By on September 22, 2012

I drive an American car forum member’s fantasy: a stick-shift diesel wagon. Except that I don’t. I love that car, but it stays in its garage most of the time, unlike its predecessor in New Jersey, which I drove 60 miles a day plus 200 on weekends.

Sure, I could do like most of my colleagues do, and drive the car to work. It’s a 12km (7 miles) commute, some 20 minutes without traffic, 30 minutes on bad days, including the short walk to the parking garage.  Half city driving, half highway.

But even though I am more of a car nut than most any of my colleagues, I’m cheaper as well. Since commutes mean a cold engine and higher fuel and oil consumption, and the car has a real world average of 6.3l/100km (37.34MPG) I estimate the fuel consumption at about 2 liters a day. 1.4€ per liter, 21 commutes a month equal 60€ a month in fuel costs. I am not counting tire use, oil, car depreciation, or repairs induced. With that comes the convenience of a variety of radio stations, MP3 player connectivity, he at, and AC.

What’s the alternative?  I currently live in Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg is 3km from the German border, and the city shares its love of bicycles with its Northern European neighbors. As much as biking 11km to work is fun, I get quite sweaty doing so, and smelly people are rarely appreciated by their coworkers.

The solution? Combined commuting: 5 minute walk to the tramway, 25 minute tramway ride, followed by 5 minute biking to work. The bike is securely locked in a semi-public shed, and the overall commute time is barely higher than with the car.

The cost? 100€ for a used bike, and 42€ a month for the tram, half of which are covered by the employer, by law. The shed is free with a tram pass. If the bike lasts 2 years, it’s a cost of 25€ a month, 35€ less than the mere fuel costs when using a car.

It even makes owning a car a fairly uninteresting proposition. I considered using the city-sponsored rental program, which is fairly cheap, at about 40€ to register (or 30€ with that tram pass; the city council REALLY wants me to not have my own car), 10€ a month for the subscription, and 2-3€ an hour depending on the vehicle. They have dedicated parking spaces, removing that hassle, with a station near my home. But the cars need to be reserved several days ahead of the rental to ensure they are available, and forums indicate that many renters don’t stick to their alleged schedules. You must have flexibility.

It still is an interesting possibility, except for two critical elements:

Car seats! Having 2 young kids means 2 car seats, and I just can’t imagine lugging them around on foot to rental stations.

Boredom! The available cars are random public rental-sharing program blandmobiles. There are a few Fiat 500s, kind of fun to drive but impractical, but mostly Toyota Aygos, Peugeot 107s, and Prius plug-ins. No way I’m driving those on a week-end trip!

So we’re back to my choice between the composite approach of walk/tram/bike, and the car.

The trams run every 5 minutes during rush hour, so that’s not a problem. Obviously, I have to deal with other commuters directly, in the flesh, something that’s completely anathema for many car commuters. But it often is for the better as that direct eye contact generally ensures far more civility than is usual when there are 2 windshields in the way of direct communication. Teenagers with idevices of course do their best to avoid eye contact and therefore having to give up their seats to pregnant ladies, but there again, nothing a shoulder tap, nod and smile can’t cure. And if nothing else works and somebody insists on getting in the tram before commuters have gotten out, my 6’2 frame and a growl do the trick.

The free newspapers are an added bonus, as is seeing all the lights turn to green when you approach, while hapless motorists must sometimes wait for excessively long periods of time as the rush hour flow of trams streams through the intersection. The trams have their own light system that trumps car traffic lights. Its is not unusual at all for a motorist to wait for 4 trams to drive past, or about 5 minutes…at ONE light. Just imagine if your commute crosses a tram line 4 times, which is not unusual.  Biggest real drawback: higher likelihood of catching a cold through involuntary germ exchange, but having 2 kids in daycare means that I get those anyway.

What about the biking part? We’ve all heard horror stories about the dangers of biking and seen hilarious videos of NYC cyclists crashing into obstacles spread in their bike lanes. Not so in Strasbourg, where cars generally take cyclists into account and bike lanes are most often on sidewalks or, even better, separated from both the road and the sidewalk, ensuring a high safety for bikes (and also for pedestrians from bikes, but that’s yet another story). Obviously, in order to ride that bike, one needs to be healthy, have practical clothes (high heels and skirts make it difficult, as do heavily stuffed suitcases or computer shoulder bags) and accept that short compromise on comfort.

I may use the car more during winter, and sometimes drive it to work for practical reasons such as carrying paperwork, running late, or having to fix the bike. But overall, that combined walk/tram/bike commute remains a cheap, ecofriendly, and practical to commute every day, and I thoroughly appreciate that the city of Strasbourg has created that system.

On the other hand, the city council has adopted what amounts to an anti-car stance which often borders on dives enthusiastically into silliness, such as refusing to adopt smart lights and multiplying one-way streets to make the city less practical for cars. It creates more pollution due to idling and detours than it saves. A policy is at its best when it creates a compelling incentive to change one’s way rather than to forbid or discourage through trick measures.

Long-time TTAC reader Antoine Parmentier  (a.k.a. AKM) spent 7 years in New Yersey  before returning to Strasbourg, France, where he lives with his American wife and two children

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94 Comments on “Confessions Of A Renegade Car Guy: Why I Take The Bicycle...”


  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    appreciated two things about this article: one the thoughtful well laid out personal rationale for your choices about transportation and two, the photos of Strasbourg. as a college student in 1981 i spent 6 months studying in a program at the university of strasbourg. although quai marie detrich was the mailing address for our program i lived in university housing to the south of the university and walked everywhere, no bikes or cars for me. pictures always trigger memories – thanks for making my day!

  • avatar

    Lets face it, European Cities are more conductive to this type of Lifestyle than we are here in North America, Great article, I loved it, My best to you there, with a bit of envy too!

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      They are more conducive to that lifestyle because they choose to be, while North American cities are not because they choose not to be, often citing costs & people’s attitudes/lack of interest. However, even in spread-out, car-centric places like Houston, when areas are gentrified with bikes & transit in mind, they work.

      The problem here isn’t geography or existing infrastructure. It’s the antagonistic culture and refusal to accept each other: belligerent drivers & self-righteous cyclists demonizing each other.

      I would never give up my car, but I would prefer not to drive to work because commuting is not fun–it’s a chore.

      • 0 avatar
        Antediluvianbaby

        +1! redav, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        redav,

        I realize that Houston (the city itself) may not have a lot of scenic, curvy, hilly roads, but one of the things I did that made 22-years of commuting more enjoyable was finding at least those interesting, beautiful, slower routes…. and staying off huge 4-lane highways with stop-&-go traffic jams! Yes, it takes more time, but I got to work refreshed and at peace, — and actually began to look forward to the drive each morning. (Of course, since I am a car guy, that did not take a whole lot of nudging…)

        ———–

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Geographic entities do not choose anything. Choice is reserved for sentient beings.

        And while everyone is entitled to their opinion, I much prefer commuting by bicycle in sunny Los Angeles, over rain drenched Amsterdam, or Portland; and I’ve tried the all.

