The entire American culture, as it were, is based completely on the automobile. But it wasn't always the case. At one time neighborhoods and communities all over the country were well-served by rail and electric rail. Things changed.
"By 1949, General Motors had been involved in the replacement of more than 100 electric transit systems with GM buses in 45 cities including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Oakland, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles. In April of that year, a Chicago Federal jury convicted GM of having criminally conspired with Standard Oil of California, Firestone Tire and others to replace electric transportation with gas- or diesel-powered buses and to monopolize the sale of buses and related products to local transportation companies throughout the country. The court imposed a sanction of $5,000 on GM. In addition, the jury convicted H.C. Grossman, who was then treasurer of General Motors. Grossman had played a key role in the motorization campaigns and had served as a director of Pacific City Lines when that company undertook the dismantlement of the $100 million Pacific Electric system. The court fined Grossman the magnanimous sum of $1.
"Despite its criminal conviction, General Motors continued to acquire and dieselize electric transit properties through September of 1955. By then, approximately 88 percent of the nation's electric streetcar network had been eliminated. In 1936, when GM organized National City Lines, 40,000 streetcars were operating in the United States; at the end of 1965, only 5,000 remained. In December of that year, GM bus chief Roger M. Kyes correctly observed: 'The motor coach has supplanted the interurban systems and has for all practical purposes eliminated the trolley (street-car)' . . .
"Electric street railways and electric trolley buses were eliminated without regard to their relative merit as a mode of transport. Their displacement by oil-powered buses maximized the earnings of GM stockholders; but it deprived the riding public of a competing method of travel," the report asserts, and quotes urban transit expert George M. Smerk as saying that " 'Street railways and trolley bus operations, even if better suited to traffic needs and the public interest, were doomed in favor of the vehicles and material produced by the conspirators.' "
Street Railways: 'U.S. vs. National City Lines' Recalled
Automobiles.Their time is over. At the least, we need far fewer of them.
Car Busters Magazine
Published in Prague four times a year by the World Carfree Network
The quest for car-free cities
Cutting Your Car Use
Bicycles One of the great inventions of the world. As John Ryan's book Seven Wonders: Everyday Things for a Healthier Planet says:
The Bicycle: The most energy efficient form of travel ever invented and the world's most popular transport vehicle. Pound for pound, a person on a bicycle expends less energy than any creature or machine covering the same distance. Handy for the one out of four car trips in the United States that are less than a mile.
How bikeable is your community?
Information about bicycle-friendly transit systems throughout the U.S
Currie Electric Bicycles
Hybrid electric bicycles.
International Bicycle Fund
Information on urban planning, economic development, safety education, responsible tourism and the cross-cultural, educational travel program "Bicycle Africa"
Pedal power probe shows bicycles waste little energy
Zap sells electric bikes and kits for converting your standard bike into an electrified power assist bike
Bicycle Repair and Maintenance
Bike Web Site
Bicycle tune-up and repair for all types of bikes, with lots of illustrations
Wonderful site on everything about bicycles, including buying one, using it and repairing it. From the former technical editor of Bicycling magazine
Detailed instructions on bicycle repair and maintenance, with illustrations
Stockpiling Parts and Tools
(Courtesy of the Glendora Peak Oil Collective)
Bicycle parts that wear or break more frequently than other parts should be the primary focus of creating a stockpile of spare parts. The following list of bicycle parts is broken down into three sections based on typical frequency of part failure or wear.
Heavy wear Inner tubes
Punctures are common and will require patch kits. The common store-bought patch kits come with synthetic rubber patches, a small container of glue, and a roughing tool. It is recommended that you acquire a sheet of sandpaper to rough your inner tube before applying the glue instead of using the roughing tool that comes with store-bought kits.
Spare inner tubes should be purchased and stockpiled since there are just so many patches an inner tube can take before it can't be used any more.
Tire tread will wear out and if a bicycle is parked for long periods of time, soft spots can form in tires, all of which will result in increased inner tube punctures and other damage to the inner tube. Typically bicycles that are to be stored for a long period of time should have very low pressure and should be stored up-side-down or get hung on pegs to lift the weight off of the tires.
