Trying to travel in a city? Biking is the best (or at least most energy-efficient) mode

© Sustainable Transport and public policy/David Banister

We've covered a number of the crazy contests in which a bike, a car, a public transit rider see who can race between two urban points fastest.

Usually, the bicycle wins.

Bike are an extremely energy-efficient form of transportation. As the graph above shows, riding a bicycle is more than twice as efficient than walking. This is in terms of megajoules of energy expended per kilometer traveled.

The bike comes ahead of every other common transportation choice, including public transport and personal cars.

Some people object to the comparison of biking (and walking) to things like a taxi or a private car because human-powered transport does require calories to make it go. And those calories - i.e. food - may be less efficient to create than say, diesel fuel. Which means that the caloric cost of bicycle commuting for your daily transport may actually cost you more than the gas for your car.

In addition, to get these figures, the different modes that can carry more passengers were weighted with occupancy estimates - for example, in the case of the light rail occupancy was estimated at 33%, as was bus rider occupancy.

And furthermore, who would use a 727 to get to work? Very few of us.

In the paper from which the graph was produced, written by David Banister of London's University College, it's argued that transport in general needs to reduce its dependency on non-renewable fuel choices for the environment, economic competitiveness and energy security.

But actually the arguments for using the bicycle, at least in short-distance traveling in urban environments, are much more personal.

Cars are killing us in a variety of ways. First, literally - we forgot that over a million people around the world lose their lives in cars each year.

Then, also, slowly. Our car-centric environment has made us ever fatter, has made our air more polluted, and contributes to ongoing climate disruption.

But urban bicycling can change most of that. It's common to say that the car isn't going away, and perhaps that is true. But once you find a way to fit bicycling into your life - whether a trip to a corner store or on a daily commute - it becomes ever clearer that we would be a saner society if we started to minimize our auto addiction.

Utopia for pedestrians and cyclists isn't all the hard!

Trying to travel in a city? Biking is the best (or at least most energy-efficient) mode
Bikes are superior transportation - emissions free and make you feel good. They are also the most energy-efficient transport around.

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