    • 0 avatar
      Ibizaguy

      I wouldn’t be that sure of your assertion.
      As a fellow European I can tell you plenty of exceptions to this rule:

      – Madrid: where public transport, although with a huge network, is slow. Madrileños love their cars and they have the largest freeway system in Europe I think (based on my own experience, not even Paris has that many freeways around). Check google maps
      – Barcelona (my own city): Commuting inbound-outbound or within the city is a bliss with public transport. Driving with the car, although not technically impossible, is just plain stupid: 2 toll roads to enter the city, permanent collapse in the two main ring-roads, etc… However, try to commute from one suburb to another and you will be desperate (for instance, from Mataró to Sabadell, like one of my colleagues: 2,5 hours with public transport, 30 mins with the car). I ride a motorcycle.
      – Paris has some sort of balance although my Parisian ex drove a car regularly. Granted, don’t expect to park “intramuros” but they have a couple of concentric “peripheriques” which are full with cars to get around
      – Rome has a good network of trams a buses but Romans drive the smallest cars available and park illegally since public transport is not practic at all.

      Of course, you can say that my examples come from the unruly south :)

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Antoine – up until July I had three cars at my disposal. Now I have two vehicles. For the past 16 years, I’ve bicycled nearly everyday to work. I’m 59 years old.

    The secret is in 1996 I moved to within a mile and half from work, about 2 km.

    I’ll ride on winter days, except when it is cold and raining. Cold is fine, but not with rain.

    The building where my lab is located was built in the 1930’s. There isn’t much parking near-by. The closest contract parking garage is 3 blocks away. So, one big advantage that I have is I can park the bicycle in my lab – which is free.

    The second advantage is being able to stop and talk with colleagues who walking to or from their parking garage. It offers a sort of an informal meeting place outside of the office. If it is someone I wish to avoid, I pedal faster.

    The downside is my spacious abode in suburbs is a distant past and I live in cramped apartment in the city center. Not everyone is going to this.

    Some folks I know commute from the burbs by car with a bicycle on the back and park a couple of miles from downtown – where the parking is still free. Then ride in from there.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Biking in the rain really isn’t that bad, once you have the gear for it, especially for a short commute like yours. I cover about two miles, and aside from my face everything’s dry when I get to work. I’m 50, so not much younger or faster than you. I do live in a small town, might feel differently dealing with city traffic.

      This line in the piece made me laugh: “If the bike lasts two years….” My rain commuter is 25 years old, and it gets a lot of use. I expect I’ll have it til I die, unless it gets stolen. My other commuter is a few years older.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Little thing called mudguards or fenders. I absolutely refuse to build a commuter bike without them. While I live too far out to practically bicycle to work (20 miles each day, and I do it when I work Saturdays) I keep a three speed roadster at work for company bank runs and lunch time errands. Cars are a pain for under five miles. In just about any weather.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    Great article, Antoine…

    Your views here may be a harbinger of what will befall many American cities in the future.

    I did note your beautiful photos as well, and the proliferation of bike paths or lanes, which are even marked for two-way bike traffic or perhaps passing! They are beautifully manicured, with no litter flying about.

    But the anti-car bias you mentioned may not be unique to France. A recent writer on “Top Gear” complained that he had to pay the equivalent of $13,000 per year to rent a parking garage in downtown London simply because it was near an Underground station, and the city felt you should be taking public transportation!

    Sometimes, I think we Americans don’t appreciate the freedoms we have by comparison to the rest of the world…..

    ————-

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “A recent writer on “Top Gear” complained that he had to pay the equivalent of $13,000 per year to rent a parking garage in downtown London simply because it was near an Underground station, and the city felt you should be taking public transportation!”

      Have you been to London?

      The City of London (its equivalent of Wall Street) has the highest parking rates in the world. There is no supply because the area street plan was designed long before the car existed, but the bankers want parking spaces, so they have to pay through the nose for them.

      It’s supply and demand. Unless you’re demanding that the city government provide some sort of fat parking subsidy to financiers, I’m not sure what kind of “freedom” that you want.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Pch101..

        Yes, three times.

        And you are making a good point about supply and demand.

        But that particular commentator was also stating that, several blocks away, the rates were half as high, and when he asked why, the “Underground” explanation was given to him.
        Otherwise the supply-and-demand situation would apply perfectly.

        We must remember, of course, that the UK does have a bit of socialist mindset*.
        Example: Read the latest analysis by Jeremy Clarkson on “Brits”, whom he labels as “mean”:
        http://www.topgear.com/uk/jeremy-clarkson/jeremy-on-mean-brits-2012-09-19. —

        “If a poor American sees someone drive by in a Ferrari, he would say, ‘By golly, one day I will get me one of those’; if a poor Brit sees someone drive by in a Ferrari, he will say, ‘By golly, someday I’m going to get him of that!\'” (^_^)…. [Too bad we are all drifting toward the latter and not the former.]

        To answer your freedom question: as long as supply-and-demand can operate freely with minimum regulation under our review and control, there will be economic freedom we can accept. That is the freedom I was praising American for, it is the freedom my parents came to this country for, and yet it is a freedom that has eroded over 75 years, — but not as a result of any one political party. ‘Nuff said.

        ————–
        * I am not saying that that is necessarily always bad, and I don’t care to get into a big political / philosophical discussion on the topic!

        ————–

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “But that particular commentator was also stating that, several blocks away, the rates were half as high, and when he asked why, the “Underground” explanation was given to him.”

        Location, location, location. It’s more convenient to be located near a train, since you can leave your car in your space, commute without the car as you desire, then easily pick up the car when you need it.

        Parking costs more in Manhattan than it does in Memphis. That’s not a sign of creeping socialism or a communist conspiracy, it’s just basic supply and demand.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Pch101..

        Well, I will have to agree, unless that commentator was trying get parking in a public facility in which the Gov imposed artificially high rates (which is what it sounds like). But I simply don’t know enough of the specifics to go any further… Thanks for the comment.

        ——–

    • 0 avatar
      iainthornton

      How are high property prices any indication of lack of freedom?

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        iainthornton..

        When they are imposed by a government for political or social reasons, as opposed to free market supply-and-demand balance. Example: The “gas guzzler” tax — the high-end cars to which that tax applies aren’t driven enough to matter, but the Gov wants to make what it thinks is a social-repsonisibility point. That’s not economic freedom. See also my response above to Pch101. (^_^)..

        ——–

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “I think we Americans don’t appreciate the freedoms we have by comparison to the rest of the world”

      Agreed.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    Honey, pack your bags, we’re moving to…..anywhere, but here.

    Honestly, that’s the type of transportation situation I would love to have. Bike to work, but have a fun car for the weekends and random trips.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      That’s pretty much my situation. I work in the city of Seattle, but have a half hour bus ride that mainly uses carpool/HOV lanes to a park and ride in the suburbs that I can walk home from.

      Not having to commute in a car and only using it for fun/errands is awesome. I pity people who live in sprawled-out cities like Dallas who have no other options but sitting in their cars on jam packed freeways.

