Flutterby™! : Environmental Paradox of Cycling

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Environmental Paradox of Cycling

2006-07-28 18:41:39.61949+00 by Dan Lyke 2 comments

Karl T. Ulrich: The Environmental Paradox of Bicycling (PDF), the abstract of which starts:

Substituting bicycling for driving is frequently promoted as a means of reducing energy consumption and the associated degradation of the environment. This analysis takes account of the first-order effects due to the dramatically lower energy requirements of transportation by bicycle relative to autombiles. The enviromnetal benefits of human power are, however, strongly coupled to the environmental costs of increased population, due to increased longevity of those who engage in physical activity. Paradoxically, increased use of human power for transportation is unlikely to reduce substantially the use of energy because of this second order effect.

If you're looking for more paradoxes, CNW Marketing Research looks at the energy cost per mile of popular automobiles... The results aren't what your first reaction might be.

Now to balance all of this off, it's worth looking at various lifestyles and their impacts on the environment in an evolutionary frame. Yesterday evening we were strolling in downtown San Anselmo[Wiki], looking at some kitschy antiques in the window of one store, and Charlene commented that she'd never stand for furniture like that in our house, 'cause those baroque flowers on the chest were impossible to dust. I agreed, and expressed my appreciation of Shaker style furniture (which none of the top entries on a search appear to be, despite what they call themselves). She said she hadn't heard of it, I said "not surprising, 'cause they're extinct", but I open up Arts & Letters Daily this morning and, surprise: There are four Shakers left, and they're making plans for the impact on this world of their belongings should they fail to attract any new converts.

[ related topics: Nature and environment Current Events Consumerism and advertising Automobiles Bicycling San Anselmo ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2006-07-29 23:20:41.242555+00 by: ebradway

Bicycling: The basic paradox is that you'll live longer and create more pollution. However, this can be offset by prudent reproduction - either no reproduction or reproduction later in life (skipping a generation).

Automobiles: The CNW report is an interesting read. While it makes the point that hybrids really aren't more sustainable than a Hummer (given "average" use), the best cars are traditional economy cars (Toyota and Scion holding many of the prime spots). I've always been an advocate of "recycled" cars - buying older vehicles, many of which were outside the "average lifespan in miles".

My wife and I are now down to one vehicle - her 1998 Ford Ranger with 125K miles on it. We sold the VW because we didn't need a second car. I can ride my bike or take the bus almost as easily. It will hurt during our summer road trip next week...

#Comment Re: made: 2006-08-01 15:21:05.230702+00 by: Dan Lyke

There are some decent breakdowns of some of the CNW numbers here:

Drivers in the US drive 2.5 trillion miles per year, which means accorinding to this silly report that JUST THE US FLEET of residential cars and light trucks USES MORE ENERGY than is consumed on the PLANET for all industries, cars, house heating, a/c, etc etc. The total US Energy bill in 2002 was $0.6 trillion dollars. The rest of the world quadruples this to about $2.4 trillion, which is about 1/2 of the energy needed just for the US car fleet, according to the report. I guess the rest of the energy comes from aliens, or more likely, from the hot air exhausted by marketing research firms.

Which makes sense on several levels, because when they're claiming a car has $3.30 operating cost per mile with a 100k mile lifespan, that's a third of a million bucks. If the consumer is on the hook for less than sixth of that, that's a hell of a lot of hidden cost.