Posts Tagged ‘transport’

Peak-Oil Replacement for our SUV

Weeride on BikeRather than all this impersonal planning for the future, I thought I’d take a step back and look at some of the things we’ve already been doing. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most has been taking my daughter to Kindy on the bike. This came about as a result of a number of things hitting us at once.

My daughter’s first Kindy was just around the corner from my work, a job where I had a free, reserved parking space. We’d drop my wife at work, I’d drop my daughter at Kindy and then park at work – nice and easy, but not a fantastically efficient use of a 2.5 litre engine attached to a couple of tonnes of 4×4. However, just as my wife was starting maternity leave for our number two, the Kindy announced that it was closing. This was quite a blow, and after a hurried search we got her a spot at a brand new Kindy just a kilometre or so further away. But it was a kilometre further into the City, so rather than drving across all the rush-hour traffic I’d now be stewing in it with everybody else. In addition, our office had just moved and I had no free parking space – parking would now cost me $10/day.

So all our car-sharing travel plans were thrown up in the air. To top it all, it made a lot of sense for my ready-to-burst wife to have access to the car during the day. To our credit, we never thought about just buying a second car (partly we’re green, partly we’re just very economical). And as I couldn’t face the excruciatingly tedious extra commute we had to find other options. None of our buses went anywhere near the new Kindy – we’d have had to change at least once. Luckily I’m still just about able to get on a bike, and my little one loves zooming around in her bike trailer.

However to get to Kindy we’d need to cross some of Brisbane’s busiest roads, and I wasn’t confident enough to be doing that with the trailer. Another solution was needed – a normal bike seat. That’s when I found the WeeRide. It’s significantly more expensive that a normal rear-mounted seat – ours cost us $180 – but I found that a conventional rear mounted seat wouldn’t fit my mountain bike, so our options were limited.

It has been worth every penny cent. This picture was taken in April, and we’ve ridden into kindy twice a week, every week since, with only about 7-8 missed trips due to holiday or torrential tropical storms! That’s been a direct saving of around $500 in parking – not counting the wear and tear, extra petrol, or possible second car we might have needed otherwise. We haven’t quite got rid of our SUV – but we’ve certainly taken one vehicle out of Brisbane’s busy morning commute.

And . . we have a great time. With her on the front we spend the whole trip chatting, counting, learning colours, and generally experiencing the world together – it is just a delight. Enough to make me ignore the fact that the kindy is at the top of a hill!

iZip Electric Bikes

iZip Street Enlightened
iZip Street Enlightened

Saw one of these in our local bike shop when we were in there picking up a new tube. It’s an iZip Street Enlightened – looks like a normal fast hybrid but the aero down tube is wrapped around a battery pack – a 24V / 10 AH Lithium-Ion pack for those of you feeling Techie. This powers it to 30kph(19mph) with a range of 50km (30 miles). It has a whole range of clever torque-sensing options so you can use it as anything from fully-electric to fully-pedal-powered depending on how stuffed you’re feeling. It is heavy (25kg) so don’t aim to be carrying it up any stairs or jumping too many kerbs.

Part of me loves this, but then the little nagging voice in my head (the anti-consumer, fed by Amber at Unstuffed) says “you already have four bikes – and only use one regularly. You don’t need another bike”. And then the little peak-oil, voice says . . . “and that battery pack looks very custom-made – I bet getting spares will be a challenge in the future” – and when you think that the only major spare I’ve bought for my Orange mountain  bike has been a new inner tube . . you realise that simple is probably best (and that I need to ride more 🙂 ).  And I don’t have that many problems riding my current bike that this would solve.

Plus it is £1000+ – and that money would be better spent on Solar PV I think. If you’re still interested – possibly to get a non-cyclist out of a car, or for a longish commute – you can buy them from Top Electric Bikes or Tredz, and they’re made by Currie Tech in the USA, who do have a whole range – and some much cheaper models too (not as sexy though . . )

The view from the peak

Having recently awoken from a consumerist daze to realise that – duh! – oil is a finite resource, and that none of its replacements can produce even close to the same amount of energy, I decided to blog our efforts to reduce our energy consumption, ideally wean ourselves off direct & indirect use of fossil fuels as much as we can, and generally prepare ourselves an our community for the reduction in energy availability that is to come . . . so here goes.

We’re working on the premise that we’re not going to be taking to the mountains, going and living in the woods, or building a big concrete bunker. Rather we’re looking at the Transition Towns model, where we work on building a diverse, resilient community, increasingly able to supply its own basic requirements locally.

Our preparations are only slightly compromised by our imminent relocation from Australia back to the UK, but this does present a whole lot of opportunity to start again. We’ll be needing a new house, so we have the chance now to look for ones that will most support our post-peak-oil lifestyle. This means I need to work out what that really will require, before we can really hope to achieve it. From my initial reading, and skirting the apocalyptic doom-mongers, some of my thoughts are:

  • Large, south / south-west-facing unshaded garden for growing a substantial portion of our own fresh food. And / or close proximity to allotments.
  • Walking distance to friends & local shops, and the ability to do almost all our travel by foot, bike or public transport.
  • Our own water supply – at least for garden/non-drinking use.
  • A house that can be economically retrofitted to ensure that it neads minimal energy to heat and light, and minimal water to run.
  • Some form of local energy storage & off-grid lighting/power to cope with blackouts
  • The ability to cope without reliable access to main sewage disposal.
  • Little-or-no debt.
  • A long way from any prospect of flooding.
  • Part of a community – no mountain-top shacks for us.

That sounds like a great list to get started with – I’ll keep you posted.

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