Alternatives to the Automobile

Human Powered Vehicles (HPV)

These URLs are about specific HPVs: bikes, trikes, and quads: who makes 'em, how to get them, what they cost. In here you'll find references mostly to the more unusual varieties (you can go to any bike store to see stock MTBs and road bikes) -- recumbents, folders, cargo carriers, etc. Also I'll mention some accessories that make bikes more practical for daily commute and shopping trips.

The most familiar HPV is the bicycle. But let's not completely forget the skateboard, the scooter, the kid's trike; the wheelchair, the rowboat, pedalboat (or pedal kayak!), rowbike, and roller skates! Confining ourselves to the land for now, anything that uses human muscle to turn wheels and thus roll along is an HPV. Here I'm going to focus on bikes and bike variants.

Recumbent Bikes is a good starting point for finding out about recumbent bikes (bikes where the rider sits in a low, relaxed lean-back position with a backrest, instead of high up and leaning forward). Some people find that 'bents are far more comfortable than standard bikes. The BikeE is perhaps one of the most recognizable recumbents due to its popularity, but there are plenty of others. Here's one recumbent rider's personal take on this bike design. Recumbents are mostly 2-wheelers, but there is the record-breaking amazing Windcheetah, a record-breaking recumbent trike (don't ask, you can't afford it).
Folding Bikes
There is quite a market in folding bikes, but read the literature carefully before buying -- they vary widely in comfort, durability, and ease of folding/unfolding. My personal favourite, one of which I now own, is the Brompton Bike made in the UK but available in the US. Why a folding bike, you ask? Well, many "folders" fit in a normal-looking piece of luggage (samsonite or soft-side) and can be checked with an airline without a prohibitive bike carriage fee. They are easier to schlep around airports. You can take them on buses and trains, so you can tour (or commute) using public transit for the boring (or wet, or too hilly) bits, and biking when desirable. You can take one into a restaurant or shop instead of leaving it chained outside, vulnerable to parts thieves. I have travelled to Hawai'i with my Brompton and found it very pleasant to have a bike to ride while on business and/or vacation there. Do be aware though that you will probably have to cover or conceal the bike on most transit systems, US or European. Many conductors and drivers have an irrational hatred of folding bikes! Check out this amusing discussion among our European friends.
Despite the very annoying background pattern there is great info on this page. Many trikes, as well as suppliers for building your own.
Quadricycles are four-wheeled bikes. They are heavy and therefore not sprightly performers (and you won't take one on an airplane!) but they are very stable and can carry heavy loads. A well-known US brand is the Rhoades Car. If you live in Santa Cruz, you may recall that the gardening business "Terra Nova" has one of these. The UK company "Seat of the Pants" has some nice utility quads. They will soon be available in the US through a partner/distributor. Don't expect a brand new quad to be cheap. They run anywhere from $2K to over $4K.
The RowBike
You want weird? We got weird. The RowBike is a bike powered by a rowing machine. Yup, it's a rowing machine up on 2 wheels. Here's the official rowbike page, just in case you thought it was a hoax. I bet you've never seen one of these on the road!
Bike Trailers
When you load down your bike with heavy luggage, it handles strangely; and there's a limit to how much you can stuff even in good saddlebags and baskets. A trailer is in your future if you get serious about shopping and running errands with your bike instead of a car. There's a bewildering variety of bike trailers out there. I personally use a modified Burley (was a kiddy-carrier, but I transformed it into a wooden-decked freight platform). Most trailers have two wheels, smaller than a stock MTB or road bike wheel; but some have only one wheel! A few popular brands are Bykaboose, B.O.B., and BicycleR Evolution. Also check my personal experience with trailers. For an overview of heavy-hauling gear for working bikes see the excellent site. The pricey folding bike "BikeFriday" has a hardshell case which converts into a trailer!
Bikes in Europe
This is just one major bike shop, in Austria. Visit to see what the Austrians are riding and towing. You'll find recumbents and trailers and neat stuff. It's possible to order some of these items directly, but you may find US Customs duties a bit steep (despite all the hype about free global trade).
De Clarke