The Power is in Pedals, Says WorldWatch Institute


Image: Worldwatch

It was with a sad heart I learned that the WorldWatch Institute have decided to mothball their illustrious print magazine after 136 stellar issues.* But at least it goes out with a bang, by including an article on bicycle transport, by senior researcher Gary Gardner.

Obviously, at TreeHugger, we're big fans of cycling, which we see as one of the most efficient forms of transport ever devised by mankind. The WorldWatch piece reinforces this view, with gems like: "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."

But 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. I have a delightful little 60 page booklet they published in 1989. Like the above referenced article, the detailed research contained within 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."
Power to the Pedals, with thanks to Greg at the Society for Responsible Design (SRD) for the tip.

* Fortunately back issues of WorldWatch Magazine are still available in print of PDF formats.

More WorldWatch
There's Something About Dairy, Say WorldWatch
Can Organic Farming Feed Us All? WorldWatch Live
WorldWatch On ... Well, Everything
WorldWatch on GMOs
More Bicycle Transport
17 Examples of Pedal Power and Propulsion
Bicycle Cargo. Chapter 1: Racks And Bags
Bicycle Cargo. Chapter 2: Bike Trailers
Bicycle Cargo. Chapter 3: Extended Frame Bikes
Bicycle Cargo: Chapter 4: Cargo Bike Business (A - L)
Bicycle Cargo: Chapter 4: Cargo Bike Business (M to Z)

Tags: Bike Sharing | Biking | China | Denmark | Germany | Netherlands | United States

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