Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Alternative Transportation

I think I may have already posted this photograph, but it's a response to a commenter who wanted to ensure that people didn't think all of the US was inhospitable to pedestrians. This sign clearly indicates a city where multiple types of non-car locomotion are encouraged with dedicated lanes and routes. I have never seen an on-street skateboard facility anywhere else. I know it was in the U.S. and I'm pretty sure it was in Portland, Oregon.

In answer to a comment a few days ago asking about what happens to bicycles if they are abandoned when the owner moves or dies, they have a department responsible for collecting abandoned or badly parked bicycles. They register them and make them available to be reclaimed, resold, donated or destroyed as appropriate.

I tried to rent a bicycle in Texas today. A bicycle does not appear to be a vehicle one can rent here. Just out of interest, do you live in a town where a person can rent a bicycle? And while I'm at it, did your parents buy you a car? Did you buy your child(ren) a car? Did most people in the class have parent-provided cars? I get e-mails all the time from teenagers who want to learn to fly and don't know where they could get the money. They seem earnest enough that if they were sitting on a car they'd sell it and spend the money on flight training.

You can rent bikes in all the cities where I've lived, and if you ask nicely at a bike shop, you can sometimes get a loaner bike to ride while yours is in for repairs. My first bicycle was parent-provided, but when I wanted a better one, with gears and caliper brakes, I had to save up to pay half.


Anonymous said...

I'm lucky in that I'm in a part of metro Atlanta that's semi-bicycle friendly. Not 100%, as you can't use every road unless you have a death wish. Call it 40% for my general area. It also helps (for friends who don't have one) that I live a few miles away from this, which obviously sits on the Silver Comet Trail.

Overall, there are pockets of metro-Atlanta that are bike-friendly but for the most part it's a lost cause.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm near Portland, OR, so, yes, I can most decidedly rent a bike! Portland is truly a city in which one does not need to own a car in the least. Public transit, bike lanes everywhere, and multiple car-share services make Portland one of the very best cities in the US in this regard.
I had a car in high school, but I had to work hard labor in the Christmas tree fields summers to buy it myself, insure it myself, and fuel it myself. Also, when it broke, I had to fix it myself, since I certainly couldn't afford to pay anyone to do it for me. It was actually a great experience, and I still use everything I learned from that experience.

dpierce said...

Cymbaline, I live near the SCT! Biking beats getting a ticket on the E-W Connector.

Most bike shops in Atlanta will rent you a bike. I'd guess most bike shops anywhere in the US will rent you a bike, but that might be a bad assumption.

My parents bought me my first car on the first birthday after I got my driver's license. I learned to disassemble the engine and transmission, and gave it about 70 extra HP before I had it a year. I'm glad I got that experience before cars went untinkerable.

With rare exception, everyone at my school either was given a car, bought a car, or made co-payments with family to buy a car. You'll find most US high schools have a fairly large parking lot.

Riding the school bus was an option, but I was doing after school activities most days, which meant I missed the bus. (And to be honest, our buses weren't really safe environments -- so I was glad to get away from them. (I refer to the other riders, not any inherent dangers associated with bus transportation.))

Aviatrix said...

It was my assumption, but I called all the sporting goods stores in town to ask if they rented bikes or if they knew where I could rent one, and they seemed baffled that I'd want to. Thanks for the assurance that it wasn't an unreasonable thing to do. I'll try again in the next town.

dpierce said...

You should specifically call a *bike shop*, and ask to speak to the manager. (The kids who work there are often seasonal or high turn-over, and may not be aware that the manager / owner is willing to rent a bike -- especially in this economy.) If nothing else, most of the people who work in a bike shop are avid bikers, often with a spare or two, and they'll likely rent you one of their own.

Just (*cough*) make sure that any storage areas in the bike are free of any forgotten extra cargo before you leave the store with it ...

Anonymous said...

You can definitely rent bikes in Berkeley/Oakland.

Everyone in my class was given a car, which was often wrecked soon there after. and then given another one ... Peter Fonda gave me a new car when i was 16.

times have changed, I worked years to pay for my flight training

Anonymous said...

There are bike rental outfits in both of the cities I regularly inhabit/visit.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen bicycle rental advertised... maybe some calling around would produce one, but I sort of doubt it. The reason? Insurance.

