Monday morning, early, my family will leave Taos, NM to head back to Portland.
This evening had me thinking ….
Many will argue that cargo-carrying bikes have their place in every city, and these people will often argue, with am almost disciple ferocity that would border on narrow-minded, that their vision is singularly beneficial. I agree that cargo bikes could find a home in almost any city, but this alone will not carry the change in transportation of goods and services in the city.
People put a value on being and early adopter. I have read and heard people going to great lengths to establish this inane sense of cool. I am not putting down early adopters. Someone has to be there. There can be a ineffective development of “me” verses “we” that can halt socially beneficial ideas.
Substantive change will come from being part of a city-wide change in transportation. A change that involves efficient and economically viable options that are both heathy and sustainable. This is substantial good because it is greater than one person and helps a city grow.
To help a city’s consciousness and future grow would be a grand thing.
Taos, New Mexico could be such a city. The geography of Taos is favorable. It is a small city so getting from one end to the other is easy which promotes the idea that cars are not needed for travel. Additionally, the terrain is flat, and distances between the little towns a person would travel on occasion are still short. Last week my family traveled to Arroyo-Seco for a Fourth of July parade. A person can get to any desired place in Taos within 30 minutes or fewer. A few beautiful hours to farther locations.
Economics promote the use of bikes. Taos is an economically depressed city. There is little industry here so saving every nickel and dime would be of great service to a family budget. Ownership of a car is a costly endeavor. A family cargo-carrying bike would save money if distances are short and the destinations are places like school, the grocery store, or library.
The weather is dry for a good portion of the year and even with snow, days are often dry with clear skies. If the rain of Portland or the hard winters of Chicago were a deterrent, Taos is ideal. Through most of the winter, my father is outside after 10 am in short sleeves carving wooden sculptures.
I recommend the long tail platform as the culture-changing seed for Taos. Long tails look and ride like traditional bikes. This will encourage people to see them as “doable.” Up-keep of a long tail can be done by a local shop without much research–the noticeable difference is the longer chain and cables. This allows a small city like Taos to be ready at the start with existing infrastructure. What will make a long tail most appealing to a consumer is that industry leaders in long tails (Xtracycle, Yuba, and Madsen) have bikes priced where people can afford them, the bikes selling for about $1,000.
Having said this about long tails, the numerous people in this town who can weld opens opportunities for long johns cobbled together from spare bikes and found metal. I imagine a week-long workshop with Tom LaBonty (Tom’s Cargo Bikes) would incite a dedicated long john following.
Every development plan will have hurdles. For Taos, the greatest is that cars are central to much of the movement of goods, services, and people. This trip to Taos is my fourth time. In each case I have stayed for over a month. This extended time lets me see how people love and play and I see cars as central to transportation. I do not see many people walking. It is easier to transition people from certain lifestyles to that of biking if people walk from place to place or ride the bus
As a closing thought, the area around Taos is beautiful. mountains surround the city and the sky is large and open. I would want to be part of this setting every day rather than being trapped in a metal box.