Peace of Mind

Intelligent Deterrence

Multi-Mode Commuting

Heard across a street. Highly intelligent. A bike alarm like no other! $210 CAD. Direct from manufacturer: $120 CAD.

Updated: Monday 8 August 2022

With the rise in micro-mobility (commuter cycling, folding bikes, e-scooters, e-skates, e-bikes, e-unicycles, etc), multi-mode commuting is transportation that people engage-in without even knowing of it as a concept. It’s just common sense: Use small tools for short distances, and public transit for longer distances.

Proviso

This article has been written from a North American perspective. So, none of the luxuries of a sane, public transportation system, or of cities evolved for humans. Roads, laws, media, public transit, and politicians are, if not outright hostile, riling up the masses, they are negligent, and subservient to the status quo.
No Dutch sensibility here. Foresight is tempered by the electoral cycle [no pun], and the revenue stream.

Small Tools for Short Distances, Public Transit for Longer Distances

Makes sense, doesn’t it!
Use your bike/e-bike/e-scooter/e-skate/e-whatever between your home/office and a metro/bus station; and the latter to cover longer distances.
No more moving one person around in a living-room-on-wheels weighing a tonne or two, frequently stuck in traffic.
Even worse, it is absurd to go to work in a truck, five days a week, just because you may want to go camping twice a summer!
Seventy years of this nonsense, and now we’ve got more fires/storms and less water/ice!

Power-Assisted

This refers to electric-assisted tools: e-bikes, e-scooters, e-skates, e-unicycles and other personal transporters. Pretty self-explanatory.
If you live, or work, in a hilly area, power-assistance is likely to be essential for you. Similarly if the distance between the metro/bus/train station and your home/office is too challenging.
Note: Taking a non-folding ebike on public transit may encounter challenges; see below. A larger, non-folding e-scooter may encounter the same.

Without Power Assistance

The Brompton folding bicycle. Shown folded.

Folding-bikes reign this category. While regular bicycles can, and do, often use multi-mode, folders are ideally-suited to it.
As for scooters, skateboards et al, they’d be useful if your distance to the metro/bus/train station is unchallenging. Simply, with those, it’s a lot of effort to cover significant distances.

While there are many different designs of folders, in my limited experience, the Brompton surpasses. Simply, its folding and unfolding procedure is smooth, fast and convenient. It forms a tight, little package, allowing quick transition between modes (bike to bus/metro/train, and bus/metro/train to bike), and neat stowage.

The Brompton, unfolded. Shown with a front pannier/bag.

Its weight is around 11 kg. So, you can’t fold it to then casually walk around with! But then you won’t need to: Its un/folding is so quick that I rarely needed to carry it.
However, if the distance between the entrance to the metro/train stations and the train is long, a wheel option may be called for. (If I recall correctly, there was such an option if you got the Brompton with a rear rack.) Not all metro/train stations allow you to roll the bike alongside you, after you enter the station.

Lest anyone think that I get any sort of money from Brompton: I sell the M!nder bike alarm, which’d have a very diminished market if folders became more popular than they currently are!

Qualifiers on Folding Bikes

Folders are like laptops: Fickle, pricey, and with costlier parts. They are excellent for their intended purposes, but I would not recommend them to someone who frequently bikes long distances, on a variety of terrains. That kind of a person ought to get a ‘desktop’: A regular commuter (or other) bike(s).
As well, the Brompton is over-priced in Canada (and perhaps in the rest of North America). As of this writing, I see it used by people disinterested in commuting with it! Unlike in the U.K., it is more a luxury good than a commuter’s tool. But, if you’re going to get a folder, I’d still recommend a Brompton.

Rush Hours

Here in Canada, restrictions on personal transporters are more frequently applied during rush hours, especially in the direction of the rush hour: inbound on weekday mornings, outbound on weekday afternoons. For instance, if you’re heading to the city centre on weekday mornings, there may be a restriction against multi-moding (e.g. taking your bike on a metro train, even a folded bike)!
Outside those hours, off-peak travel in evenings and on weekends and holidays may be more permissive.

Why would public transit shoot itself in the foot, forcing more people into cars? Because it’s so under-funded that it’s crammed like cattle cars. The electoral systems favour inertia, and the media’s most significant source of income centres on cars and real estate.

Metro

In my experience, support for multi-mode varies widely between metro systems. Some are outright hostile, some limit it by time (see Rush Hours, above), and a few cater to it fully.

Bus

Unless if the bus has a bike rack, you may be out of luck. Some cities allow bikes into a bus; but that is of benefit only if the bus is not crammed with people.
If the direction of your commute is _opposite_ to rush hour, then you may be more in luck: Both metro and bus will be less crowded. In such a case, I’ve been allowed to take even a full-sized bike onto a bus, via the rear door, which is crucial for riding in snow. There might be a standing-only area in which you could keep your bike out of the way.
If there is a luggage area, a folder could be kept there.
Tip: If there is a rack, do lock your bike, and, when you get on the bus yourself, try to keep the rack in sight; similarly if your folder is in a luggage area.

Train

My experience with multi-moding with trains is confined to Taiwan and Canada. They’re practically _hostile_ to multi-mode. Even if your folder is hidden in a case, a particular train-type might prohibit it. Once I was even fined, because the agent deduced that the small case must’ve contained a bike. In Taiwan, they’re making a lot of effort to correct this, but, the last time I checked, it was still a work in progress.
In Europe, from what I hear, there’s been increasing change. Depending on the country, there may be significant accommodation. But then they have the density for proper train coverage, with the difference between commuting and travel blurred, whereas in North America, commuter trains are wholly a different category from inter-city trains.

Ferry

Similar to the above, ferries might restrict bicycles–either totally, or at times.

Suburbs

At least in the developed world, the need for multi-mode commuting is a by-product of suburbanization. Had all city-dwellers lived in cities, the density would’ve justified the provision of public transportation. Simply, suburbs are too low-density to provide enough coverage for. All those unused yards surrounding houses which, on any given day, are mostly under-used, and wide corridors catering to living-rooms-on-wheels, result in people so spread out that no trickery of transit could possibly hope to provide coverage for.
But, the facts have been created. There they lie, with people’s moneys tied into them. For the interim, multi-mode is an excellent solution for managing the absence of density, so long as governance can juggle the many sources and sinks of voter-money involved in this mess!

Scroll to top