    • 0 avatar
      Lemmy-powered

      Could not agree more. I live in a city with almost everything i need just a short walk away. I ride a streetcar to work. My car sits in a rented garage, 2 blocks from my house, and is used only for fun escapes and interesting errands. My 2-year-old lights up when she sees the car, ’cause she knows we’re going “motoring,” not just out for some kind of daily grind.

      I see this as the purest way to appreciate the automobile.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      Yeah. I love my Miata more than ever now that I take the train to work and drive for everything else. The old commute didn’t feel like freedom.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Pretty intersting article to see how things work outside of the US.

    I think the big issue with governments being “anti-car” is that some people simply have no option, so they are basically punishing people for things out of their control.

    The bus here doesn’t START until I’m already 45 minutes late for work. The bust ride is 20 min east and then I take the train 40-50 minutes south.

    Living next to work is not an option since 1) It’s prohibitively expensive
    and 2) I don’t wish to change housing every single time I change jobs. In many families, both adults work then you may have to repeat #2 if the spouse changes jobs.

    I’m glad it works for the article writer (Also: Great pictures!) and it’s interesting to see how a car-free commute can work if everything aligns jussssst right.

    Also: I noticed you said they adopted one-way streets to make driving a car a more difficult choice, but aren’t bikes there supposed to follow the one-way signs as well?

    • 0 avatar
      AKM

      That’s the one biggest problem with the city. public transport and bike lanes are great, but the city also limits parking space, making it difficult to people who commute outside of the city, or don’t have the money to get a parking garage.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Indeed, make commuting by bikes reasonable enough, and even die-hard car lovers would leave their cars at home. Without it, though, even car haters would have to take their cars to work. Just look how much the city did to make car less commuting a viable alternative. Let’s see an American city (or other places outside Europe) that does the same!

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Portland is doing it, and it would seem you are correct: people will willingly leave their cars at home.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      I guess you guys never worked in a profession where you had to dress nicely, and be non odoriferous to meet with clients and customers.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “I guess you guys never worked in a profession where you had to dress nicely…”

        Not true. There are numerous health clubs located throughout the city where you can shower and dress before work. Some employers provide facilities as well. I used to have a locker large enough to keep clothes for the week at work.

      • 0 avatar
        AKM

        I adress that point in the article, and am always surprised by the number of people in suits riding bikes. They just go slowly enough to not break a sweat….and don’t crumple their suits by sitting in a car!

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        My current and former employers have shower facilities on site. Those who cycled in made it work; I never had any issues with nasty body odors at either place.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        It never ceases to amaze me bow my fellow Americans can go out of their way to come up with reasons why cycling can’t possibly work. Like there’s a fear that they’re going to be dragged out of their cars and forced to ride bicycles.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Boston is doing it as well. Short term bike rentals, bikes on the public transit system (non-folding only outside of peak hours – folding all of the time), bike lanes, and bikeways.

      Rush hour service on the subway lines is supposed to be every 5 to 10 minutes depending on the particular line and location. It’s not bad.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        mcs..

        Yup. In many ways, downtown Boston, with Beacon Hill area and its surrounds, including Cambridge, comprise our country’s most “European” city environment…

        ————-

  • avatar
    Mr Butterfly

    Great article, Antoine!
    I’ve always had a soft spot for European way of life, especially that of France or Germany. Public transport there is light years ahead of the archaic transit systems in North America (in my case it’s Canada). With the public transport being how it is here, I could gladly commute by bicycle, except that it is pretty much suicidal to do so. Too few designated bicycle lanes and the existing ones are basically a dangerous afterthought stuffed into the right lane of a regular road. In my case I would also have to contend with 100-ton industrial trucks with the blind-spots that could hide a building (and with fumes that could destroy a small ecosystem). That’s a price of working for a steelmaking company.
    While aware of the European anti-car sentiments seen in so many regulations there, I would still move to Europe in a heartbeat if I had an opportunity. Your cities are just too beautiful.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnny Canada

      You live in south west Hamilton and work at Dofasco (or whatever the Germans call it now) and you would move to Europe in a heartbeat? Dude, you’re already livin’ the dream. Enjoy. :)

  • avatar

    Antoine,

    Great piece. I take public transit to work and have a fun car for weekends. I live 5 km from my office but it often takes 30 minutes to get that far. Add in parking and fuel and it’s just a nightmare. Unfortunately, our public transit system is a joke.

    • 0 avatar
      Glen.H

      Not wanting to sound racist ( if that is the right term), but America is notorious around the world for screwing up public works and public services. Obviously there are many exceptions, but the impression many travellers to your land is that public services are like something out of the third world. Is it actually true that you guys make a financial loss on the postal service, for example? That just seems really hard to beleave!

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Derek is Canadian. Don’t blame him for the “us” part of your American reference.

        The post office is part of a political tug and war. This is not The Truth About Postage, so I’ll keep it brief, but there are folks in our government who want the postal service to be an ugly loser surrounded by drama so that they have an excuse to privatize it.

        In other countries, the postal services charge higher prices, plus they often get into other businesses in order to generate revenue. In the US, there is a government commission that keeps USPS prices among the lowest in the world, often by a wide margin, and it lacks the ability to get into other ventures that are common to post offices elsewhere. such as banking or insurance sales.

        We’ve been subsidizing the postal service since early days. It was being propped up by taxpayers back during the 19th century, yet suddenly, this has become a big deal. The problem is an invented one.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The arrival of email and competition from UPS and FedEx are nothing new, and while they have taken their toll, the chief financial issue for the postal service was invented by Congress:

        In 2006, a Republican Congress—acting at the behest of the Bush-Cheney administration—enacted a law that required the postal service to “pre-fund” retiree health benefits 75 years into the future. No major private-sector corporation or public-sector agency could do that. It’s an untenable demand. “(The) Postal Service in the short term should be released from an onerous and unprecedented burden to pre-fund 75 years of future retiree health benefits over a 10-year period,” says US Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. “With $44 billion now in the fund, the Postal Service inspector general has said that program is already stronger than any other equivalent government or private-sector fund in the country. There already is more than enough in the account to meet all obligations to retirees.”

        http://www.thenation.com/blog/169234/congress-fiddles-while-post-office-burns

        http://news.yahoo.com/looming-postal-default-shakes-mailers-confidence-145522093–sector.html

        I think the lesson is when you try sucking out retirement funds for seventy five years worth over a ten year period, you will bankrupt any institution.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Glen.H….

        I too will keep my comments brief, since we are already off topic. Piggy-backing on the excellent explanations by Pch101 and 28-Cars-Later, here are some more thoughts:

        1) I am not sure which public works or public services you are referring to, in general. It is certainly true that public RAIL transportation, in particular, in America, is not anywhere near European standards. Remember, that part of America’s founding culture is one of “do-it-yourself” or self-sufficiency, so elaborate public services are not readily supported. That has the virtue of having us not put our tax money into losing (long term) ventures; it has the problem of not providing common, cheap baseline services for everyone (perhaps streetcars in major cities).