If I traveled as much as you, I'd give this serious thought:

I paid for my own 1st car ( last year of high school. ) It was a rusty red '68 Mustang, but it was freedom.

Transportation is actually sort of a sore subject in my house currently. My son just junked his car ( didn't see the need to check his oil and ran it dry. Engine seized. Sigh. ) and he is spending many hours on buses. I am giving him one ride a week, like right now, because the buses at this time of night to his school are non-existent.

I've never biked in the winter, guess I'm not as tough as Aviatrix. Some do, but the icy roads and subzero temps stop me .. cold.

Aviatrix said...

Sarah: I've looked at folding bikes, but they aren't tiny enough. I'm taking commercial flights back and forth to change planes and the customer often picks me and my luggage up. I can't be crippled by more luggage than I can carry. That Swiss Bike is actually too big, folded, to fly on Air Canada as standard checked luggage.

Cymbaline Nice bikes, but fifty dollars a day is scary rental prices! I've rented cars for less than that. If I'm in Atlanta I'll consider buying a bike and then donating it to charity after a week.

I'd welcome comments here with more information on renting bikes in any city, though. It's interesting that I rented a bike for a week in pricey Santa Barbara for less than what it costs for a day rental in Atlanta, which I thought was not amongst the richest cities in the land. Excellent point dpierce about talking to the manager.

Anonymous said...

My brother lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and rides his bike to work everyday, from the edge of town right downtown. I knew nothing about Tulsa before my first visit there, but imagined it, the way I imagined much of Oklahoma, as a flat, hot place where no one rides bicycles. While you won't see people out on all the streets riding, (it is definitely still a car necessary city), there is a biking/running trail through the city. I think that is a step in the right direction. My brother opted not to move back to Houston when offered a position because it is much less bike friendly.

To answer your other question, my parents bought my brother & sister each a second hand car when they turned 16. They were both major clunkers, but they worked. I got a second hand car when I was 18 and going to college. In my small community in South Texas, most teens had hand-me-downs or second hand cars for school. (And lots of kids worked after school jobs to help pay for them!) Mind you this is a rural environment and most people lived far from town. I knew very few teens with new cars.

Anonymous said...

I unluckily live in a smaller town halfway between Portland and Seattle which is very not bike friendly. When I want to ride mine I generally need to drive it somewhere from my apartment if I want to be safe about it... few bike lanes and no respect from drivers.

Parents paid for half of my first (and current) car, and I have spent a good deal of time and money fixing it. Unfortunately a car is pretty much a necessity here, I would be unable to get to and from work without it.

Having been to Portland several times I can also attest to how friendly it is to alternative transportation, and may move down there at some point.

Louise said...

I live in the UK. I got my first car when I left university. There was no question that my parents would buy one. This was pretty normal amongst my friends. Most people at university with me didn't own cars either.

My bikes were mostly parent-bought for birthdays. My first self-paid-for bike I got when I was about 16.

Anonymous said...

Not only can you rent bicycles in Anchorage, you used to be able to "rent" them for free. That was some municipality funded program to make Anchorage more tourist friendly, although the bike shops which rented bikes for real weren't too fond of it. I think that program has been axed.

Also, for an additional data point, you can rent bicycles in Singapore (I'm there right now) and you can also rent inline skates. Singapore has really nice bike/skate trails

Growing up in rural New England, I was not given a car. It was not unheard of for parents to give high school age kids a car, but it was infrequent enough to be remarkable. Most of the kids I knew who had cars had purchased them partly or completely with their own funding. Most kids in my high school rode the bus, and the student parking lot did not contain very many new cars.

Oh, and reference a long ago blog entry, the hotel maids in Singapore do not change the soap every day like they do in the US. If you leave a bar of soap in the shower, they leave it there so you may use it the next shower, instead of throwing it away. There's always a fresh one *available*, but you aren't *forced* to unwrap a new bar every day.

jinksto said...

I bought my own car growing up. First a volkswagon beetle for $400 US total and then a Ford Ranger for $1700 US which I made notes on. A few people at my high school were given cars but most either did without or bought for themselves.

Buying a car for my 16 year old niece is currently a family topic of discussion. I consider it lunacy but her parents will most likely end up buying one for her.

Unknown said...

You just need to come to Austin. We're an entirely different Texas...

Anonymous said...

