October 29, 2013 – Vol.18 No.33
FLAT-FOOT PEDALING YOUR WAY TO CUTTING EMISSIONS.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
It's OK you know. It's OK to own a gas hog car, truck or SUV. (Provided you keep it parked, engine off, out of harms way most of the time and you use something else for much of your daily transportation needs.)
If your ultimate goal is cutting your overall personal greenhouse gas emissions from what you drive, the first step is finding what fits your life and what you can or can't afford. There's no need to stress over owning an expensive hybrid or electric car when you can get around some of the time on foot, mass transit or by bike with little or no emissions. Driving less and biking more, for instance, could cut more emissions than switching to a car you might not be able to afford.
Here in the Land of Flowers, where the earth is board flat and climate warm, nearly everyone, it seems, has at least one bike in their garage, maybe even a whole fleet. While the streets aren't exactly flooded with bikes, here are always a few bikes around ridden by people of all ages. There could be me more with a slow shift in bicycle technology that makes them safer and easier to ride.
I ride whenever the opportunity arises. I'd ride more often if it weren't for one thing: I don't like dealing with intersections, stop signs and lights. Crossing paths of cars is sometimes frightening and always dangerous.
Riding a bike means obeying the rules of the road, the same rules that car drivers use, which include stopping at stop signs, even if there's no traffic. In my observation more often than not (me sometimes too) bicycle riders sail through stop signs with just a glance at potential oncoming traffic. This isn't safe and it's certainly illegal. But do bicyclists run stop signs out of disdain for laws and cars? Or is there some other reason?
I think it's because it's hard and clumsy to bring a conventional bike to a full stop.
Stopping a two-wheeled bike means putting a least one foot on the ground or dismounting altogether. Dismounting at every stop-sign or stop-light intersection would be a pain for riders in urbanized areas with lots of intersections. Ideally, staying in the seat, feet planted on the pavement, ready to push the pedals and ride when the light turns green or the traffic clear, is the best way to deal with intersections. Yet with most conventional bikes, with the seat set at the proper height for outstretched pedaling legs, it's often impossible to touch the ground with even one foot to stabilize a bike at full stop.
I've been watching seasoned bicyclists who seem aware of the stopped intersection problem to see how they keep in the seat, feet on the ground at stops. It's a clear case of adaptation. Some lower the seat to allow their feet to touch the ground. (But with this they sacrifice good riding efficiency and comfort.) Others ride bikes with low center bars or even so called "girls" bikes, now called "step through" bikes so they can easily slip off the seat at a stop. (But they're out of the seat to do this.) Others ride adult tricycles, which, of course, are stable at a stop. Some, though rare, ride a wide variety recumbent bikes (aka "bents') all of which are low to the road and allow both feet on the road when stopped.
Bents are one of the better solutions to the feet on the ground problem. Yet with their unusual style they are not for everyone. As with most things in life something in between is often the best solution: In this case it's semi-recumbent bikes also known as crank-forward (CF), pedal-forward or flat-foot bikes.
Flat-foots, looking much like conventional bikes, seem best poised to become the new standard, or the new conventional bike, in decades to come once people catch on on to the importance of the ability to flat-foot a bike at stops.
For now, in the sea of conventional bikes there are only a handful companies that promote flat foot technology. Included are Trek with its Pure product line, Electra's Townie, Cruiser and Amsterdam lines, Rans' Crank Forward, a few models by Firmstrong and the Day 6 bikes. For overall performance the Rans bikes seem the best for those wanting a good combination of an around town car replacement and long distance traveler, albeit at high prices. The Trek and Electra bikes are clearly aimed at local riding and thus good car replacements at a fraction of the Rans prices. In between are the Day 6 bikes, designed for comfort (complete with back rest!) on long hauls as well as around-town-leave-the-car-in-garage bikes. Not much is information is available on the Web about Firmstrong but they offer some interesting designs at reasonable prices
More than just the ability to plant your feet on the ground when stopped, these flat-foot bikes put the rider in an upright position offering a good view of the road ahead while a high handle bar relieves body weight on the rider's wrists.
By some accounts if there's a downside to these flat-foot bikes its their inability to climb steep hills. Depending on the model, some say it's difficult if not impossible to stand on the pedals of a flat-foot for extra power. Others say this is bunk and pedaling with legs and butt pushing against the seat does a better job of providing hill power than standing and putting weight on the pedals for more power.
Most of the bike manufacturers offer electrified versions for those in hilly areas.
The ease and safety of flat-footed bicycling offers a far less expensive way to get around emission free than an electric car. Just a few trips a week made by bike instead of car could make a big differance in cutting personal emissions.
Green Energy News is not responsible for content on external websites.