        2) Another American cultural predisposition is economics or business considerations. Someone once said, “The business of America is business”. That means that financial measures ultimately get used for many public projects. In earlier days, when the US Post Office was seen purely as a government bureau and financed out of taxes as a service, there was no issue: of course, it would operate at a loss. But when the move to “privatize” it started, now it is held to standards one would expect of a real business, and losing money is seen as a problem. Frankly, the USPO is now caught in a no-mans’s land: neither purely Federal nor purely Private. If it’s going to break even as a business (and be purely private), the first-class postage rate would have to be at least $1.00 per letter! A bit high? Well, look at the time/motion/energy involved in delivery of a single first-class item….

        So, “paying your own way” plus “profit/loss thinking” have dominated here. And this may explain why we have such an overwhelming personal car culture. I hope this also helps with some insights on why we are the way we are in other areas… (^_^)….

        ————–

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      That’s surprising; I thought Toronto would at least have a decent public transit system.

      Vancouver certainly has a pretty good one with the Skytrain and a huge amount of bus routes.

      • 0 avatar
        Glen.H

        I guess it comes down to different mind sets- we tend to see the government as something we own, a utility or our servant. Anyhoo, waay of topic now!

      • 0 avatar
        daiheadjai

        I assure you – between being limited to 2.5 lines (if you count our Sheppard “stubway”), archaic machinery (finally being replaced), generally inefficient unionized transit workers who may or may not subject the city’s commuters to wildcat strikes with same-day deadlines (about the only thing they’re quick with), plus delays which are more consistent than the service, and you have the reason why the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) is aptly nicknamed “Take The Car.”

        Thankfully, with our anti-car city council (streetcars in already-congested streets, anyone?), the cards will soon be stacked against downtown car ownership.

  • avatar
    virages

    Hey! I’ve discovered that I have a TTAC reading clone! Antoine has much the same experience and philosophy that I have. Except that I’m an US expat married to a French woman. I also choose to go to work by bike, also 12km (but I go the whole way, no public transportation for me!).

    I love driving, but the gas costs here were horrifyingly expensive compared to the states, and in the end, I don’t like “commuting”, I prefer traveling. Taking the family by car to the alps was a whole lot of fun.

    We can’t avoid using the car for work completely since my wife’s work is 20km in the other direction. I think we try to strike a balance though.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    This is how we live, work is approx 4 miles from the house. I bike on the green belt which parallels the river to downtown. I ride a few city blocks and in 20 minutes, I’m in the shower at my office building. In winter, I purchase a $1/day monthly bus pass, buss stop is a 1/5 mile from the house but not a big deal. The bus system isn’t great throughout town but works in this case.

    The alternative is too drive the 5 miles and pay $1/day monthly parking fee. And with traffic and 2 school zones, it takes 15 minutes.

    This is all in a medium sized US city: Boise. There are lots of cities like this across the US, but maybe the job market is limited or housing is too expensive (about $120-90/sq ft here).

    We probably don’t need 2 cars but with the Outback paid off, might as well. Makes a great winter and camping/fishing car. I am tempted to sell it and buy an older 1/2 ton pickup or bof SUV (land cruiser!).

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      Wow — that is cheap. I just looked what my transit costs would be via public transport.

      If I bought a monthly train pass & the discounted add on for bus, It would be $192.50/mo for the train and $45/month for the bus.

      My monthly parking is $85….

    • 0 avatar
      genuineleather

      As you noted, Boise has the benefit of very cheap real estate; desirable, close-in neighborhoods are within reach of the middle class. In CA, similar areas can cost from twice (Sacramento) to four (Palo Alto) times as much, making bike commuting unrealistic for those relegated to outlying areas.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Strasbourg is a nice town. It’s fortunate that I don’t live there, otherwise the food would turn me into a big fat blob on legs.

    “A policy is at its best when it creates a compelling incentive to change one’s way rather than to forbid or discourage through trick measures.”

    Carrots are usually not enough to motivate positive behavior in most people. The carrots needs to be accompanied by sticks in order to make the carrots more compelling.

    You said yourself that most of your colleagues drive, even though the workplace isn’t far from public transit. (I do appreciate that Strasbourg doesn’t have the best transit system, and some of them may be commuting in from the burbs.) The European approach to promoting company cars presumably contributes to this, since the government encourages transit usage while simultaneously providing loopholes to support demand for cars produced by their car industry.

  • avatar

    I’d love to live somewhere like that. If memory serves, people in Starsbourg are far friendlier than people in Paris. Of course, my dream would be to live outside Heidelberg, a short drive up the A5(?), once you cross the border, take the light rail in to the city, and ride a bike to someplace with wifi so I could get my work done.

    Your commute in Strasbourg is a out the same as mine in Phoenix, but I have no tram at this end. 42°C makes for a foul, bike-riding Co-worker, and though the bus runs, it would add a good 90 minutes to my commute, so a 15mpg 4wd it is.

    PS, if you’ve not taken the family up to Heidelberg for the Schlossbelechtung, you should look it up and give it some thought. Makes for a really nice weekend out.

  • avatar
    tuckerdawg

    Antoine, how is it getting the bike on and off the tram? Does it have racks for the bike or do you use a folding bike?

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Cycling would be much more accepted and accommodated here if so many cyclists weren’t such massive douche-bags (Yes, I ride a bike). They want to be a bike, a car, and a pedestrian, all at the same time. While walking to my office, I’ve been struck from behind on the sidewalk, nearly been run down crossing streets with a walk-light and had to jump out of the way of cyclists using cross-walks to run around red-lights. This is a nearly daily occurrence for me in the spring and summer. If the cycling lobby did a little education on common-sense and courtesy to their own, there might be a better chance of getting a more bike-friendly environment in North American cities.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      I agree. I have yet to see a bicyclist actually stop at a stop sign.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        There’s rampant traffic calming in my area. Stopping every 200 feet isn’t something you want to do when it is your energy that has to accelerate you back up to speed. The only thing worse is traffic circles in a tourist area, but we’ve got that too.

        I ride, I drive, and I walk. I empathize with people that aren’t using my current means of transportation as a result. Cycling 4 or 5 times a week, I know that cyclists can’t rely on anything to protect them. I’ve been hit obeying traffic rules in a school zone. I’ve been hit because a car I was passing waved someone over in front of them. A girlfriend was hit while stopped at a traffic light. Cyclists have to try to control everything, even if that means ignoring traffic signals. I just assume that people will hit me if they can. If you see me run a light and all you can do is bitch about it then tough titty. If you can hit me then my bad. If you have to do anything other than sit spewing impotent rage to avoid hitting me, then I have done the wrong thing.

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        @CJ in SD. Should I take the same attitude in my small car?

        I’ve been hit several times while obeying traffic signals and others don’t. Every time I have to stop, it’s my energy to shift back from 1->2->3->4->5->6 and it wastes gasoline in the process which I pay for out of my pocket. Perhaps I should just take the shoulder. The large amount of 40k+ pound tractor trailers make it too dangerous to follow the laws in my 3400 pound car or my 380 pound motorcycle.

        My friend’s uncle BARELY survived being rear-ended at a red-light by a semi trailer. Perhaps he just just run red lights if there is no traffic in the cross direction because it’s not safe.

        Sorry, your argument of “Because other traffic inconveniences me, I shouldn’t have to follow the rules” doesn’t fly. That attitude will never get you more respect from non-bicyclists as well.

