Category Archives: consumerism

Bike Lights that Last Forever, a Kickstarter Campaign

Can you believe it’s already fall? Seattle has been hit by some nasty weather this fall: rain, clouds and wind storms. And most disturbing of all, darkness! Time to start pulling out our bike lights.

What type of lights do you use?

Anne's got the cinder block

Even though we talk about upgrading to generator lights, we haven’t made the leap yet. We’re still using battery-powered lights. And not even bike-specific battery-powered lights, we use a variety of AA flashlights that we connect to our handlebars with DIY guy’s signature re-used/re-purposed inner tube mounts.

Bike Light Kickstarter

We’re not serial product testers and endorsers here at Car Free Days. We don’t blindly endorse every Kickstarter campaign that shows up in our inbox. In fact, the last time we got excited about a Kickstarter campaign, we were emotionally attached (a documentary by one of the Xtracycle founders). It’s been two years already and so far, the promised movie has yet to materialize.

That said, the latest Kickstarter campaign we’ve been asked to review looks pretty good. These guys have a track record for delivering on time and as promised. Continue reading

Fresh and Fruity: Build your own VeloMix Bike Blender

Around here, we’re mad for smoothies. The youngest doesn’t want to get dressed until he’s had his blended concoction of mangoes, raspberries and bananas. And who can blame him? If  your parents offered to make you a smoothie nearly every day of your life, you’d take ‘em up on it, right?

Besides being wonderful parents and frozen-food gourmets, we’re also a little nuts for bikes. So it wasn’t much of a leap to decide to combine our passions into one Xtracycle-flavored taste explosion.

bike blenderOf course, the easiest way to join these loves would be to get out the plastic and order a Fender Blender from Rock the Bike. These HPB (human-powered blenders) are much-loved by the  kind of Xtracyclers you’ll often see lingering, sweaty, around large piles of fruit at the Bicycle Music Festival, Burning Man, and various bikey celebrations. I’ve tasted the results of such purchased efforts and unfortunately, while the smoothies taste delicious, they are really tainted by the same bitter aftertaste that comes with buying most commercially produced goods.

So, no, in my quest for a pure smoothie, I wanted to skip the commercialism, re-purpose items from our garage and kitchen (items that I’ve already paid the aftertaste tax on), flex my languishing DIY skills, and see if I could take the bike blender power to 11.

In the end I spent more time on the project than I expected, but the resulting efforts were worth it. We turned this:

Raw Ingredients

Into this:

Sweet and Tasty!

Interested in building your own mobile blender? Read on…

Continue reading

No Imact Man? Is Moderation a More Sustainable Message

I just finished reading  No Impact Man. On loan from the library, it languished on my nightstand for two weeks before I decided to read it. Even with the due date looming, I still picked it up and put it down several times before finally struggling to the finish.

Why did I have such a hard time with this book?

It started with the title, No Impact Man. No Impact? Really? Is that possible in our modern society? Is No and Never just  too extreme?

I’m idealistic by nature. I’m all for changing my habits to benefit the planet and live more sustainably. I long for the simplicity of my youth and wish my kids could have an equally carefree childhood. Riding a banana seat bike down the middle of the street, helmet-less and barefoot and without a care in the world—that’s livin’. Tim and I are doing our best to raise our family with simple ideals in mind. But we know that all or nothing is not realistic these days, if for no other reason than it being too tough a message for most people to  accept.

Wouldn’t we being doing more good if we got people to embrace a sustainable moderation message?

I know book titles (and blog titles for that matter) must be catchy to entice people to buy/read them. Shock sells. And people are probably buying the book because they are intrigued by No Impact. “Somewhat Less of an Impact” isn’t as exciting. Why else would Colin’s ass cleaning routine (some sort of secret routine devoid of toilet paper) be the question most interviewers asked him over the course of his project?  Maybe people want to read about extremes.

Fine, but I’m pretty sure most people don’t want to live that way. Continue reading

Could D.O.T. Secretary think bikes are for real?

I mentioned this on twitter last week, but I think it might be worth exploring in a little more depth here with our blog readers.

DOT Fastlane BlogThe US Department of Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood is blogging.

These days a blogging politico is no surprise. However, the things he’s saying have kind of caught me off guard (in a good way):

  • “Bicycling is an important factor in less carbon-intensive commuting”
  • “When I told the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit that “Cyclists are important users of America’s transportation systems,” I meant it.”
  • “And, when I wrote that “With DOT, bicyclists have a full partner in working toward livable communities,” I meant that as well.”