Well whatdyaknow. My favorite Minneapolis bike shop does rent about any bike you may want, but it is $45/day and up. Good idea, dpierce, You may well get a better "unofficial" deal from a bike shop manager.

To finish the thought, no I won't buy a car for my son. Like the first one though, I'd pay part if he coughs up cash. We're in the city, but the bus system to & from the suburbs is not good.

Anonymous said...

Many hotels actually loan bikes to guests, so that's always worth looking into.

Hamish said...

(As you know) I live in Oakland, and it's trivial to rent bicycles here or in Berkeley or the City (and to take them on BART, etc.). I've never done it myself because I have three bikes, but friends have done it while visiting me. A typical SF place (with branches in New York and DC, IIRC) is, but there are a lot of others as well.

And I didn't own a car at all until I was thirty. Never needed one in London or Sydney…

Anonymous said...

I live in Cologne/Germany.
In Cologne you can rent a bike in nearly every bike shop. in addition the big German Train Company has a Service in big towns (german big)where you can rent a bike an pay with you mobile phone bill. the bikes are left on the pavements and you can unlock them with your registered mobile phone. The price is 8 cent/minute and max. 9€ a day.
My driving license I had to pay myself. My first car I got from my parents after they had bought semself a new one. So I got a Mercedes 200 Diesel with 50hp aged 20 years that day. But it had a trailer hook to pull the glider trailers of my Gliding club. I ride bike to work each day. But that´s only 6km and Cologne doesn´t get very cold in winter. This winter coldest day was minus 15.
Greetings from Germany

Anonymous said...

Having grown up in Texas I have never seen a place to rent a bike. Like the above post stated, the only place I can imagine renting a bike in Texas is around Austin.

Anonymous said...

Although it may be a foreign concept to almost all natives you can certainly rent a bike in any major city in Texas. As the previous comment noted, bike shops are the most likely source. Especially try shops near colleges or universities, or located downtown.

You can even get a bike in Midland, Tx (not exactly an urban oasis), for $20/day from Peyton's bikes if you're not too choosey.

Enjoy Texas while you're here - it's an acquired taste, and does seem a little scary at first. It won't hurt you though. Enjoyment happens when you stop expecting it to be ... normal.

Anonymous said...


While we do have rails-to-trails here in Florida, I DO miss the awesome trails in the the Cities. The loop that goes all around them was a great ride.

Of course, I can go biking this weekend, whereas it could be another month or 6 weeks before it gets seasonable up there.


My first car was a hand-me-down clunker. Ran well when it wanted to, and took me the 12 miles to work and back... Sold it for $600 and used that along with a co-sign from the parents to buy car #2.

I think many U.S. cities are VERY spread out. MUCH more so than in Europe. Maybe all the land we have, comparitively? (I wonder how Russian cities compare?)

This can discourage poorly planned public transit. Think: 45 minute bus ride to main terminal, 15 minute wait, and another 45 minutes to your stop. Then walk to the office... Fun.

Think about driving around Jacksonville when you were here. That outdoor "mall" near the airport is new in the last few years. Before that, the closest one was 15 miles away - and you'd never get out of the suburbs. Not very bike friendly, even where we do have bike lanes.

Mats said...

I live in Oslo, Norway, and we are able to subscribe to Oslo Bysykkel or: Oslo Citybike. The cost is about 11 US$ a year, and this gives you the opertunity to use a bike 3 hours at a time. The bikes are stored in about 100 racks around the most central part of the city. The bikes are financed with commercial on the sides of the bike.

I bought my first car, a 11-years old VW GOLF at 18, wich is the age limit for drivers license in Norway. You can actually obtain a Private Pilot License before you are allowed to drive a car :)

chephy said...

Never owned a car. Have no need or desire for one. And yes, you can rent a bike in my town: many bike stores offer that option, and there is some interest in a municipally-run bike share program.

Have you considered a Xootr scooter? Not as fast or convenient as a bike, but folds quite small (can probably be considered a carry-on for most commercial flights) and still beats walking, in my opinion.

Borja said...

Although I'm posting from Canada, I'm from Seville, Spain, and we got a really good bicycle rental service managed by City Council.

My first bicycle was a gift, the second one was paid by saving whole paycheck in a summer.

I have no children, so I can't buy cars for them.

My father bought a car for my two sisters and me, a very old Volkswaggen.

I'm sorry about to comment in an old post, but I'm arrived late...