It is time to sell the 2nd Family car!
I don't know about you but I'm using this lockdown time to think about what kind of lifestyle, what kind of society and what kind of environment do we want in New Zealand going forward?
The streets are empty. I can ride my bike on the road without stressing to high-heaven about being cleaned up by a car or truck. The place is quiet. If we weren't all now stressing out over money, businesses and employment this would be as close to NZ Nirvana as could be.
Yesterday, while riding my bicycle I came across the father and his two children, in the picture above. They were out for a ride on and in their electric-assist bicycle which they brought with them when returning from living for several years in Amsterdam. The bike even comes with a canopy and it'll easily cart a full load of groceries up and down the Wellington hills - just look at the size of that disc brake on the front wheel!
Perhaps the biggest impediment to riding bicycles in New Zealand, such as for children getting to and from school, is traffic congestion. There is no traffic congestion now. The other impediments in a city like Wellington to riding a bike are the hills and the wind. An electric-assist bike negates these.
If ever there was a time to get an electric bike, now is the time and just think of the savings. It will cost you 50 cents a week to run the bike!
How much does that second car cost you to keep on the road? Fuel, insurance, registration, ACC levy, Warrant of Fitness, repairs and maintenance, depreciation, parking fines? Thousands per year and money that few households can afford as of this month.
Thnk of the health benefits for you and your family by becoming regular commuters. Think of all the nice walkers and cyclists you will get to greet each day!
If enough of us ditch the second car and either walk and/or get an electric bike right now, we can transform the hearts of our cities and towns. They will remain safer, cleaner, quieter and much more friendly. Each family will save thousands of dollars each year. Carbon emissions will fall.
Here is what I recommend you do today:
Get your calculator and work out just how much that second car is costing your family.
Visit the websites of your local bike shop and have a look at what they have to offer in the way of electric-assist bikes. There is a bike for every need! Start with this search: https://www.google.com/search?q=electic+bike+sales+nz&oq=electic+bike+sales+nz&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l7.5918j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
Is making the switch worthwhile? How long will it take for the pay-off to be complete? (You will have to pay $3-5k for a reliable e-bike depending on what is most suitable).
Once the lock-down is lifted, go shopping for a new bike and put your 2nd car on the market.
What to be looking for in an electric-assist bike
You get what you pay for. Do not go for cheap and nasty. You want a quality machine that is made of reliable components.
It must have quality brakes that will stop a heavy bike on a dime.
Do you need it for pure commuting, to carry cargo, or to use for mountain-biking? Get the most suitable model.
Are replacement parts readily available and does the seller provide local servicing?
Shop around and do not impulse buy. Assemble several options before choosing. Test ride each option then decide.
Get a quality bike lock so that your bike does not get nicked on the first day out.
Get the best helmet and a pair of cycling gloves. We wear Swedish-made POC helmets. They are not cheap. What is your brain worth?
Practice your basic skills in an empty car park or field, such as doing slow figure 8's, stopping, starting, emergency braking and do all of these to perfection before venturing out on the roads.
Keep the speed down! These bikes can go very fast. Do not ever exceed your ability to control your bike or to stop in the clear ground ahead.
Be extremely defensive. You never have the right of way when on a bike even if the law says you do. Treat every intersection and every other person and vehicle as an imminent hazard.
If most of us were to shift our commuting in this direction, wouldn't that be just wonderful! Think of the savings for the family, think of the reduced vehicle emissions, think of the improved quality of life. Our cities and towns will be people-focused instead of being dominated by the motorcar. Life would be so much more relaxed, kinder and safer just by getting more people and children out of cars.
Even if your decision is not to sell the second car, please still consider adding an e-bike to the family fleet and promise to use it for all of those short trips of less than, say, 5km. That in itself would be a great leap forward.