Carfree Cargo


One of the most diligently-repeated delusions of modern America is that, “You can’t live here without a car.” This phrase is in heavy rotation not only in Los Angeles, the city that invented sprawl, but almost everywhere in the country.

I remember an Internet friend telling a story on a cycling forum ages ago. He lived in upstate New York where he was advised that “You can’t live here without a car” because of the suburban distances and the frigid winters. So, as he was a bit of a wag, he eventually bought an old used car that didn’t even run, parked it in the driveway, and…never drove it. Bicycled everywhere, year-round. But he had the car without which you couldn’t live there.

About fifteen years later he finally sold the old hulk, having let the joke play out long enough. He’s getting older now, but still happily “lives there” carfree.

Other excuses for continued car-addiction (addicts always have a good long list of excuses, as I’m sure you know) include having to buy groceries or carry kids around. Of course cargo bikes do both quite adequately, as the Pigeon Master, Josef, himself proves every day, and they too are becoming popular, despite the “great cost”— about one-tenth the price of a new cheap car. Flying Pigeon has a number of them on the showroom floor, including a glitzy CETMA at the time of this writing, which should easily carry a washing machine should you need to do so.

I myself shopped for years for a family of three using an ordinary bike with those folding grocery panniers hanging on the rear rack (The weekly bag of potatoes was bungie’d onto the top of the rack.). No problem, ever, keeping us fed; in fact, mom and I gained a bit of weight. I’d do two trips a week instead of one—but that was a good thing, or I’d have packed on even more pounds. And the ride was a pleasure in a life otherwise filled with work and chores. Of course I rode to work and chores as well. It made the daily grind more than tolerable.

People are “getting it” more and more. Millennials and their older siblings show themselves uninterested in cars, and their parents are getting tired of wrestling the steering wheel themselves, as traffic gets more frantic even as reflexes slow. In the photo above, you see a premier Complete Streets treatment in Santa Monica, lacking only a physical buffer for the bike lane, but featuring a permanent Sunday bike valet by the Main Street Farmers Market. A cargo bike is being parked while its pilot dedicates himself to some heavy-duty shopping.

In fact, it seems that the world is round, that the Earth does revolve around the sun, and that you can, after all, “live here without a car.” Wherever “here” might be.

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