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Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Insurance (Part 2) and Economics

Posted by on April 28th, 2020 at 10:30 am

crowded street

Crowded Willamette at 3:25 pm on a Monday.
(Photo: Becky Jo)

The insurance post regarding cars, uninsured motorists, and cyclists was fine and all, but what about a kayak? Yes. A kayak.

The husbeast hits the loop around Smith & Bybee Lakes on weekends. He’s pulling even longer days now that we’re all in an economic slide, trying to keep his team employed. So he heads out on long rides on the weekends. He gets back, and tells me, “There’s this asshole talking on his phone while carrying a kayak to the parking lot, trips on the curb, lands in the bike lane, and two cyclists crash into him.”

Sounds like there should be a punchline, right?

It gets better. The next day he heads out along Willamette Blvd by University of Portland and a jogger in the bike lane yells at him for being in the bike lane. Willamette is the preferred route in North Portland for runners and cyclists, in addition to being used as a car commuter cheat to avoid Lombard or Columbia Blvd.

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“Does this make me car-lite now, or was I actually car-lite before? I’m not sure how that shakes out in the bike-vernacular, but I prefer to be a transparent person, so there you go.”

It was timely I should have my follow-up insurance call with Chris Thomas, of the Thomas, Coon, Newton, & Frost law office. You may also recognize Chris just wrote a column about the legality of pedestrians in the street last week.

I told Chris the kayak story. While bike-to-bike or bike-to-pedestrian (with or without kayak) collisions rarely cause serious injury, it does happen. Chris suggests it’s helpful to know the details of your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Chris says that typically there is liability coverage that protects you if you are liable for causing injury as long as it excludes any motorized vehicles. In the case of the kayak, if the man with the kayak was deemed negligent and caused injuries, the bicycle riders would have a claim against his homeowner’s or rental insurance.

Regarding “motorized vehicle,” e-bikes haven’t really been challenged yet. I suggested it might be like a riding lawnmower. When I was a kid out in the sticks, the old timers would ride their lawnmowers in lieu of their tractors down to the next farm for a visit. Let’s hope when this does inevitably come to court, e-bikes don’t get saddled with motorcycle restrictions, and instead are more like a riding lawnmower.

Chris did make an excellent point: “Often people learn the hard way what it’s like to be in the system and how much they were or were not covered.”

Have you gotten into a bike-pedestrian collision? Bike-bike collision? Did you walk or limp away?

Zoe, my youngest, flipped her bike in early March, causing a couple hairline fractures through a permanent tooth. There’s no liability insurance to go after when you flip your own bike in the middle of the road. (insert shoulder shrug)

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“If I continue to stack my errands, using the car only 2-3 times a month and the car survives 6 months, it should even out even with insurance.”

That said, I do now have vehicle liability insurance to go with my renters insurance. My neighbors are quite elderly, and one is entering the later stages of Parkinson’s and dementia. This has added to their economic stress along the obvious emotional stress. They were going to donate their extra car after not being able to sell it for $500, so we offered to buy it for $500. It’s 20+ years old with the engine light on, so who knows how long it will run, but I’m hoping it will last long enough to make a lateral move financially and environmentally. For our family of 5 (plus one in college), I was still ordering delivery from Costco at about $600 a month. That requires someone to have a car, and costs an additional 20% in higher prices plus delivery tip. Before quarantine, I was also renting a car 1-2x a month and stacking my errands for those 24 hours. If I continue to stack my errands, using the car only 2-3 times a month and the car survives 6 months, it should even out even with insurance. Anything over the 6 months is a financial bonus, theoretically, and environmentally equal. It is Honda coupe, so the MPG is still low.

Does this make me car-lite now, or was I actually car-lite before? I’m not sure how that shakes out in the bike-vernacular, but I prefer to be a transparent person, so there you go.

The husbeast immediately regretted buying the car. We have so much pride after busting our asses hard over the winter, we felt maybe we gave up some of our hard-earned grit. We didn’t buy it to give-in, but it still felt a little bit like it. Like maybe just as it was getting easier, we relented? But it’s not easier with the quarantine. I don’t feel as free to ride to the store. If anything, I feel more exposed and in danger from cars than even when I was wobbly in the beginning. Does that make sense? Do you feel that way now? Do you feel that buzz, that because everyone is a little bit on edge all the time, that the freedom of a bike also leaves you more vulnerable to random quarantine rage? Maybe I’m projecting, but I can’t shake it.

