COVID-19 shattered my “fun aspirations for 2020” list, but one survivor is bike camping. I’m planning that trip (this weekend). It will be my first time camping via bike so I’m reading up and asking questions. In particular I’m focused on getting there and back, with two kids and our gear. Here are some notes on routes and logistics, to help me & others in the future and to see if anyone has other ideas.
Where to Bike Camp around Ann Arbor
The closest campsite to Ann Arbor that I’m aware of is Crooked Lake Rustic Campground, at Pinckney Rec Area. I’ve camped here via car several times so know what I’m getting. But I’m curious to know of other camping options within ~25 miles from Ann Arbor.
Getting There via Bike
For this post, let’s assume a starting point of Michigan Stadium. Google Maps suggests taking Dexter-Ann Arbor road to Dexter, then Island Lake Road to Dexter Townhall Road. Total 18.5 miles. This is the route I use to drive there.
I don’t have hard data on this. Ann Arbor should collect this kind of data – Portland, OR has being doing bike counts since 1991. But I feel confident that the number of electric-assist bikes and cargo bikes on the road in Ann Arbor is growing rapidly.
Yesterday I parked in the excellent covered bike parking in the 4th and Washington structure and when I returned saw five e-bikes parked there:
Ann Arbor is a good town for an e-bike. It has some serious hills, which many people can’t or don’t wish to ride up while commuting. It has people with disposable income and environmental leanings who can be the early adopters. And we have two great stores for e-Bikes, Human Electric Hybrids and the newer Urban Rider (same ownership).
(Regarding one particular hill: the William Street Bikeway is slated to open this fall. This will be a veritable sales pitch for e-bikes, offering a safe and pleasant way to get to campus and downtown … to those riders who can surmount the steep, short climb up William from First to Ashley. Increase your assist level!)
Electric-assist bikes will grow in popularity here, becoming a critical part of how we move around in a world without abundant gasoline. (Even in a world with cheap gas they’re gaining steam, since they’re more fun, healthier, and cheaper than cars). E-bikes are already hugely popular in Europe and China, and while America has been slower to catch on, sales have nearly doubled annually in recent years. They’re the future.
I chatted with the owner of the Sondors bike (pictured above) as he locked up. He said he had been close to buying a moped but a friend talked him into buying an e-bike instead. He’s happy he did.
It’s a pleasure to watch e-bike numbers grow here in these early years of adoption.
Cargo bikes, in particular those with electric-assist motors, are life-changing. They are also, unfortunately, expensive. (Mostly. For now. Which I’ll come back to). The price tags of most brands put them out of reach of many potential riders and make them appear to be toys of the comfortable.
This came up in discussion at a cargo bike group ride this weekend: we all field constant questions about the bikes from strangers and the one that makes us pause is, “how much did it cost?” To the owner of an average adult bike, a thousand-dollar bike can seem unfathomable. And even if you compare it to the cost of purchasing a(nother) car – which is often a fair comparison, say, for Hum of the City‘s family – the very top-end cargo bikes from Riese & Muller or similar can be half the cost of a subcompact car. And said Toyota Yaris can get you to your job 30 miles away, which the bike cannot.
This week I did 50 miles of bike commuting, mostly moving my kids around, and 0 miles of driving. It was delightful. And I remain confident that e-cargo bikes are the future. Here I want to put the high price tags in what I hope will be the accurate historical context and explore factors that will make them universally accessible. Time will tell.