        Motorcyclists live with a LOT of the dangers you have and are a lot better about the rules as well.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Do something about traffic calming. Get rid of the impediments to traffic flow and we’ll all save energy, use our time more productively, pollute less, and have a better attitude towards our fellow road users. If you feel that you’ll be safer running lights in your car, go for it. As long as you’re actually acting in your own best interest, it costs me nothing. I won’t be waiting behind you at a light, for instance.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Attention cyclists: If you are looking for a spokesman, CJ is definitely not your guy.

        The author of this article would be a much better choice. But he probably has an easier time riding his bike, since he doesn’t have to carry the massive chip on his shoulder that others lug around.

    • 0 avatar
      reclusive_in_nature

      I like to ask cyclists how they would feel if a taco truck with a line of unfit people held them up while trying to “get their burn on.” Well, that’s exactly how it feels to be held up by cyclists while driving to and from work.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Litespeed, read Bike Snob NYC’s new book “The Enlightened Cyclist” where he discusses bike commuters alienating others. I rode the 8 miles to work often as possible. Bike commuting has a lot going for it – fitness and cost. I agree with you, along with BSNYC, that cyclists can do themselves a favor by cleaning up their act.

  • avatar
    Rock36

    Interesting article, but it highlights the differences even here in Europe. I live only about 2.5 hours and a national border away from Strasbourg in Stuttgart. I’m even in a somewhat similar situation except that I’m the American living in Germany for eight years with a German wife. I even have the manual station wagon (regular gas not diesel though). Anyway I wish biking and using trains was as easy here. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of people who use trains, and bikes, but it is still easier, faster, and less expensive for me to drive my 18km to work everyday despite those options. This holds true in congested traffic, which Stuttgart traffic in general is pretty heavy. Obviously results vary even here in mass-transit oriented Europe.

  • avatar
    Oelmotor

    Good article.

    One should look at photos of the large US metropolitan areas before GM and Goodyear killed the streetcar and interurban rail networks.

    In Berlin, there is a signal system for both bicycles and cars to avoid entanglements.

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    I live in northeastern Illinois, and bicycle riding on streets and highways is just too dangerous for me to consider as an alternative to a motorized vehicle. More power to those who will risk safety to do so, but until the skills and attitudes of motorists change considerably, count me out (for example, most motorists cannot even be bothered to give cyclists additional room when passing – even if extra road space is available). Instead, motorists appear to want to drive as close as possible to cyclists. Until these motorists are convinced that making contact with a cyclist is as deadly as stepping on a land mine, no road going cyclist is safe.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Paul,

      I fully agree, unfortunately.

      A dear friend of mine, a former work colleague, who was a biking fanatic, and even raced, always biked the 10 miles to work on the roads around Fairport, NY, a suburb surrounding Rochester. Then he got hit. Hard.

      He suffered enormous injuries, including to his brain, and was lucky not to have gotten killed.

      If we think distracted driving with texting on cell phones causes problems for other motorists, that is nothing compared to what cyclists could incur. Until there are separate bike lanes all over, to prevent close quarters between cars and bikes, your are right: it’s just too dangerous.

      And that’s why the street scenes shown in this article are so impressive. The French have done just that.

      ——–

  • avatar

    I commuted (16-20 mile round trip depending on the route and if I did a training loop on my way home) via bicycle for many years and even have metal in my leg from a car/bike accident to prove it. Many people could bike to work but the author points out that you need a shower (and a place to stash your bike and gear). I still use a bicycle for transportation and in a typical year put 2,500 miles on a bike.

    I was lucky, I worked in a DuPont r&d lab that had locker rooms and shower facilities. The problem is that some companies that might indeed have showers on site will restrict their use to a limited number of employees, usually executives. There might actually be showers on your work site, you just may not know about them. When I started doing IT, for a while I moved across the street from the lab to the unit’s business headquarters. They let me stash my bike in the storage room where we kept old computers. The bathrooms in that building had showers because the suits would sometimes have to get cleaned up after traveling from the world HQ in Wilmington. So check with your employer, somewhere on your site there may be a shower.

    You will need that shower for sweat but also it’s going to rain some days. I commuted on bike from early spring until temps dropped below 45 deg F. Riding in Michigan means that some days you’re going to get wet either coming or going to work. Because of road grime, riding in the wet ironically means needing a shower. So either way, you’ll need shower facilities to get cleaned off. Cooperation from your employer is important.

    Assuming you can get cleaned up after getting to work, if you’re in reasonable health, you can ride 10 miles leisurely in an hour. If you’re fit and in riding shape, a 15-16 mph avg isn’t hard. My best time ever on the bike was a shade under 21 minutes. My best time ever on a car, driving in on a Sat night to change backup tapes was 12 minutes, mostly via Interstate. So unless you have an exceptionally long commute, you can probably ride to work in a reasonable amount of time.

    It is dangerous. Cycling is about the most dangerous sporting activity in the US in terms of the number of injuries. A lot of that, statistically, is due to kids breaking arms and such, but in general, even without the danger of traffic, you’re going fast enough that a fall or collision can injure. The contact patch of a bicycle tire on the road is the size of a coin. It’s a two wheeled vehicle, which unlike a car, can fall over as it slides, or high sides you and throws you over the handlebars. Oh, and remember what I said about putting aside the danger of traffic? You can’t do that, even for a second. Drivers, even if they aren’t deliberately trying to do so, will try to kill you.

    The most dangerous thing a bicycle can do in traffic is proceed through a green light. One accident that I had was my fault. The other two happened when drivers didn’t pay attention and made a right turn. That’s the most common car bike fatality, a car making a right turn into the cyclist. I was lucky, the cars were both turning right into driveways so I ran into them instead of vice versa and bounced off with bruises instead of breaks.

    Bicycles are indeed practical transportation devices and as car enthusiasts we owe some gratitude to the bicycle industry that predates the auto industry. The Dodge brothers got their start making a patented dirt free bicycle bearing and they made bicycles in Windsor, Ontario before setting up their machine shop in Detroit (where they made components for the nascent auto industry including supplying Henry Ford with rolling chassis for his early cars including the Model T). For our Canadian readers, editors and writers, I would like to point out that the Dodge bros’ bike company became part of a cartel that eventually spawned the CCM hockey equipment company.

    So while you can indeed ride your bicycle to work, and many public buses and other transit vehicles can carry your bike for a hybrid commute as described in this post, it’s not always going to be quite as easy as in the author’s experience.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Ronnie, I’ve added an AirZound air horn to my bike. It’s 115db and you recharge it with your pump – 80psi in a tank that is water bottle size.

      It gets attention. If you have any doubts as to whether the cars know you’re there, a quick blast and your presence is known.

    • 0 avatar
      Slow_Joe_Crow

      I think it depends on where you live. Portland (OR) and environs aren’t too bad for mixed mode commutes although the MAX trains get a little cramped when you hit 10 or more bikes per unit. Also the mild climate means cold is not a major problem, although fenders and raingear are a necessity.
      Right hooks are something I expect so careful checks and slow launches at green lights are part of my strategy. Flats are also a fact of life, but modern commuter tires are more resistant.