I am both relieved to have both been able to contribute to our neighbors in their time of need, and to make a decision that works for us. I’m hoping it lasts long enough for us to financially take on a cargo e-bike. As someone said to me at the only bike-happy hour I got to attend before quarantine, an e-bike is to replace a car, not a bike. I dig that. Until then, I’ll name the Honda my Riding Lawnmower.

As always, thank you so much for hanging out with me here.

— Becky Jo, @BeckyJoPDX
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Daniel Amoni
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Good for you, doing what makes sense despite giving up the cache of being car-free. Before we got rid of our car a year and a half ago, I always said that we lived a car-free lifestyle since we only drove to get out of town. Well, now we just don’t go out of town much and fly or take the train when we do. It would be nice to go to the beach or mountain once in a while, flying is miserable and doesn’t feel good, and the train is lovely but expensive and slow.

Having a car and living the car-free lifestyle makes a lot of sense. If we went back to that, we would get cheap insurance, we would enjoy nature getaways occasionally, and we would be able to drive to see relatives in California instead of flying when the train is too expensive.

The problem for me is that I am more stubborn than sensible when it comes to my nemesis, the car. At least for a while, I can’t bring myself to bring it back into our life, especially since we have a teen approaching driving age.

Daniel Amoni
Subscriber

Sorry to hear about your neighbor. That’s tough. I appreciate your kindness in helping them and your courage to experiment.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest
Kyle Banerjee

I can’t believe I’m giving car advice on a bike blog, but you should just take it to any auto parts store — they’ll scan it for free which will give you an idea of what the car’s computer thinks is wrong.

If this car was maintained the way I suspect it was, you may well find the problem to be something as simple as a corroded connection, a clogged or improperly seated filter, bad plugs, or something equally benign — fixing any of these things will be super cheap/easy and your car will run much better/cleaner. If husbeast isn’t handy with cars, don’t take him to the store — you’ll probably get way less help.

As far as the feeling more vulnerable, I’m not experiencing that. What I am experiencing is much more enjoyment from the significant reduction of mechanized noise almost everywhere. Problem is that once you get something in your head, it’s hard to get it out.

As much as I like the emptier streets to ride on and cleaner air, pretty everything else about it is a big minus. Too many people and businesses getting hurt badly with no end in sight.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

When the car dies, park it somewhere on your property and simply maintain liability and pip coverage. Easy peasy.

Jason
Guest
Jason

There was lengthy discussion on this in the last thread. The best idea was to get a van and use it as an Air BnB while harvesting insurance from it! Brilliant. That was Racer X’s idea.

Jason
Guest
Jason

The reason we have car insurance is because of car accidents. That might seem like a, “well duh” moment. But treat it like a Koan. For example what’s the sound of one car crashing? If a car crashes in the woods, does anyone hear it? In this instance I specifically mean the following. “If people didn’t ram their cars into stuff, would we have an imperative need for collision insurance?”

Now, I know you want to retort right this very minute, but let that question sink in.

According to DMV.org, one of the first insurance policy (for a car) was in 1897 for Gilbert L. Loomis. Basically to alleviate the legal hassle of collisions. They go on further to state, “as more people started driving cars, more accidents started happening, along with more legal disputes.” More accidents started happening.

Even the DMV low-key admits the problem with cars is… well.. cars. Aren’t I an evil bastard, I just want the world to burn in a car-less hell. So evil. In the voice of Helen Lovejoy, “wont someone think of the cars!” Not me I suppose, because the value they create is outweighed by the harm they do. At least in the current saturation levels.

I’m open to the idea that a very – very small number of cars specifically dedicated to very utilitarian uses are acceptable. However, by embracing car culture as we do today, we are resisting the opportunity to elevate our society to a new level of achievement.

https://www.dmv.org/articles/history-of-car-insurance/

ChadwickF
Guest
ChadwickF

If you want a good movie involving riding lawnmowers, check out David Lynch’s “The Straight Story” from 1999.