoother and narrower the tire, the more ROLL you get with each pedal stroke. Find the balance that works for you.

Last, while Internet purchases may seem enticing, you will find that when all is said and done, buying locally has lots of benefits. Make sure you add in the cost of building the bike out of the box. NO BICYCLE comes ready to ride in the mail. The average cost to build a bike out of the box is $75-90.00. Be sure to add this to the cost. Keep in mind that everybody’s body composition is different.  You may end up with a bicycle that has fit issues. The relationship you develop with a local bike dealer/shop goes along way to helping you with many questions, maintenance, and improvements over time. You often receive discounts on ancillary equipment- lights, fenders, racks, water bottles/cages, and helmets. Having a GREAT riding experience can be best developed from working with a local bike shop.

Keep in mind that the real money savings or cost avoidance comes when you actually get out and ride. Take for instance the fact that a person saves $1.00-$3.00 for every mile they ride their bike for transportation. That means that for every 100 miles, you can avoid spending $100-300 dollars. How long would it take  you to ride 100 miles? An average, decent hybrid bike costs about $399-449.00. A person can recoup that price in the first year with a reasonable effort. How many years would you have a bike like that? The savings will just add up. So, it is not just the initial cost to think about. Think about the cost avoidance and the benefits in health, outlook, and weight control that you can enjoy! Purchase a better bike, just beyond your first inclination in price. You won’t regret it.