A group based in Brattleboro is hoping you'll ditch your car and start taking your bike more often. VBike has teamed up with the state's alternative transportation agency, Go! Vermont, to provide consultation services to help you find the perfect bicycle to carry your kids, perhaps your groceries as well, and still make it up that hill. They hope to increase the usage of bikes for transportation in Vermont.
"The bike has been in some ways shrunken in its capacity to be able to carry us, for Vermonters to use it as a viable means of transportation," said Dave Cohen who, a bit tongue in cheek, describes himself as a "car reduction therapist." He actually is a psychotherapist and a self-described eco-psychologist, exploring people's relationship to the world. Cohen is the founder/director of VBike and he'll be providing free bike consultations for households, families and businesses. It's the first program of its kind in the United States.
Cohen said the hope is that people will discover a new generation of cargo bikes and electric-assist technology, which is making it way more comfortable to carry loads, including children.
While cargo bikes have been around for decades, the new generation bikes from companies like Yuba, Madsen and Xtracycle are long-tail bikes, which have an extended frame, allowing riders to carry kids and cargo easily. Riders can add electric assist, which consists of a battery, a controller and a motor. "What that provides is a supplementary boost, which particularly here in Brattleboro, and elsewhere in Vermont, we really need in order to become a viable option for as many Vermonters as possible," Cohen explained. He added that electronic assist also create a measure of safety and can mitigate for a lack of bike infrastructure in Vermont, because when going faster speeds, bikers can be more effective at taking control of the road.
"With a longer wheel base you have more stability. The ride is absolutely elegant. With electric assist you can carry passengers and really feel confident on the road in heavily trafficked areas. You can go almost as fast as cars in a 25 mile per hour speed zone, but if you need to take over a lane, it's much easier."
The price for the bikes vary. Cohen said electric assist systems cost around $500 and cargo bikes with electric assist start at $2,500. While that may sound like a lot of money, Cohen said, "People in Vermont, where we have a big recreational bike culture, people buy bikes for $3,000-$4,000, they can't even carry a loaf of bread. We're talking about bikes that can carry 400 to 500 pounds." VSECU has extended their VGreen loan program to cover bikes.
"We're an outdoor state. The car is in some ways collapsing us into almost like a separate reality. The automobile has different levels of dissociation or disconnection from the world," said Cohen. "We're disconnected from the very impact we have on the world, the very architecture of the automobile is designed for comfort so it edits out the ecological and social sensory nourishment that we absolutely need to bond and connect with the places that we inhabit."