House Move with a Bicycle

Kara and I were married on June 21, 2003. My lease was to expire on Monday, June 30, so we planned to move my things into our new apartment over the weekend of June 28-29.

I was swamped with wedding activities, so it was Wednesday before I started calling rental companies about the availability of a van or truck. But end of June is a busy time in Boston, and truck availability apparently dries up weeks in advance. Wherever I called, people just laughed at me.

My friend Milton Trimitsis, fabulous bike mechanic and professional woodworker, had recently introduced me to the wonders of the Bikes-At-Work 96-inch bicycle trailer, an aluminum truss structure large enough to carry a bed and with a load capacity in excess of 300lbs. Car-free, Milton routinely carries his woodworking materials and equipment all over Boston to clients' places on his trailer.

I've never owned a car, and have always used my bike for everything: to commute, to carry groceries, to take clothes to the laundromat. But moving all my belongings across town? At first it sounded crazy. Yet the weather was perfect. And I could always tell skeptics that there really was no alternative: wasn't UHaul out of trucks? And Kara agreed to package most things and help me carry them down the stairs. What a deal: a dreary move suddenly transformed into a bike adventure!

Early in the morning on Saturday I picked up the Bikes-At-Work trailer owned by MassBike from Joel's house. That day I made eleven trips, cycling late into the evening, and the next day I made two more. Here you can see four of the loads as they leave the front of my old building:

(You can also look at all the photos if you wish.)

The total distance for the thirteen trips was 90Km; each round trip was about 6.9Km (~4.3mi). I averaged 17.9Km/h (11.1mph)---almost as fast as a car, considering Cambridge's heavy traffic. I didn't weigh everything, but the average load was probably about 300-400lbs. In this fashion I moved all of my possessions except for my computer and photo printer: I was afraid that they'd get rattled on the trailer, so I borrowed a friend's car for one trip.

In the end I only spent five hours actually cycling: packing, carrying things up and down stairs, and loading and unloading the trailer took more than twice that much time. By the end of the weekend I was tired, but the bride was all smiles.

Since then I have bought my own Bikes-At-Work trailer. It has revolutionized how I think about bike transportation. Before, even though I was "car-free," I'd occasionally have to borrow or rent a vehicle to carry large loads. Grocery shopping for a big party or hauling things to the recycling center required over-stuffing expedition-size panniers; taking clothes to the dry cleaners in the rain was a hassle. No more. Equipped with 18-gallon Rubbermaid storage containers, my trailer has all the capacity and water-tightness of a medium-size station wagon. I navigate shopping malls with the aplomb of a Chevy Suburban. I finally own a real SUV: unlike the motorized ones, mine actually combines sport with utility.