Friday, June 25, 2010

Power Is In Pedals

I have a few cycling blogs and websites that I really enjoy and unfortunately one of my favorite online magazines is closing its doors. WorldWatch Institute is an online magazine that reports stories of environmental impacts and sustainability innovations. It goes out with a bang, by including an article on bicycle transport, by senior researcher Gary Gardner.

The WorldWatch piece reinforces my view, of cycling being one of the most efficient and responsible means for transportation: "A bicycle commuter who rides four miles to work, five days a week, avoids [...] about 2,000 pounds of CO2 emissions, each year." Or "... countries with the highest levels of cycling have the lowest levels of cycling fatalities." And this, "...some 700,000 car trips in Lyon, and 2,160,000 in Paris, are foregone each year because of bike-sharing."

Build it and They Will Come
Gary Gardner provides the sort of figures that we've heard here before: "In the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany in particular, a number of cities boast cycling rates of greater than 20 percent, and even 30 percent, of urban trips (compared with about 1 percent of trips in most U.S. and Australian cities)." But he unearths interesting connections too. Like how investing in bicycle infrastructure pays off. "In Portland, for example, where 4 percent of trips are made by bike, some $3.50 per resident is spent by the city on biking. By contrast, Amsterdam spends $39 per person to achieve its biking rate of 38 percent."

Rather than cull more of Gary's research here, readers can freely read the Power to the Pedals article online for themselves, and derive the benefit of his full analysis.

The Bicycle: Vehicle for a Small Planet
This is not an isolated review of cycling for WorldWatch.WorldWatch Paper #90: The Bicycle: Vehicle for a Small Planet, is also very illuminating. Although no longer in print it highlights the myriad benefits of the bicycle:

"Bicycles in Asia alone transport more people than do all the world's autos."
In 1987 China produced 41 million bicycles, but only 4,045 automobiles. Unfortunately we suspect that ratio no longer holds 20 plus years on.

For China to pave as much land per capita as has the United States [for automobile use] would mean giving up more than 40% of the country's cropland.

Bicycling uses 35 calories (of energy intensity) per passenger mile, compared to 1,860 calories for a single person driving a car. That's 53 time less energy required to cover the same distance.


"... a bicycle can increase a person's travel capacity (a combination of speed and payload) by at least five time over that of walking."

constructing a road for non-motorised vehicle (ie bicycles) in Ghana "would cost [...] roughly 8 percent of the cost of a conventional rural road."

"... 100 bicycles can be manufactured for the enrrgy and materials it takes to build a medium-sized car."

"Perhaps the greatest potential for change lie with the individual cyclist. pressing employers and local authorities to provide cycling facilities--and simply using bicycles whenever possible--can have great impact."

* Back issues of WorldWatch Magazine are still available in PDF formats.

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