Trend Watch: Multi-Modal Commuting with Folding Bikes

folding brompton photo

In many cities, including Toronto and San Francisco, regular bikes are not allowed on the subways in rush hour. Also in many cities, the subway might be too far to walk but the bus service is sparse or erratic. Now, more and more people are using folding bikes for multi-modal transport: cycling to and from the subway station and avoiding the feeder bus.

Eve Mitchell writes about a woman who used to drive her pickup truck to work, but now uses a folding bike. "I like it because it packs up into a little package. I like it because I can ride on BART any time," said Ellen Babcock, who rides her bike to a San Francisco BART station. After getting off at the Rockridge station, Babcock pedals to her job of teaching sculpture at the Oakland campus of the California College of the Arts. "It's just so much more pleasant than being in a car," she said.

folding bikes with treehuggers photo

The article notes that folding bike vary widely in price, from a few hundred to a few thousand. (TreeHugger Andy Posner spent a grand on his Bike Friday Pocket Rocket, my Strida sells for $ 800) and notes that you get what you pay for.

"It's a three-legged comparison between the durability of the bike, how much it's going to cost and how much it's going to weigh. If you want something that's very light and very durable, you're going to pay for it. If it's going to be durable and reasonably priced, it's going to be heavier," said David Fiedler, bicycling guide at

The article also notes that folding bikes generally are not terrific for longer commutes.

"The smaller wheels of a folding bike result in a different ride than a regular bike. More peddling is involved and the ride is slower and not as smooth, said Clay Wagers, owner of Oakland-based Bay Area Bikes, a dealer for folding bikes made by Dahon, the world's largest manufacturer of folding bikes. "A folding bike is what it is. It is kind of intended for short-distance travel," he said.

However, multi-modal biking can solve a lot of problems in parts of North America with rotten bus service but relatively good commuter trains and subways. I even do it with air travel, having twice checked my Strida for trips to New York. With fuel prices high and money tight, watch for this to be a growing trend. ::Inside Bay Area via ::Paul Dorn at Bike Commuter Tips
Buy Green: Small Wheel Folding Bikes
Buy Green: Large Wheel Folding Bikes
A Review of my Bike Friday Folding Bicycle
A Review of My Strida Folding Bicycle

Related Content on