Tom Armstrong: “If I can bicycle, I bicycle.”

June 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Undriver Stories

TomArmstrong1We met Undriver Tom Armstrong on the Undriving Facebook page, and got curious about the back-story on this bike-riding handyman.  Undriver Mary Davies got the scoop!

“If I can bicycle, I bicycle.”
– Sir David Attenborough

That’s how Louisville, KY, Undriver Tom Armstrong signs his emails. And it describes his undriving life pretty well. He’s not a zealot – he and his wife do own a car – but when he can bike, he bikes. He bikes to his part-time retail job – four-lane road, 45 mph – and he bikes to his handyman gigs. His “truck” is his Surly Big Dummy cargo-bike.

“If I just need my basic bag of tools,” Tom says, “that’s only 15-20 pounds, and one of the pockets on my bike swallows it easily. If I need my cordless drill and some more complicated stuff, I fill the other pocket.”

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Tom with his Surly Big Dummy, and a load of mulch for his garden on his “Bikes at Work” trailer. He had eight bags of mulch, at 30 or so pounds each, plus some metal garden edging that was another 50 pounds or so. He was four fairly flat miles from home. (Yes, that is a Utilikilt Workmans model kilt he is wearing.)

But when he needs to, say, replace the stair stringers on a deck, he really puts the Dummy to work, along with its Bikes at Work trailer. A recent deck stairway job involved three 2×12 stringers, two 5-foot handrails, and all the tools to finish the job. That’s a couple hundred pounds, on his bike. Why?

“I like myself better on a bike than in a car,” Tom says. (Give him a chance and he’ll refer you to the old Walt Disney cartoon “Motor Mania,” on YouTube.) “I’m less patient behind the wheel. Maybe it’s the anonymity,” he says.

And Tom is a people guy. He likes the direct interaction with people and his surroundings that cycling affords him.

He and his wife recently completed a Cycling Savvy training course in Florida, and are bringing it back to Louisville.

It fits their cycling philosophy. “As a transportation cyclist,” Tom says, “I’m a first-class street user and won’t be shunted off the pavement. Cyclists should be respected and expected as normal traffic.”

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Who needs a car to go kayaking? Not Tom…. here’s his kayak on that same “Bikes at Work” trailer.

Tom’s shift to an undriving lifestyle has been incremental, he says. “Over the years, every time I’ve had the opportunity to make small changes to make it more convenient to ride instead of drive, I’ve done so. It didn’t hurt that I worked for a bike shop or two over the years, and could get good prices on great stuff. When the last bike shop gig was drawing to an end (the store closed), I figured that, rather than face the crappy job market, I would open a handyman service, and use a bike to get around as much as I could.”

Will he ever go completely carless? As he says, when he can bike, he does bike.

- Mary Davies

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