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Day 112 of My Car-Free Experiment  I Bought a Pashley Roadster

Pedalaround Blog: Day 112 of My Car-Free Experiment – I Bought a Pashley Roadster

Today’s picture: After all the hype and folderol, I present herewith the key to my long-awaited, new vehicle of choice, the Pashley Roadster Sovereign. If the make and model are unfamiliar it’s no wonder because the closest dealer is in Chicago.

The Pashley Roadster Sovereign is “a whale amongst minnows,” according to the manufacurer’s literature. But it’s anything but a gas guzzler. They say the vehicle’s unsurpassed ride comes from 28-inch wheels and its "regal" driving position. "This beautiful machine transports us to a more relaxed age using the finest hand-built quality," they say. And as the happy owner of a new Pashley Sovereign, I couldn’t agree more.

A product of England, The Roadster Sovereign comes in only one color: Buckingham Black. It features a five-speed manual transmission, gold-lined fenders, a rear carrier, hub-driven dynamo headlamp, LED rear light, frame fit lock, leather sprung Brooks saddle and coat guards. Leather accessories include Italian-made hand grips and Brooks saddle bag. The tires are Schwalbe puncture-resistant Marathon Plus with reflective sidewall.

Not a toy. Not just for recreation. This is transportation.

As you may have suspected all along, my vehicle of choice isn’t an automobile. But it’s more than just a bicycle. It’s a 48-pound Pashley Roadster, built by hand at Stratford upon Avon, the home of William Shakespeare. I rather like the idea of my transportation having even a remote connection with The Bard.

(By the way, Pashley makes several models and sizes, including the Princess and Sonnet bliss with step-through frames, ideal for women in all kinds of apparel.)

All this for less than three average car payments? In today’s automotive market fuel efficiency is King, so why aren’t we seeing more Pashley Sovereigns on the road? The Corolla, Yaris, and Prius by Toyota all have impressive gas mileage – in the 40s and 50s. That’s great comparing cars, but I want more.

Hard to beat 3,000 mpg

In his book “The Cyclist’s Manifesto,” Robert Hurst points out that a bicyclist requires only slightly more of the same animal and plant matter that a sedentary person uses for daily living, just sitting around.

Hurst suggests we think of gasoline as nothing more than very concentrated calories. When you compare the calories I eat with the calories required to feed a Toyota Prius, you find that the Prius would need to consume more than 20 times as much energy – in the form of calories from petroleum – as it takes for me to go the same distance on what? My breakfast! And I would have consumed that breakfast even if I were just sitting around!

What’s the point?

The goal of this whole deal wasn’t to suggest that cars are all bad. The automobile clearly holds a secure place in the wide spectrum of transportation choices. In fact, over more than half a century, we’ve seen cities all but abandon meaningful support for every other mode of transportation. The automobile today is practically the exclusive means of getting around. Say “transportation” and you’re talking cars and trucks – not bicycles, walking, or transit. Too many of our citizens have the attitude that those damn cyclists should get off the street and stay out of traffic.

I don’t expect them to abandon their cars. I just started My Car-Free Experiment to find out if I could do without one! And along the way I’ve tried to demonstrate, at least to my own satisfaction, that car-free options can work – even for an aging guy like me in sub-freezing temperatures. My experiment has taught me that my range is much greater than I imagined. Walking a couple of miles from Crescent Hill to the Highlands is no big deal. Riding my bicycle nearly five miles to church on Sunday morning – even in the rain – isn’t all that difficult.

Daily commuting to my downtown office for most of the past seven years has broadened my comfort zone. My exposure to extreme summer heat and frigid temperatures has helped me appreciate the natural world. I move rather comfortably through all sorts of weather instead of always shielding myself from it. And I interact with a lot more of the urban landscape and its people than I ever did from behind a windshield. I’m thankful that my guru and local author of two books on the subject Joe Ward hounded me to take up cycling as transportation years ago.