  • avatar
    Joss

    I commute by bike half of the year. The other half is winter. I prefer to cycle because I can go at my own pace. I can also take the subway followed by a 10 minute walk to work. I know the subway is very safe but what spooks me are the overcrowded trains. Any kind of accident or fire and there would be complete pandemonium. Plus Its hard to exit at your stop because your packed in like sardines.

    Cycling surprises you can do without are broken spokes and flat tires – particularly on the rear wheel. I would say my bike has been less reliable and more maintenance than my car over distance traveled.

    I seek bike designated lanes where possible. I enjoy cycling past stalled traffic on the way home.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      There are some great flat-resistant tires on the market now. I’ve been riding Schwalbe Marathons for about 4 years, have had only one flat. Before that I got one every few months. Don’t think I’ve ever broken a spoke, and I used be a fairly hard-core mountain biker.

  • avatar

    Great article.

    Love Strasbourg! [+++you lucky bastard!]

    I didn’t know that it was 3km at the time,

    but those little half-timbered houses downtown next to the canal/river looked so un-French to me,

    I found myself thinking if you stood on the right edge of the city, you could probably piss directly onto Germany if you tried.

    hrm,…

  • avatar
    BrewCity

    Antoine, thanks for sharing your perspective and excellent photos of Strasbourg.

    I’m in Milwaukee and bike my 5-mile commute to work most days. I’m fortunate to have an employer that provides onsite showers, lockers and bike storage.

    Many parts of Milwaukee have easy access to bike paths that were created from former railroad lines. Bike lanes in the city are great in some areas, non-existent in others. City buses all now have bike racks, which makes for a nice backup solution when the weather turns bad.

    Riding in saves some money, but for me, the biggest benefit is that I get a modest workout and feel refreshed and focused when I get to work.

    The Bike Federation of Wisconsin (our state bike advocacy group) has worked together with city government to push forward bike infrastructure projects and build public support. They advocate for the rights of cyclists but also spend a lot of effort educating cyclists about following the rules of the road. I like their balanced approach.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Hey guys,

    Thanks for all the positive feedback and messages.

    A few general comments
    – Strasbourg is indeed a nice town, french, but not too french. It suits our lifestyle and our bicultural outlook. Both my wife and I still really love the US, and there are a lot of good things there.
    – for all the people who want to move here, don’t forget the good stuff where you live. I mean, I often miss New Jersey, for crying out loud! There are good things there too. It would be ideal to have a place where we can pick the best parts of each place we know
    – don’t equate Strasbourg with France. There arz a lot of cities, including Paris and much of the South, where I’d never, EVER, ride a bike. Strasbourg decided early on to promote it, and motorists here now interact well with bikes, in an urban landscape that has been truly adapted for both. It took decades to get to this point, and credit has to be given to municipalities on both sides of the political spectrum fwho followed that policy, without hatred for either cars or bikes or pedestrians
    – Being a bit environmentalist (as well as a car guy, go figure), I believe in cars for fun more than for commuting, at least whenever possible. And while I lament the growing lack of high-displacement engines, the current trend towards smaller-siez, economical engines, is necessary for saving up resources and limiting pollution and carbon emissions.
    – Now, this artile is not dogmatic at lot, since I believe in personal choice. Far more so than the average French person, and that is certainly a trait I brought back from the US. The solution I detail is the one that suits my needs and aspirations the best, and I don’t berate other people’s choices
    – for example, my coworkers who drive all have reasons to do so: carrying the kids to schools, living in places with little public transport, different cost-benefit analysis, lack of cost-benefit analysis (which is OK too), preferring the comfort and individuality of the car, not liking bikes, etc
    – where the city council does make a mistake is by forcing some choices the wrong way. For example, limiting available parking space does not lead to a decrease in commuting, but makes it harder for poorer people to keep a car (as they can’t afford private parking). That in turn means more time driving around searching for curb space. A better way to decrease car usage through “stick” (as opposed to “carrot”) policies is to tax even short commutes, primarily on the urban highway.
    – I dont’t take the bike on the tram. It’s actually banned to do so in rush hour, but there are public bike sheds where you can leave them, and that are locked outside of public transport working hours
    – yes, cyclists are often douchebags, and generate problems too. Maybe an article for another day. I ride fast and hard, but since I’m also a pedestrian and motorist, do my utmost to avoid being a hassle to other road and sidewalk users

  • avatar
    stroker49

    I have told my employer that I’ll quit. The reason is the time and cost to go to work. I live in Sweden and have 30 miles to work, one way (50km). The gas is 8,50 USD/US gallon. There is no traffic in Sweden so it takes me 35 minutes. I can take the train and bus as I am living close to the train station in my city, but it takes almost an hour and I’ll have to leave before 06:00 and must go at 16:00 and there are really only two trains I can take and it makes me very unflexible. So I go by public transport maximum twice per week, often not at all. Now I have found a job 3 miles (5km) from my home so I can take the bike. I used to do that many years ago and it is so cold here so if you take it easy the last five minutes you don´t have to shower, not even in the summer. I used to have an old moped for the winters as it is easier to handle a moped than a bicycle when it is icy and snowy. So now I consider a Honda Super Cub with winter tires or using the car during the winter.

  • avatar
    threeer

    This article has prompted my reconsideration and desire to commute (at least part time) to work on a bicycle. My office is 5.2 miles from the house, and with the exception of about 1 mile, is on a low-speed (very controlled) straight line four lane road on a military installation. Except for nasty weather days, the car is almost laughably not needed. I wouldn’t take the bike much further out than to the office and back, because unlike many places overseas (and granted, a few more here in the US than before), this city is NOT well-equipped to handle bicycle traffic. It’d be nice to see more people take up riding, as many of my co-workers aren’t that far from base…thanks for kicking the brain into gear to start looking again for a good commuter bike! And enjoy Strasbourg…we lived on the other side of the border in Kaiserslautern for 20 years…just driving through small towns on weekend evenings was a much different experience than here in the States…people were actually out…and walking!

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Even better than biking to work, arrange to work from home.

    Of my circle of friends, there are now 6-7 of us who work primarily or entirely at home. I work from home when I am not travelling, my “commute” is by taxi to the airport. There is nothing better than waking up, rolling over and turning on your laptop, and being at work. The overwhelming majority of office jobs don’t actually need to be done in an office. I end up going to my actual office (125 miles away) once or twice a quarter for meetings and team dinners. And work pays mileage for me to do that.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    I used to cycle on the roads, then I was clipped twice by careless drivers… both who had strayed far into the bike lane.

    Commuting by bike means preparing for WHEN you get hit by a car, not IF.

    • 0 avatar
      AKM

      I’ve been bikie-riding in Strasbourg for over 20 years, and never had an accident. 3 facts contribute:
      my own awareness of other people’s and vehicles ways of thought, trajectories, and limitations (car can’t stop on a dime, they don’t have 360 vision, etc)
      Motorists habit of sharing the road with bikes. There are so many bikes in Strasbourg that motorists are used to them, and are often bike riders themselves. As such, they will understand that getting close to cyclists is very dangerous
      good bike lanes, that are most of the time not directly next to the road, but on the sidewalk, or on a separate sidewalk.