Hand brake pads
If the bicycle has hand brakes (instead of a coaster brake or some other back-pedal-pressure type braking) then a stock of pads should be acquired. Most pads that get thrown in the trash are pretty well gone but the metal frame that the rubber rests within can be retrieved or reused by using pliers to open the frame to accept a new block of rubber, then pliers or a vice can be used to clamp the metal frame back down on the new block of rubber.
Hand brake cables and gear change cables
Bicycles that have hand brakes or multiple driven and freewheel gears will eventually have cables that will need to be replaced. Multistrand cable should be stocked, either previously cut to length or in a spool. When cutting such cable yourself, a sharp cutting tool should be used and then the end should be either capped or get heated and then dipped in solder to keep the end from fraying. Not having caps or solder, the end should be wrapped with two or three turns of black tape or, failing that, masking tape.
The nuts on the axle and other bolts will become stripped and will need to be replaced. Having a stock of common axle nuts of the correct thread, and common nuts for the rest of the bicycles you may maintain ensures you'll not have to use pliers or channel locks to work off stripped nuts.
Wheel rim spokes
Spokes will break on occasion, typically because a curb is jumped or the rim is crashed into something. Also spokes can break if they're extremely tight and one day some spokes decide to pop. The heads of spokes will often break or the body of the spoke will break, usually one at a time unless you're involved in a bad crash which distorts the rim.
The correct length spokes need to be stockpiled along with their threaded caps. When replacing spokes, check the hub's hole to ensure that the hole hasn't been split and that the new spoke won't just pop back out of a hub hole that's been distorted until it's too large.
Medium wear Ball bearings
Bearings will shatter when too much pressure is imparted on them. Typically one bearing will shatter and the fragments will conspire with the bushing and cradle the bearing travels in to fracture more bearings, resulting in more ball bearings being destroyed the longer the problem is allowed to continue before it's fixed.
Ball bearings can also develop flat spots in the event pressure gets inordinately applied which distorts the bearing but doesn't outright shatter it. Distorted bearings can cause neighboring bearings to experience friction and become distorted, perhaps eventually to fracture.
The front-wheel hub's bearings will be a size that's usually smaller than the crank's driven sprocket bearings or the back-wheel hub's bearings. Also the front fork will have two sets of ball bearings, usually resting within a circular cassette of bearings.
All four points—four bearing assemblies on the hubs, two bearing assemblies on the front fork, and two assemblies on the driven sprocket—may very well have different size ball bearings. Spares should be stockpiled for all sizes on the bicycles you'll be maintaining.
Bearing bushings / cassettes
The bushing is the circular trough that the ball bearings travel within where the wheel axle or the foot crank central shaft passed through. Bushings can become damaged when ball fractured ball bearings are present and the problem isn't fixed for a period of time.
Typically the bushings on both the front and rear wheel hubs are an integrated part of the hub and can't be replaced or repaired if divots or splinters form in the bushing. Removal (and thus replaceable) bushings are common on the foot crank shaft, however, and spares should be acquired — at least one set.
Cassettes of ball bearings are also possible in a great many hub and crank designs. A circular ring of metal with curved tines hold a circular array of ball bearings which rests within the bushing, or rests between two bushings. The tines on cassettes can break due to a ball bearing shattering or due to grit or other foreign matter accumulating in the bearing assembly.
If the bicycles you'll be working with use such rings of "fixed" ball bearings, you should aquire a set of replacements for all sizes you'll possible have to maintain.
Axle grease is considered a part of the bicycle since it's not only used to lubricate bearings but is also used to keep dirt, sand, and water out of internal bearings. Cans of axle grease or some other heavy grease should be stockpiled for bearings as well as for chains. Since grease accumulates dirt and can become dry over time, a bicycle's lubrication should be changed occasionally.
Seats will wear out but they're usually mendable using spare foam or rubber and duct tape if you don't mind having seats that look poorly. The padding on seats can usually be replaced but there may come a time when you've repaired and rebuilt a seat so often that it'll come time to replace it.
