Magazine

A Modest Proposal to Help Save the Earth

Matt Feagins

Fear, doom and gloom are all upon us lately due to the rising costs and potential scarcity of fossil fuel and the heat of global warming. It is time that Americans of all stripes overcome their fuel addiction. The transportation module that can help is not something of the future. It is here now: the self-balancing two-wheeled personal transport vehicle (SBTWPTV), as popularized by the Segway personal transporter.
To help save the Earth, we modestly propose that henceforth all parking garages be designed for use only by these two-wheeled wonders. People will need to junk their SUVs and cars and buy a SBTWPTV. This represents a fundamental transformation in how people will travel, commute and park.

Adequate friction
How do you design a garage to accommodate these SBTWPTVs when a paradigm shift needs to take place in parking facilities?
First, a few basics about SBTWPTVs. These vehicles have a zero turning radius (see Figure 1), meaning that each can turn within its own width as it spins on its central axis. They can travel 6 to 12 miles per hour on surfaces with adequate friction.
On a single charge, the vehicle’s batteries allow it to travel approximately 16 to 24 miles. It can recharge completely in about 8 to 10 hours. The platform height is about 8 inches, with a footprint of 19 by 25 inches (475 square inches) and ground clearance of 3 inches. With the vehicle’s reliance on battery power, the carbon footprint is significantly reduced.
Let’s compare these statistics with the average vehicle. Cars need about a 60-foot outside turning radius to turn at a decent velocity. The average car can do 120 miles per hour. Most cars have a range of 300 miles or so before refueling is needed, which takes all of 5 minutes. Design vehicle cars are about 6 feet wide by 16 1/2 feet long – 14,256 square inches (the Parking Consultants Council Guidelines).

Helmets required
As you can tell, the SBTWPTV is much smaller than the average car. The footprint alone is reduced by 96%. The height, though, is a few inches taller. The needed clear height would be the 8-inch platform plus the height of the driver. Most codes dictate a minimum 7-foot height for walking purposes. Using this height with another 8 inches for the platform, the volume is approximately 43,700 cubic inches.
Garage floor heights will have to increase to accommodate this platform. With the average American male standing 5-foot-10 and the 95th percentile at 6-foot-3, adding 8 inches to the height because of the platform, the minimum clearance should be 6 feet 11 inches. This is just shy of the typical 7-foot floor height. Because of the intimidation factor of driving under head-high beams, we recommend that the typical clear floor height be raised to 7 feet 6 inches. We also recommend that all garages designate an NBA player section for those over 7 foot to prevent head injuries (see Figure 2). As an additional safeguard, helmets should be required for those parking in the facility for protection against any low-hanging signs or lights.

No need to space out
The average car space width these days is between 8 1/2 feet and 9 feet, depending on the average vehicle size in the area and the anticipated use. The space width is generally considered that necessary to park the vehicle and open the door comfortably. The SBTWPTV space, on the other hand, will need only the width to park the vehicle. Dismounting requires only that a person step off the back of the vehicle. No door swing area is needed.
An experienced SBTWPTV driver should easily be able to park the vehicle with 6 inches to spare on both sides. With a vehicle width of 25 inches, the center to center of the parking stall should then be 31 inches minimum. To make the spaces a little more generous, a 36-inch stall is recommended. The length would be the same to allow the zero turning radius “U-turn” in its own stall.
With its turning radius of plus or minus 25 inches, the bay widths required for the SBTWPTV are much narrower than a typical car garage. At any angle, a bay width of 5 feet should be sufficient for one-way driving, 10 feet for two-way driving. For safety’s sake, we would recommend angled parking where appropriate.
For comparison’s sake, a two-way 90-degree parking garage for cars requires a 60-foot bay width. Assuming a 9-foot space, the best efficiency that this garage could do would be 270 square feet per space. The SBTWPTV garage, on the other hand, would need 16 feet for a double-loaded bay. The base efficiency would be only 24 square feet per vehicle – an improvement of more than 90 percent.

Revenue generator
SBTWPTV parking facilities will require some basic needs above and beyond that of the typical car parking facility. First and foremost will be the need to provide power for each vehicle. With the average charging time of 8 to 10 hours matching the average workday, the garage would provide a perfect charging opportunity. Parking operators could use this as an extra revenue source and charge a plug-in fee every month or even by the hour.
As with all current garages, policies and procedures will need to be given to ensure the safety and security of all users of the facility, as well as to improve the bottom line. It is recommended that SBTWPTV riders be required to wear helmets, shin pads and knee pads at all times while operating their vehicle. In addition, cellphone usage while driving should be prohibited in order to ensure that two hands are “on the wheel” at all times.
The SBTWPTV parking facility is the garage of the future that we need now to solve energy and environmental problems. The advantages of these vehicles include their minimal size and potential ability to run on green power and the added safety of having drivers keep both hands on the wheel (instead of on their cellphones and lattes).
The modest proposal to have all parking garages accommodate SBTWPTVs will make a quantum step forward in healing Mother Earth.

Article Abstract from November, 2006




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