      Also, I take the bike exclusively in the city center, where it’s much faster than public transportation and where traffic is very slow anyway. To go to work in the burbs, the tram covers 90% of the distance, and on roads with fewer bike lanes and faster car traffic where it would be dangerous indeed to ride a bike all the way

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    True story, I realized my bicycle was more fun to ride in NYC than my motorcycle when my bicycle got stolen.

    People in any kind of urban area definitely need to check out bicycling. Its a ton of fun for zero $$$, and its healthy

  • avatar
    JREwing

    I live in a town in Wisconsin that is certainly NOT known for its public transit. But I choose to live on a bus line that runs every half-hour, and stops almost directly in front of my office. It’s a 10 minute trip.

    I take advantage of that a couple times a week so my wife can take the car to work (her shift starts before the buses run). It’s allowed us to get by with just one car for quite a while, which helped our finances immensely.

    My wife is starting a new job (in her field, even!) in a town 45 miles away, and my job requires occasional out-of-town driving, so I’m now rushing to pick up another vehicle. One car payment was definitely a lot nicer to budget for, but the convenience of a 2nd vehicle is simply too compelling.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    For the past four years, I’ve averaged about 40,000km per year on my personal car, primarily for commuting (that’s not counting a stint where I’d be driving someone else’s vehicle about 175km per day for work). I can’t give it up yet, but it’s sort of infuriating. I spend about $500 a month on assorted expenses for the pleasure of spending three or four hours a day in a Hyundai Accent, dodging every half-aware idiot that was issued a license. By contrast, if I transferred to my company’s head office, I’d have a 10km commute (one way). I’m not quite fit enough for biking to be an option yet, but public transit’s viable (about 40 minutes one way, apparently). I doubt it’d outright stop me from driving to work, but at least I could choose something unreliable and interesting.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Maymar…

      I don’t know what country you are in (since you refer to “km”), but this one comment from you struck a real nerve with me: “….dodging every half-aware idiot that was issued a license.”

      In America currently, good driving is a joke. Joe Chamberlain, writing for “Roundel” magazine, refers to BDBH’s (Brain Dead Booger Heads) that populate our streets and highways.

      I wrote an email recently on this very topic to some friends. The essence of it goes like this:

      …………………….

      “Why do I now cringe, drive with fear, and live with heightened nervousness on America’s streets and roads?*
      1) 90% of American Drivers – –
      ….a) Have no formal or comprehensive, certified, driver training;
      ….b) Are not skilled or practiced in hazard and accident avoidance, and don’t “know” their cars;
      ….c) Do not adequately know or respect the rights or sensibilities of other drivers, and are thoughtless;
      ….d) Allow themselves to drive “distracted” (cell phones calls, texting, eating, intoxication, “NAV” screens, personal care, etc.);
      ….e) Drive inappropriately for conditions, often too fast and too close, — in cars that are ill-designed or poorly capable;
      ….f) Increasingly rely of automotive “nannies” to replace personal involvement and driving competence **;

      2) In addition to these deficits or “negatives”, 50% of Americans WILL also “positively” show instantaneous bursts of irrational, foolish, or dangerous behavior in unaccustomed or demanding situations; i.e., they WILL actually rapidly cause driving problems that did not otherwise exist.

      (And now we want to put bicycles into that environment? It would be like sheep among wolves.)

      —————

      * For one example, a recent survey/analysis on the Jalopnik website revealed that worldwide, America is the 4th worst country to drive in, just behind Russia, India, and China. http://jalopnik.com/5926297/the-ten-countries-with-the-worst-drivers/gallery/1

      ** https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/are-manual-transmissions-the-answer-to-distracted-driving/
      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/do-driver-aids-make-us-worse-drivers/ ”

      —————

      • 0 avatar
        Rock36

        Your Joe Chamberlain quotes struck a nerve with me, but considering who he is, I suppose that was the point…

        I’m curious if you have ever really lived or driven anywhere outside the United States or North America in general? I only ask since you are appealing to the authority of someone like Joe Chamberlain to make your point. When I say driving, I also mean more than just a couple weeks of driving on a European vacation or some random business trip.

        I’ve been driving in Europe for the last 8 years, and most of that in Germany. Aside from the absolute wonderful lane discipline of Germans on the autobahn, they do all of the same stupid stuff your Joe Chamberlain complains about. Particularly once you take the average German driver off the autobahn and into some normal surface streets.

        On a daily basis, I see Germans on cell phones while driving. That is in no way just an American problem. Even more frightening is that I especially see large delivery truck drivers gabbing on cell phones!

        Germans also follow too-closely, sleep at lights (even with the yellow light to green light signal system).

        They cut each other off all the time in traffic streams when they could have waited two or three more cars for a proper gap to pass.

        Some drivers will not hesitate to pull out in front of you while you are on a priority road just to be in front of you, then drive 10 kph or more under the limit.

        There is also the curious problem with Geisterfahrer, people who end up driving the wrong way on the autobahn. Could be that it wasn’t as broadcast back in the states, but I never knew that as a potential active driving caution until I came here.

        Maybe you or Mr. Chamberlain think everyone over here is driving late model Audis, BMWs, Mercs, and Porsches; which ironically have more nannies these days than most average North American cars. That’s an exaggeration and you probably don’t actually think they all do, but it goes without saying you can’t just assume the average Euro car has properly inflated tires, or brakes that don’t at least need a good bleeding.

        I just know too many real average everyday Germans to put them on some kind of automotive driving pedestal. Save when it comes to lane discipline on the Autobahn or large Bundesstraßen, then I agree, it is amazing.

        As it relates to biking, they exercise better discipline with bikes overall, but I think that is due in no small part to the fact bikers are also formally licensed/trained here and drivers are more used to them in general. My daughter just went through it in 4th grade. Even then, as an American, with my crappy California State Drivers training, I had absolutely no problem adjusting to bikers once I moved to Germany. In eight years of living in Germany, I haven’t once come close to hitting a biker ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        Rock36

        @ NMGOM I happened to see you were in Mannheim in the late 60s so clearly that answers my question, though it really doesn’t change my personal experience driving in Germany. The longer I live in Germany the more I see similarities to the US rather than differences, and even the differences become more subtle than stark and that holds mostly true for driving too with only a few exceptions IMHO. If you are interested they have shut down the bases in Mannheim and Heidelberg is going soon as well.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Rock36…

        Thank you for your detailed response.

        I was actually in Germany both in the 1960’s and the 1980’s.

        However, I don’t feel that it is necessary to live in a country for an extended period to get a flavor of its driving culture: a couple of active weeks in a rental car under a variety of conditions can usually tell you what’s going on. Large driving-culture differences: Italy vs Sweden.

        I do agree that Germany and America are more similar in overall business/driving culture than, say, America and the UK, which is surprising to some people. And no doubt, Germany’s driving disciplines may have eroded over the years, as you point out.