Spare handlegrips might be useful to stockpile since grips can get fragile with age and with sunlight over time. Bare metal handlebars are usually acceptable unless the rider is also carrying things and needs a firm grip on the bars.
Chains are going to break from time to time, and chains that are not properly greased to retard rusting can have links that seize up and make problems for sprocket teeth.
Spare chains are a good idea though existing chains can be repaired in the event a link breaks by employing a link tool to push out the pins on the broken link and a neighboring good link to remove the broken link. Then a tap or two with a hammer to insert the removed pin of a link puts it back together.
Alternatively if one has spare lengths of chain, one can extract a link from one chain and replace a broken link with it.
The teeth on the driven sprocket can become broken fairly easy when heavy pressure is being applied by the foot and the chain drags across the teeth—as it might do if the front gear is changed with a derailer.
Often the driven sprocket is welded or part of the crank else a special tool is required to remove the driven sprocket from the crank.
Freewheel sprocket assembly
The rear sprocket assembly on many multi-speed bicycles is an assembly that typically isn't broken down into its various gears. Regardless, the teeth on the freewheel ears can become broken if the chain is allowed to drag over the teeth or if the gears grind against a street curb or a boulder or something hard.
Wheel rims can become distorted until they're no longer circular though the most common mode of failure is a "taco." The usual damage to wheel rims is driving into street curbs or jumping off of curbs and landing hard enough to cause the rim to bend left or right.
As a distorted wheel rim spins along its axle, the rim can scrape the left and right fork or against the wheel frame. If the problem isn't too bad, the spokes can be loosened and some opposing spokes tightened until the rim spins true again, but often the damage is more than simple spoke adjustments can repair.
Spare rims complete with spokes, hubs, and axles are the best way to ensure that a too-badly-damaged rim doesn't keep the bicycle from being unusable. Spare rims by themselves are good to stockpile so long as you're aware of how much effort it takes to respoke a fresh rim—and spoking a rim to a hub takes time and talent.
Rear derailer wheels
On mutli-speed bicycles, the back derailer usually contains a plastic wheel that contains sprocket teeth—or there are two of them that together guide a derailing chain to its new gear. The plastic teeth on those small wheels can break, though it's fairly rare.
Least wear Handle bars
The most common mode of failure on handlebars is metal fatigue on the neck of the assembly. When a rider stands on the pedals to pump them hard for going up hill, the handle bars are often wrenched hard left and right with each foot pump.
The major frame itself is subject to stresses that on rare occasion will break the metal tubing or—in extreme environmental conditions—the frame can rust, forming soft spots.
The front forks can break in a number of ways with a common failure being the loss of one or both of the tabs that rest on either side of the front tire's axle breaking off—maybe with an impact into a street curb or some other crash into a hard object.
Foot cranks are extremely hard metal and don't usually fail. When they do, they usually go all at once, breaking along a micro crack that may have been there since its manufacture.
There are a number of welds in the frame, some of which are unlikely to come apart but some of which shouldn't be surprising if they come apart. The areas of the most stress are often given a good, heavy welding.
If a weld breaks, unless you can weld it back together again, you might be able to use hose clamps or some other method of holding the parts together but that would likely be dangerous.
Pedals break apart until usually there's just the foot axle remaining. A block of wood could be used in place of destroyed foot pedals.
Front and rear axles can either become stripped of their threads or else the axle can bend.
In the event an axle is bent, it can be reasonably straightened by taking two blocks of wood, setting them on the ground a few inches apart, and laying the axle on them with the center positioned above the gap. As you gently tap the upward bowed axle with a hammer while holding it in place, the threads of the axle will sink into the wood and hopefully won't become damaged as the bend is gently removed.
Broken, stripped, or badly bent axles will need to be replaced. There are a variety of size axles, all of which will have different gauge threads so spares will have to ensure they match your needs.
Spare assemblies to consider stockpiling Whole and complete hubs
The easiet thing to stock is entire hubs, maybe even complete with rims, spokes, tires, and tubes. But having spare hubs—if you know how to string rims to them—might be a good idea.
The stacked gear assembly for freewheel hubs might also be good to have stockpiled.
