Monday, July 28 2008 @ 04:01 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
The apocalypse seems inevitable when you're stuck in summer traffic. Sitting in a long line of idling cars, shimmering in waves of heat rising off the pavement, you think about how every year it gets hotter, and the traffic gets worse and pumps tons more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. You pull yourself up by the steering wheel to see ahead. Your thighs stick with sweat to the driver's seat. You are beyond frustration and feel an existential loathing closer to panic. You are part of the global warming problem. And now you're going to be late for work.
Three years ago, I opted out. Since then I've been commuting four miles to my Washington, D.C., office by bicycle just about every day, rain or shine, in an effort to help save the environment and myself along with it. Of course, there are obvious limitations to a bicycle. What about when you need to pick up groceries for a family of four? And unless your kid is Peter Pan, he can't just fly over traffic to get to school. Wouldn't it be great to commute and run those entire errands by bike?
Bikes designed to haul freight or passengers have been around for a long time. Picture the massive rickshaw or those bikes you see pulling a brightly colored trailer, two kids nestled in the back, helmets bobbing. It's not exactly handy, however, to pull a trailer behind your bike, and not many of us are about to dump our nimble bicycle for a heaving rickshaw.
Enter the sport utility bicycle, a long bike nearly as dexterous as a conventional bike but with a remarkable capacity for cargo, whether that means lots of stuff or people. I recently turned my mountain bike (a Specialized Rock Hopper) into an SUB with a frame extension called the FreeRadical (&#36;490), made by Xtracycle, a small, quirky and ingenious company based in Oakland, Calif.