        My comments above were not meant to be relative to any one European country, but should stand as absolute issues. Nevertheless, if you want to use one European country as a shining example, it may NOT be Germany: choose Holland. There, a resident getting a license spends $2,000-$3,000 for a personal professional instructor-driver to teach you ALL the proper things over a period of months, and signs off on you with the authorities – vouching for your behavior. See link.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v18QbBOfLis (Also mentioned bicycles.) If we here had similar rigor and costs for getting a license, a lot of misbehavior could be eliminated.

        Thanks for the update on USArmy installations in Mannheim and Heidelberg. I suspected as much. Even a quick check with Google Maps made it sometimes difficult to recognize where these old Cold-War era facilities once were. (I used to be 1LT Chemical Corps in Spinelli Barracks, but at least what used to be Benjamin Franklin Village, with Sullivan and Funari Barracks, still have American street names: that all used to be heavy armor.)
        http://www.deutsches-architektur-forum.de/forum/showthread.php?p=265449

        ———

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    I haven’t driven to work on a regular basis for about 7 years, and when I do it’s usually because of some work emergency and not during rush hour.

    I used to bike all over the place but it isn’t physically possible anymore so I try to live as close to work as possible. Recently I moved far enough away that I take transit.

    When I say transit I mean I take the 99 B-line.. A monthly 1 zone pass costs 81 dollars and it feels like a horrible rip off, the buses are cramped and uncomfortable and Translink runs the absolute minimum number of buses they can get away with. I’ve seen 3 empty double buses drive by my stop with “NOT IN SERVICE” over the windshield blowing by 20-30 people waiting on the side of the road. I know/understand why they do it but it still makes me really angry, especially at $81/month.

    The traffic calming in Vancouver is excessive and getting worse and driving a car in this city is exhausting… one little mistake and you can seriously hurt a lot of people. You need to watch out for cyclists, stop signs buried in bushes, pedestrians and homeless dudes in the middle of the road pushing buggies, all while driving a modern vehicle with blind spots that can hide a full size pedo van and trying to read the parking regulations on the side of the road in the hopes you might be able to STOP DRIVING SOMETIME SOON.

    As far as cyclists go, they are getting much better at flowing with traffic. I’ve never been bothered by them much when I’m in a car, I only get really pissed off at them when I am on foot. Personally I don’t understand commuting on a bike, I can either walk or jump on a bus if it’s far enough. No matter how horrible the bus is it still beats riding a bike around.

    I used to be an avid mountain biker and did it every day, though never to work (always out in the bush).. but shit happens and I haven’t even sat on one in years, the idea of getting on one again would be like me volunteering to be water boarded or something.

    Commuting on a bike is a game for the young/healthy/people with no kids…

    • 0 avatar
      Roland

      The “Sorry Not in Service Express” (that’s literally how the route sign reads on the off-duty buses) is Vancouver’s most frequent bus route!

      Kidding aside, the 99 “B-Line” is a frequent bus (every 3 minutes during rush hour), but the passenger load is now simply too heavy. Subway through the city centre would be nice, but we won’t be able to afford it for at least another 20 years. I’m afraid the conditions on the 99 are not exactly going to entice anyone out a car who could possibly afford to commute any other way.

      Without a carrot, out will come the stick. I have a feeling Vancouver will eventually end up with some sort of street pricing, so only rich people will be able to drive the city centre during the day.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    I found a happy medium. I save gas by riding my scooter. (95% of the time weather permits even here in Oklahoma.) Instead of being a douchebag exhibitionist that feels that roads and streets are his personal gym I go to the gym.
    However, there’s always going to be someone who’ll have an excuse not to stay off the road so allow me to present some ideas. No one but cyclists want to share the road with cyclists. Therefore CYCLISTS should be the ones footing the bill. I propose raising taxes on bikes and biking accessories to pay for bike lanes. These bike lanes would run parallel to existing roads/streets with dividers to protect cyclists from motorists. Cyclists would also be able to buy specialized plates for their bikes, or even vehicles, to contribute to the bike lane fund.

  • avatar
    Roland

    “Biggest real drawback: higher likelihood of catching a cold through involuntary germ exchange, but having 2 kids in daycare means that I get those anyway.”

    When it comes to riding the bus daily, that’s my “bête noir.” Crowded transit vehicles are effective vectors of disease transmission.

    There are few things to be found, in the developed world, so dismal as a jam-packed, musty, steamed-up city bus on a rainy Vancouver morning in February. Half of the passengers are infectious and snivelling. For a city with such nice fresh air, it is astonishing how few Vancouverites like to breathe any of that nice fresh air. Most of them seem to prefer the noxious vapours aboard, and glare at anyone who opens a window. I find it disgusting.

    My work is 20 km from home, somewhat too far for cycling to be an attractive proposition, especially during the winter when most of the commute would be on roads shared with motorists, in the dark, on wet pavement. My workplace, however, does have good bike storage and some shower facilities.

    Unfortunately, I cannot afford to live any closer to my job, since the typical condo prices in Vancouver are far out of proportion to the typical Vancouver salary (about 7:1). The current Canadian real estate bubble has made things even more ridiculous, although Vancouver was a pricey town even before things went nuts.

  • avatar

    “high heels and skirts make it difficult”

    Never slowed me down.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    This is why I prefer to live where I do, unfortunately, that means higher rents, or downsize, which is what I’m having to do, but love the convenience of living where I can walk to the store, or downtown or wherever, mostly by foot, if not by bus when necessary.

    Plus, I also live close to I-5 and I-90 as I work out in Bellevue, east of Seattle, and it’s about a 10 mile commute. Used to take the bus, but when work decided to charge us $150 back in May, I just didn’t have the funds handy to buy it, thanks to my meager income.

    So I drive to work now, every day, and while in the mornings, it’s usually not too bad, going home, well, it can be awful some days if I-90 backs up, often for no real reason, other than it just does, but it’s the entire Puget Sound that is awful, from Everett, south to Olympia it’s bad some days.

    Anyway, people here have the capability to carry their bikes on bike racks on the buses and then ride in from there to work as they often ride to the bus in the first place.

    So while we do have options, I don’t have a bike, no real place to store one at the moment, and a lack of money has kept me from even entertaining the idea of biking.

    I keep a car, mostly because it provides me the flexibility to head to Mom’s on short notice, or do multiple errands etc, and not have to plan out days in advance to ensure a zip car is available when I need it and all that.

  • avatar

    I live in a very congested town near NYC. We went from a 4 car family to 2 cars and 2 bikes. A 91 TransAm, 02 Focus and an 04 RX-8 replaced by an 03 A4. We kept the Acadia for trips with the baby or when friends or family come visiting. Otherwise, we ride our bikes as much as possible. I’ve been riding to work lately and it takes me 10 to 15 mins, the same time it takes my wife to drive to work. She work in the same business park for a different company. Sometimes, I ride one mile to the train station, drop my bike off for free and take the office shuttle if I don’t feel like riding the 2.8 Mile commute. Worked out pretty good so far and we have averaged less than 500 miles a month for both cars combined. Some of which are for weekend trips/vacations and more then half for trips with the baby. Doing our part in consuming less, polluting less and staying healthy. A bike runs on fat and saves you money. A car runs on money and makes you fat!

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