Cropped photo

Car People, Come Join the Fold

Cars have their moments. A simple backroad joy-ride is my favorite way to enjoy a car. But there are also car shows, clubs, track driving and rallies, each fantastic in its own right.

Most of the time, car ownership is a hassle. From big issues to nagging inconveniences, from care and feeding to fueling, you name it. They’re also more expensive to own than it might seem. Electric vehicles (EVs) are an improvement but don’t solve the problem. Cars may have their place, but you should know what you’re getting into. Even better, use a car only when it actually makes sense.

In today’s too often black-and-white, with-us-or-against-us world, some would have you think it’s either bikes or cars, choose a side. Transportation variety isn’t a zero-sum game. I’m talking about the flexibility of multi-modalism, of course. Even some more forward-thinking car enthusiasts agree that our cities are too car-centric. I’m not even going to get into the topic of people on bikes/e-bikes and transit use leaving more road space for those who do want to drive everywhere.

The Midtown Greenway, coming soon to St. Paul?

I make no secret that I’m a die-hard car lover (not to be confused with loving car-commuting and car-centric infrastructure and urban design). I like the machines for what they are, and what they do well. And I curse them and our dependence on them when they break.

I’ve come to realize that these two- and four-wheeled bedfellows aren’t as strange a match as you might think. In fact, they can be complementary. When I choose to bike, it’s because I perceive that mode as practical, fun or both. Not only to make a statement or save the planet.

It’s as easy as simply using the right tool for the job. Let me show you one example.

Car Issues “Find” Me

It’s nearly a year into a legal process relating to a safety defect in our family vehicle. The lemon process is glacial. I’ve now had this defective vehicle street parked for months.

Storing a car in the public right-of-way comes with risks. Anyone driving can daydream or look down for a moment and scrape your parked car. And then they can just drive off. Not wanting to hold up the legal process, I sought a body shop that could fix some hit-and-run scrapes ASAP.

Street parking reality, Exhibit A: Someone may sideswipe you and just drive away.

Local body shops had months-long wait times for new jobs. So, on the recommendation of my mechanically inclined brother, I called a body shop in Plymouth near my suburban hometown. This shop had a good reputation and, more importantly, an immediate opening. What they didn’t have? An accessible location.

Suburban Transportation Options Are . . . Limited

Unfortunately, the shop was located 16 miles from my home. Bus service to Plymouth is spotty at best, despite the modern County Road 73 Plymouth Metrolink park and ride station near my destination. Transit was a non-starter.

The body shop, from my house, was a bikeable 16.5 miles, but the route is mostly separated and on-street bike lanes.

My remaining options were: hassle a friend for a ride each way, pay for an Uber or just hop on and start pedaling.

When it comes to intracity, A-to-B transportation, absolutely nothing beats the flexibility of a folding bike. After all, you can’t typically just fold up a vehicle and put it into another one. That would require something crazy.

My beloved, do-it-all Brompton folding bicycle is a reliable one-way ticket to just about anywhere. In many cases, the simplest solution really is the best solution. My advice? Don’t overthink it!

Easy-Peasy (Lemon Squeezy?)

A common sight when I’m at an automotive shop for service.

I get the call, the work is done. Hop on, pedal for a while. Arrive, fold the bike, sign the paperwork, stow it, and I’m off.

Fun fact: The folded Brompton will fit in a Fiat 500 behind the rear seats, and even in a front-trunk of a Porsche 911. In other words, it’ll fit in just about anything.

This isn’t the first time I’ve lugged my Brompton into a car repair shop reception area, and it won’t be the last. It just makes too much sense.

To my fellow car enthusiasts (and car owners more generally), cars come and go. Sometimes too soon, sometimes too late. Some cars are special, some aren’t. But they all will need service eventually. So, if you can, keep a folding bike around just in case. They also make great pit bikes at racetracks, and they make getting to and around car shows much quicker and easier.

I don’t use my folding bike daily, but since it doesn’t go obsolete or break, mine isn’t going anywhere — at least until the next time a broken-yet-again car needs shuttling to the shop.

All photos by author Scott Berger

Scott Berger

About Scott Berger

A suburb-raised, but city-awakened, multi-modal enthusiast proudly based in St. Paul. Year-round cyclist, rider of Bromptons and E-Bikes. Scott is secretly also a car enthusiast and purist who has somehow lived car-free through the Minnesota winter and in rural France. Union Park District Council Board Member.

Articles Near This Location