In his book “Pedaling Revolution,” Jeff Mapes says that if just 10 percent of Americans biked instead of driving just 10 miles per week, that would be a savings of more than $3.4 billion a year. That’s more than the entire federal energy research budget.

Like Mapes and thousands of others in recent years, I’ve financed a fleet of bicycles and a lot of other stuff like rain gear, panniers, bike tools and accessories that fill my garage – all from the money saved by not using a car. And most recently, My Car Free Experiment has paid for my newest addition to the armada. In just under four months without the expense of owning and operating an automobile, I’ve totally paid for a new vehicle! And it requires almost zero care and feeding!

As fast as a car – sometimes faster

A cyclist at a moderate pace can travel a mile in about six minutes. That’s three or four times faster than walking. Ten miles an hour isn’t very fast, but it’s on par with cars in congested city traffic going short distances. And then the motorists must find a place to park, adding more time to their destinations. Jeff Mapes asks a good question: “Do you really need more than a ton of steel to move your rear end two miles?”

One major drawback: Safety is probably the biggest barrier that discourages people who would otherwise be more willing to cycle. It sometimes chills my blood to think that I’m the invisible jackrabbit in a buffalo stampede of steel. I won’t lie to you. Until thousands of others start cycling in the streets of Louisville, Ky, none of us on two wheels will be as safe as we are in cars.

Missing feature? Airbags.

Safety improves with each new rider. That’s why I’m not caving in and buying a car or truck. And that’s why I’m constantly recruiting converts to replace even a few of their motoring miles with walking, cycling, or riding a bus.

I’m not riding a bike to save the environment. I don’t ride to save money. And I don’t ride for my health. I do it because it feels good and it’s fun. I simply love it. It’s the truest expression of freedom I can think of.

It’s no secret that Americans are driving less, turning their dime-a-dozen, gas guzzlin’ SUVs out to pasture in droves, and falling all over themselves for hybrids in spite of their tremendous price tags. But if you really want impresive fuel efficiency, get on a bicycle.

Reasonable objections

You might see my purchase as: too dangerous, too much work, too unreliable in bad weather, too damaging to clothes and hairstyles. People say a bicycle doesn’t work because they:

  • Don’t want to pump up hills
  • Live too far from work and other destinations
  • Drop kids off at school and activities
  • Need to carry a lot of stuff
  • Run to daycare after work
  • Might need the car in the middle of the day or for work
  • Love to drive a car because it’s comfortable
  • See the car as part of personal identity

My responses:

  • I guess My Car-Free Experiment isn’t for everybody.
  • There’s no way I can convince you that climbing a long hill on US 42 can give you a sense of power no turbo charger can match.
  • Only you can decide whether living in a place where you have no access to your favorite places except by car is where you really want to be. Is it time for you to move?
  • I was a soccer and ballet dad for about 15 years, too, but ask yourself this: how do you get around when you don’t have kids in tow?
  • I carry a laptop, a business suit, shoes, lunch, books, notebooks, camera, coffee, tools, and a lot more on my bike. Panniers and bags let you haul a lot of stuff.
  • Daycare stops are a challenge. Plan now to bike when your kids reach school age. Arrange to ride bikes with them! Or carpool with other parents and ride a bike when it’s not your day to drive.
  • If you need your car for work, concentrate on short shopping trips and errands by bike or walking. You’ll be surprised at how many destinations are under two miles.
  • Car comforts are big selling features, right down to the seat warmers. But at what cost? You need to know that inactivity is a major cause of most of our nation’s healthcare expense. Obesity-related illness, heart disease, and cancer end up being very uncomfortable in the long run. No, correction, make that the short run. Our lifespan isn’t that great compared with other countries that spend a lot less on healthcare – and a lot more on bikeways. So why aren’t we doing something about it in greater numbers?

The next time you think about buying a new vehicle. Be sure to consider all the possibilities. At least give two wheels a chance. Who knows, you may end up on a Pashley Roadster.

A Flickr slideshow of snapshots shows the new Pashley Roadster as it arrived at Bardstown Road Bicycle.

PS: Remember, every lane is a bike lane. Share the road.