one less car is an organisation dedicated to showing the bicycle as a truly practical transport option in place of the car.... difficult enough, but then they're based in the US... derek tells us more-who started one less car and why?
Cole bought a pedicab a couple years ago to give tourists rides around the downtown area during the summer months. He had a giant sticker made for the back of the pedicab that read "one less car". He had some stickers made to promote the business and people liked the design.
The idea was brought up to start making shirts as well, since they liked the stickers so much. Since that idea was brought up things have switched direction from the pedicab business to screen printing shirts that support bicycle culture. Being that Jeff was a business owner and has a good line of credit he put up the money to get things started.
I grew up skating with Cole and joined in to help my friend out in any way that i could. Katie is our favorite transplant from texas. She started working at the tattoo shop and began helping us do the mailing. We don't have a secret handshake or anything yet. No secret plans of global domination. we're just doing this because we like to. I don't think any of us want to grow up completely and working in a tattoo shop and riding bikes everywhere helps us achieve that.
oh, and when?
I think we officially started printing and selling shirts in the late summer/early autumn of 2005. We're still babes in the woods.
so do you really work out of the back of a tattoo shop?
Yeah, Jeff owns Area 51 Tattoo and we're all employees there. He lets us use any available space in the shop to work on one less car stuff. It's been a huge help for us because if we had to pay monthly rent for space to work in we would have never have made it this far. We print everything in the back room, make the screens in one of the bathrooms, do the mailing in the break area and use the computer up front to keep up with the website and order information.
The ironic part is that one less car doesn't even own it's own computer. We're an internet "business" and we don't even have a computer yet.
what do you hope one less car can achieve?
When I was about ten years old I was riding my bike down by the creek with the rest of the neighborhood kids. We had built a really poor dirt jump on one side and we were taking turns trying to be the first to make it across. While I was circling around for my second attempt something got caught up in my spokes, it was a tiny garden-type snake. When I ran him over he curled up into my spokes and got caught. In my mind I knew that I had surely cut him up into the kind of cute and tiny snake bits that only the mind of a child bent by years of saturday morning cartoons could imagine. In reality I brutally tore him up, just mangled him.
That snake is the only thing I've ever killed on my bike. I wish I could say the same thing for my driving career. And this is only one tiny little aspect of why I don't drive. The cost of our driving addiction goes beyond the cost of oil and maintenance. We're taxing our planet beyond it's means, in so many ways; it was never meant for this. If what we're doing with one less car could possibly awaken this realization in others - that would make late nights spent printing, frantic afternoons of packaging and mailing, and sitting in front of this computer far too much all worth it.
that being the case, presumably you all ride wherever and whenever you can rather than driving?
The only thing we use a car for is getting everything to events that we need. It's a little too unrealistic for us to get the table, tent, clothing, etc. to events any other way. Cole, Katie and I don't even own cars, we just rent them as events come up. You get some funny looks showing up to a fixed gear symposium in a car when you're going under the name "one less car", but unfortunately that's where we're at right now. If I could cut them out completely I would, but they are a necessary evil. I'm not saying that cars should all be wiped off the face of the planet, but we definitely need to realize that cutting back drastically on our driving would be a big help to the planet that sustains all of our lives.
so what do you ride?
We helped sponsor a race in chicago not too long after one less car got started. We brought the shirts to chicago ourselves so that we could see how races went in bigger cities. There were going to be riders there from all around the country, so we were really looking forward to meeting people and making connections. After the race was over it started to rain, so everyone started taking refuge in the backs of the open trailers that were in the heart of the meat packing district, where we were. While stuck in the trailers, trying to out-wait the rain, all people did was spend that time taking their bikes apart and talking about how hard to find certain parts were or how expensive their frames were. It seemed to us that all people were interested in was the status symbol aspect of bicycling, just like car owners. Hard to find frames were bowed down to. Those who cleaned and tuned their bikes the longest were regarded as experts by onlookers. Bikes were trophies that afternoon.
Right now Cole is riding an old Schwinn Varsity, fixed, that he built up for his "winter/utility" bike. He rides an Iro Mark V Pro when the weather's nice. Katie's riding my Specialized P2 this winter. When the weather's nice she rides a Specialized Stump Jumper. Jeff is riding his Trek Road Bike right now because this winter has been so mild. He has an Electra Townie for warmer weather. I'm riding my Iro Jamie Roy with cyclocross tires for the winter months. When I want to beat up a bike i jump my P2 off anything i can find.
We don't have trophy bikes. Our bikes are ridden 365 days a year in all weather conditions and they show it. There's a fine line between maintenance and prepping for trophy cases.
so surely the u.s. possibly one of the most difficult places in the world to campaign against car use?
Since i sold my car and starting riding everywhere that I go I've definitely seen a lot more action. I've had countless bottles thrown at me. I've been involved in a fist fight in the middle of the street by a driver that thinks it's okay to hit people on bikes. I've had oncoming drivers swerve at me, crossing the middle line. One time i got ejected from my bike by a flying forearm in the middle of the road, that's always a surprise. There have been quite a few cars that have chased after me. I've spent time hiding in shadows, waiting to get back on my way home. And I couldn't possibly keep track of all the middle fingers and swear words shouted my way.
All these reactions come at me for almost no reason at all, riding down the side of the road. Drivers don't appreciate having to slow down or drive around. They don't appreciate anything that hinders their plan of getting where they're going as fast as possible. And they definitely don't appreciate interrupted phone calls while you're yelling at them at red lights.
We're not a very hospitable place to ride bicycles, in general, given our inherent gearing towards car ownership. The better the car, the better the social standing; it's a status symbol thing that we get hung up on at a young age. But if you take the time to look around, and do some searching, there are some beautiful communities full of inspiring people that make any ride a good time.
how do you think cycling is viewed in general in the u.s.? is there a 'lance' effect?
People think that I'm destitute when they find out that I don't own a car. They offer me rides all the time. I guess they don't realize that I enjoy the work it takes getting there by bicycle, that I made the choice for myself. Like I mentioned earlier, car ownership shows status in the u.s., if you don't own a car you put yourself at the bottom of the social ladder. As a broad, sweeping generalization, the only thing people know about cycling is lance armstrong and that some bike rider got in trouble for using drugs in the last Tour de France. I get called Lance Armstrong a lot, it's funny to me.
so what one thing do you think would truly convince drivers to give up their cars?
I don't think there's anything that would make that happen, unfortunately. Americans drive themselves to their graves, almost literally. My grandmother knows that she's getting old. She gets confused often and calls people by names other than their own. She drove her car through the front of the post office a couple years ago. While it makes for a funny family story, it's sad on a couple levels. She thinks that telling people that she's no longer able to safely drive makes her look weak, so she just keeps driving, putting herself and others at risk. We'll drive until there's no more oil left. I'm sure we'll invent other means of insured alternative fuels before that ever happens though.
what do you think of hummer now making bikes?
Hummer is cashing in on peoples' insecurities and fear of not achieving the American dream. I guess that's what they do. They fall into line with companies like Procter & Gamble, Lockheed Martin and the Walmart Corporation. They will all be standing of a hill playing fiddles while the whole thing burns down around us. I have no love for Hummer or the people that are weak enough to buy into their bullshit.
what are the plans for the future of one less car?
We're all still amazed on a daily basis that it's come this far. I think the plan is to just keep holding on and see where this takes us. As of now we're not really a profit making business. The money that we have coming in goes right back into buying supplies. It'd be nice to bring it to a level slightly higher than self-sustaining, but without feeling like making a living by walking on the backs of people just like us.