Posted by: futurevehicles | April 25, 2009

New research format- The ride-along.

I decided to expand my research considerably over the coming weeks as i simply can not afford to spend an entire semester researching form while neglecting the human side of vehicle design.

This post will be a first of many participatory observation-style research ventures in which I ride along with a friend, family member, or complete random in the hope of discovering more about their history in the context of achieving mobility.

I will endeavor to keep them brief and witty……so enjoy.

Driver name: “Bob” – does not wish to be identified.

Relationship: best mate.

Age: 23

Location: Outer east Melbourne

Car: 1990 Toyota Tarago.


I asked “Bob” if i could go for a ride with him on one of his typical weekends just to see how much he relies on his car to get around. Despite living only 5 minutes from the train station, his logic is that it is much more convenient for him to get to work in his car- and that to take the train often means getting up at 5 in the morning to go into the city and then back out again on a different train line.

Minutes after leaving his house, “Bob” recieved a phone call from his boss at work begging him to come in and finish some overdue jobs. Being a sign-writer, it was obvious to Bob that if he accepted the request 0f his boss, he would most likely have to spend the rest of his Saturday driving around Melbourne to finish overdue work.

“I can’t turn down skrilla (money) like that”, exclaimed Bob- he had made his decision.

I didn’t really feel like tagging along with Bob all day to various small businesses around Melbourne but I felt it was a necessary aspect of my research; so we drove to the sign-writing business in Oakleigh south- which is roughly a 30 minute drive along roads that are normally heavily congested during peak times. We had our favourite music pumping loudly through his decaying speakers thanks to his Ipod; which he stores in a beverage holder that doesn’t get used any more. Amidst all of the  lane changes, red lights and vicious overtaking (Bob is a notorious leadfoot), he still found time to answer his phone 3 times and change the song on his Ipod atleast 8 times- all the while asking me to watch the road while I held on to the grab rail for dear life.

We arrived at his work and immediately began loading the vast storage space of the Tarago with all manner of sign writing equipment: barrels of paint, rollers, drop sheets, tool boxes and sheets of vinyl. With only 2 people in his car at all times, the mighty Toyota Tarago is probably one of the most spacious vehicles to grace the roads. Going from riding in my family’s Holden Commodore sedan to riding in this mammoth vehicle is like stepping from a Morris Minor in to a bus.

We set off, and within minutes some interesting things began to occur. Firstly, all of the equipment that we had tried so diligently to stack now began doing the rumba in the back. Had we of left the rear seats folded UP we may not have had this problem but because of the long handles of the paint rollers we had to- and now the rear section of the van was beginning to look like an inanimate object jumping castle.

In the midst of the chaos, Bob realised that i had failed to close the sliding door properly when we left. This was confirmed by the small light next to the speedo that illuminates when a door is open. This door in particular is ABSURDLY heavy, and because of the cars age it makes it difficult to close as you reach the end of the guide rails. Being on the Monash Freeway amidst a sea of trucks, we were not in the position to pull over- so while Bob had the car under control I took my seat belt off and scrambled in to the back of the Tarago  to negotiate with the troublesome door.

It proved to be more difficult than I had imagined, with the wind buffeting against the side of the van, thus making it near impossible to even open the door again. I finally forced the door open to about 30 centimetres from it’s closed position and then, using my martial arts experience (2nd Dan Yellow belt), I gave the door handle an almighty front kick in the direction of the closed position.

Needless to say, the door was now THOROUGHLY closed.

Our first stop was a small business in inner Melbourne, and it was here that the Tarago began to reveal it’s true nature. Note to everyone: INNER MELBOURNE IS NOT A GOOD PLACE FOR A SCALED-DOWN BUS. Watching Bob trying to park this monster, regardless of how good at parking he normally was, was like watching a tightrope walker with two shelves of expensive Ming-dynasty pottery walk over a pit of fire. What seemed like a fairly average reverse parallel parking job turned out to be an 8 minute rage-filled parking nightmare as the heady Toyota struggled to fit in a gap that allowed for .01 mm of clearance on either end.

Bob gave up in utter frustration, and used his qualifications as a sign writer to illegally park in an area reserved for deliveries. This particular job went for the rest of the day, so I did not really get the driving experience I had originally hoped for. Still, it was one wild ride and the observations I made in this short time were incredibly valuable.


I hoped you enjoy this post as it will be a series of many that are similar to this. Feel free to comment or ask questions.


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