Bendix coaster break hubs
For old bicycled that are single speed, a spare coaster break hub would be good to stock.
Other possible tools Welding kit
A welding kit that uses flame (not electricity) would be useful for not only repairing damaged welds but also for adding backets, frames, and other things to existing bicycles—not to mention for other non-bicycle metal work.
Recommended bicycle repair tools
Car pooling cuts down on expense, traffic and gasoline consumption. Many communities have local programs, with many of those subsidized.
Free service in United States and Canada for commuting, cross-country travel, car sharing and local errands.
Sharing cars, whether with family and neighbors, through a private company, or through a local cooperative effort, has a lot of benefits.
Excellent information on history and reasons for car sharing, with extensive links to local car sharing services throughout North America.
Blog hosted by car sharing pioneer Dave Brook
What is Carsharing?
Carsharing and its benefits
World Carshare Consortium
Worldwide news and links, and online forum
Private company in selected U.S. cities
Compressed Work Week
Compressed work schedules (such as a four-day, 40 hour work week) can eliminate commuting altogether one day a week for many employees. Companies with such programs report less absenteeism, fewer late employees, and less use of sick leave.
In a compressed work schedule program, employees work a full-time schedule in fewer days, by working more hours a day. The day off can be the same for all employees, vary or rotate regularly - but most employers choose to assign days off to ensure adequate coverage. The most common compressed schedules are:
"4/40" - A 40-hour week consisting of four 10-hour days and one day off a week
"9/80" - 80 hours worked over two weeks, consisting of eight 9-hour days, one 8-hour day and one day off.
HINT: How to satisfy Federal 40-hour work week regulations - If employees take Fridays off, their work weeks begin and end Friday at noon; if they are taking Mondays off, then the work weeks would begin and end on Monday noon.
Where can compressed work schedules best be used?
Compressed work schedules work best where employees require minimal face-to-face contact with other employees, where set-up/tear-down time or shift changeovers are necessary (e.g., hospitals or manufacturing), or where work functions are not disrupted by staff reduction.
Compressed Work Weeks
List of benefits
Diesel gas tends to be cheaper and may be available longer than regular gas. Biodiesel appears to produce less energy than is required to make it. Without cheap oil it looks less attractive.
Home of the Veggie Van and the Biodiesel School Bus Campaign
Collaborative Biodiesel Tutorial
Learn how to make biodiesel
Electric Vehicles Full-size electric-only vehicles have fallen out of favor, but smaller electric forms of transportation are becoming more and more popular .
Battery Electric Vehicles
Electric and hybrid vehicles
Light Electric Vehicles
From bikes and small scooters to one-person cars
The Segway Human Transporter
Electric ATVs, scooters and bikes
The first and healthiest form of transportation ever invented.
Economic Benefits of Walkable Communities
From the Local Government Commission in California
How can I find and help build a walkable community? (PDF)
From Walkable Communities, Inc.
Ten Keys to Walkable Communities
Walkable communities create a sense of place and promote economic development
How walkable is your community?
Why Take a Walk?
Walking is good medicine
Hybrid cars—and the potential of "plug-in" hybrids—have become very popular. If you were smart enough to buy one, you're in good shape as long as there's still gas available.
How Hybrid Cars Work
From How Stuff Works
Everything about hybrids
Scooters/Mopeds Not just fun. Inexpensive transportation.
Currie Electric Scooters
Hybrid electric scooters.
Blog headquarters for moped clubs
Comprehensive information and sales
Official Vespa company site
Telecommuting doesn't just use less gas and make commuting cheaper. It eliminates it. It may cost you a little more on electricity and heating at home, but you avoid the entire commuting expense plus you gain the time you would have spent commuting.
Of course the ultimate telecommuting is simply outsourcing your job to another country. But we don't advocate you suggest that to your employer.
Myths and Realities of Working at Home
Among other things, telecommuters get more promotions, not fewer
Extensive site from a long-time telecommuting consultant
Telecommuting Resource Center
Friendly site from a telecommuting advocate
U.S. government telecommuting website with information for employers