Can't afford gas? Try a 'commuter bike'Sigh. Envy those bicycle commuters who can treat themselves to one of Mike Flanigan's bicycles ("not sport...transport"). A custom commuting bike is really only suited for those fortunate bicycle commuters who have secure indoor bike parking at work. For us less fortunate bike commuters--who need to leave our rides locked outside vulnerable to theft and the elements--a less costly bicycle is probably best.
Kai Ryssdal: There's some evidence commuting to work by bicycle is on the rise. A survey out from the advocacy group Bikes Belong says sales of what're called commuter bikes, those are bikes designed for short city trips, [is up]. There's some good reasons. Maybe it's a desire to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Or maybe it's gas still at $3.75 a gallon, although you can drop a pretty penny on consumer bikes if you want to. Marketplace's Sean Cole got to ride one for nuthin'.
Sean Cole: Wow, I am once again in the saddle. I hadn't ridden in years. But I had to try one of Mike Flanigan's bikes. Mike runs a one-man factory in Holliston, Mass., called Alternative Needs Transport, or ANT. Each bike takes him maybe a week to build. His waiting list is a year long.
I'd actually never heard of a commuter bike. It just means a bike with fenders and a chain guard, upright handle bars, maybe a basket, definitely lights and a bell. [bell rings] In this case a special bell from Japan. You have to be up close to see how well made Mike's bikes are, and you might never guess the price. His base model runs $2900.
Flanigan: And actually mine is on the low end of the high end market.
Flanigan: Oh yeah. People can spend upwards of $10,000 dollars for a bike.
Or as little as $400 to $1,000 for a factory-made commuter bike. But since Mike's bikes are handmade in America, they're gonna be pricier. Plus, he fits each one to the customer's height. He's been doing this for six years, long before there was so much interest in commuter bikes...
Flanigan: Like Specialized tried that in the early '90s...They had a bike called the Globe. Very nice bike. Reasonable priced. Completely failed in the market. Gas was still cheap. Bicycles were still toys. It just, the market wasn't ready for it.
But last fall, he says, at an annual trade show called Interbike, a lot of the big brands were finally hawking bicycles built for commuting. (Read more, includes audio and slideshow.)
As I've said on this blog before, American employers should really do more to encourage bicycle commuting (showers, lockers, secure parking, etc.) Providing vehicle parking is costly: land, construction, lighting, security, insurance, etc. Yet employers routinely provide car parking for staff, while neglecting the needs of bicycle commuting employees. Many of us might enjoy our commutes more if we used our best quality bicycle, feeling secure about where we kept it during work.
This radio report contrasts with an interesting story from Washington DC, where Union Station employees confiscated a woman's bicycle for being "too ugly." Needless harassment of bicycle commuters, I'd say. If Union Station were really concerned about aesthetics, they could provide secure bicycle lockers or, better, a Bikestation-type staffed facility. Then maybe more local bike commuters would feel comfortable leaving their beauty bikes at the train station.
Image: Mike Flanigan.
Visit: Buying the right commuting bike, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Dutch bicycles finding market in U.S.?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bikes come in all types for all people, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site