We've all reached that point when traditional commutes just won't do. For many Philadelphians, it was last year, when metro workers went on strike. So, they took to the streets—on bikes. As more people rode on the roads, they discovered it’s easier and cheaper to get around by bike. (Strikes are so common in Philadelphia there’s a regular “Bike the Strike” campaign.) Prior to and during the strike, bike owners noted that business rose nearly 400 percent.
The numbers are a no-brainer: a bicycle commuter who rides five miles to work, four days a week, avoids 2,000 miles of driving a year—the equivalent of saving 100 gallons of gasoline with a 20 mpg vehicle. If there were just a 2 percent increase of bicycling or walking the US, fuel savings would be around 3.8 billion gallons a year.
But, while riding to work is big-picture logical... the small picture is that bikes are, well, small. As bike commuters know, the gear doesn’t always meet the needs of many would-be cyclists. Got milk? Got kids? Got friends? Sometimes you can’t fit everything you need on your carbon fiber road bike.
Thanks to increasing demand from two-wheeled commuters help is on the way. Bike makers are extending, re-powering, re-jiggering bikes in all kinds of ways to make them more useful to those of us who need to haul more things than just ourselves. But can they invent a new bike that will encourage so many people to ride that it will result in a significant energy reduction?
Bikes have been around for hundreds of years, but what’s changing in the bike industry is the mainstreaming of the bike. It’s no longer about getting lighter or faster for the would-be Lance Armstrongs in the office, it’s about being useful. It’s not about Lance, it’s about the soccer moms.
If it’s mini-van era of the bike, then these bikes might be in your future.
Need to pick up your kids and hit the grocery store on the way home? Get a cargobike. This bike can carry 175 pounds in the front and another 100 in the back.
Another option for those big loads is the Surly Big Dummy. It feels more like a normal bike than the cargobike, but it still can carry 200 pounds of gear. That's some kids and groceries, a fully stocked camping trip or even an adult friend (watch the video). At over $1,600 it’s not cheap, but it can haul and go cheaper than a mini van, without the extra flat tire.
Or maybe you just need a bit of storage, but don’t want the extra bags. Tato Bikes are including storage in their frames:
Of course, there are the Brompton Folding Bikes, which are cherished by many who own them. So much so that they have a quirky bike race in England.
But sometimes, you just want to go fast and light. I can’t select a list of bikes without including my dream bike, the Delta 7 Ascend Road Bike, which has a frame that weighs in at just over 2 lbs, is freaking cool.
Across the nation, bicycle commuting has risen by 40 percent between 2000 and 2008 and bike sales are high. Between 16 million and 20 million bicycles are sold in the United States every year – more than the number of cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. combined. But this is still just less than 1% of the total transportation in the US, far less than even in Europe.