To  cyclists, these statements are pretty logical. We get all of this and many of us have been saying the same thing for years. But the problem hasn’t been saying, it’s been the listening. That is, getting the Beltway to listen, and take us seriously (remember last summer’s anti-bike rant by N.C. Rep Patrick McHenry?).

Continue reading

Leaf-Blower Elegance in a Bike-friendly Package

Oma TankerAs most of you know by now, the team at Car Free Days is involved in an outright crusade to drive less and ride more. So far it’s been great. We’ve been riding (our Xtracycles and Anne’s Oma, mostly) nearly everywhere we need to go.

Those of you adept at reading through the lines, however, have probably noticed a little discord along the way. There was our son’s brush with hypothermia on the New Years cargo bike ride. There were challenging logistics for a 10pm wedding reception in Auburn. And we still get grief for the 50″ Plasma we scratched the crap out of hauling it home from Costco on the Xtracycles. And yes, the hills. Always the damn hills.

In many cases, my friends, pure people power isn’t the only answer.

We’ve dabbled with the idea of powering our Xtracycles with a Stokemonkey. Everyone we know who’s used one loves it. And Todd at Clever Cycles is a total peach. Really, the Stokemonkey is a perfect product, save one major shortcoming: They run on electricity. Franky, we just can’t condone the wasteful use of electrons wondering if perhaps a salmon got trapped behind a dam or a seagull met its demise at the blade of a wind turbine.

Though people can overlook such negatives, we at Car Free Days like to think our moral junk is of a stiffer quality than average. So that’s meant schellping our damn kids up the damn hills on our damn bikes with only our damn legs to thank.

Until now…

Continue reading

Building a kid’s bike that doesn’t suck: The Mt. bike frame

Continued from yesterday’s post: Kids’ Bikes: They suck and what you can do about it. It’s possible you may find this a bit too detailed. If that’s the case, visit the flickr stream for quick some ideas and examples.

Reaching for the brakes

Pre-upgrade: Reaching for the brakes

For the non-sucky kid’s bike project foundation, I started with Craigslist’s finest: a $65, 21-spd,  24″-wheel Trek MT 220. I like this style of bike because it has a semi-step through frame. I originally tried for a slightly older version, complete with lighter frame and a closer to a true step-through design. Unfortunately, all the samples I ran across were pretty hammered, having been through two or three kids. Continue reading

Kids’ Bikes: They suck and what you can do about it

Since the spring, our kids have really embraced riding under their own power. Anne has blogged about this a number of times. It’s been a great time for them. Meanwhile, as the resident gearhead, I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated by the absolute crap that passes as acceptable kid transportation in the US. Continue reading

Holiday Shopping for Kids

exercise-bike-for-kidsAfter a nice string of crisp fall weather, the rain and wind returned to Seattle this morning. We donned rain coats and brought along the trusty umbrella for our walk to school this morning.

Who wants to walk and ride bikes in the rain, anyway?  Instead, I’m thinking we’ll forget about getting the kids outside for exercise this winter and buy them a few of these lovely contraptions this holiday season. This exercise bike even comes with an interactive video game. Continue reading

Bike Rack Capacity: Tokyo vending-machine style

Too many bikes and not enough racks… around here, we’d be happy with with a few more two-bike units. Sorry, that’s way too simple for Japan. There they turn the engineers loose. Visitors to Toyko are frequenty awed by the crazy vending machines: Hot Ramen, socks, umbrellas, eggs, kerosene, and more. One count puts it at one vending machine for every 23 people.

So it only makes sense that bike parking would benefit from this technical vending genius. Understanding Japanese would add to the experience but we managed to get the gist. Combine this baby with the giant bike parking garage we saw in Amsterdam and we’d be in bike-parking dork heaven.

-Tim

via Streetsblog and Gizmodo

Pacific NW Per-Capita Gas Use Down to 1966 Levels

Gas Consumption is DownAccording to the Sightline institute, gas consumption is down in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington and Idaho. For more stats and details, read the full report.)  In terms of weekly gasoline consumption per person, Oregon and Washington are in the top 10 least consuming states (Washington D.C. actually leads the pack.)

This is good news–way to go northwesterners, but don’t go celebrating just yet.

Our total consumption, keeping pace with population growth, has not dropped. Per-captia we still consume more gas than a handful of states including New York, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Alaska, Utah, Illinois and Pennsylvania. And compared against the world, the report reminds us we still have a long way to go:

Despite recent reductions, northwesterners still consume prodigious amounts of gasoline. Daily consumption in the Northwest states remains nearly twice as high as the global average for high-income countries. 

Continue reading