Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bikes as transportation

Bikes are not toys, bikes are a valid form of transportation. This is sort of a funny topic for me. I am one of the greatest proponents for using bikes as transportation, yet I often unintentionally give it "toy" status.

I bought brake pads the other day. It took me weeks to finally get around to buying them. I was wearing real thin on the old pads and the replacement was overdue. Why did it take so long? Because I didn't want to spend the money (~$10). Sure it's what I use to stop and that's important, but I could use that $10 for lots of other things (like watermelon).

I feel bad for even hesitating to buy break pads. What makes the situation even worse is that when the car needs gas I don't hesitate to fill it. Why the hesitation? I think it stems from the fact that my bicycle has always been a recreational venture. Now I commute and it is my transportation, yet cycling is still in the "recreate" category. That needs to change so that I can keep my bike in safe working order (and let the car fall into a state of neglect). OK, I'll maintain the car, but begrudgingly and only after the necessary repairs have been made on my bike (as well as my wife's and the kid's trailer).

The irony of this is that I know the consequences of thinking of a bike as a second class form of transportation. I know that most of the incidences that I have with cars are due to the fact that I am considered a second class vehicle when I'm on the bike. In the perspective of most motorists, bicycles are for recreating so cyclist certainly aren't in a hurry and therefore should yield the right of way to motorist... ALWAYS. Is it deeper than that? Are cyclists seen as people who can't afford a car and therefore "lower class" than those who can afford a car and gas? Based on what people yell at me from car windows, they don't think I belong on the road, even when I follow every law in the books. They think I'm playing on my toy.

For whatever reason, most motorists feel that they are in a hurry, but certainly the guy on the bike isn't, he must be recreating. Guess what, I'm in a hurry too, my bike is my car. Not only do I need to get to work, but I like to maintain my pace so that I can get worthwhile aerobic exercise.

So I did a little research on cycling (OK, I lied, it just happened to be in a book I am reading). A car with one passenger takes 1860 calories to go one mile (everyone knew that gas had calories, right?). One mile walking will consume about 100 calories. One mile on a bike takes about 35 calories. Bicycles are one of the most efficient forms of transportation available, consuming one third the energy of walking and 53 times less energy than driving a car. As far as fuel efficiency goes, the bicycle is far superior. It is time that we think of a bicycle as a legitimate vehicle and means of transportation and not a toy used by second rate citizens to recreate.


Emily said...

I've been amazed as I drive to Seattle how many people use bikes as alternate transportation. There are a ton of bike riders.

I don't think people in Utah get mad at you for riding a recreational transportation device. I think they are mad because in Utah, bikers are seen as weenies, and that they are a hassle when they are "in the way."

There are some cyclists that annoy me because they are putting themselves in danger, and I don't want to kill them with my car just because they chose to take the busiest street with no shoulder in heavy traffic. Thats when I get annoyed with them.

If there were bike routes that were safe rather than in heavy traffic, I would ride my bike everywhere I could.

sans auto said...

Bikes are NOT alternate transportation. My bike is transportation, my car is the alternate. That's the point that I was trying to make, people assume that the bicycle is the alternate.

I am guilty of being the bike on the busy road on a regular basis. It's because that is how you get places. If you don't like the bikes there, talk to your city planners and tell them that you want "complete streets" (meaning that they have shoulders, and sidewalks for those who don't drive). I commute into Provo from the South. I take University Ave most of the way and that is where I have most of my incidents. Am I supposed to go over to 2nd East instead of University? Is it fair to make the cyclist take the street with 14 stop signs? I will continue to take University and I will continue to make drivers mad. Not because I want to make drivers mad, but because I have the same right to the road that they do. I will ride on main roads because that is how you get places and I want people to see me and recognize that I am on a bike and getting to my destination.

Matt said...

Bikes are THE most efficient source of transportation, not one of. If only coming to work sweaty, disheveled and in normal, FUNCTIONING clothes was accepted, biking would be that much easier.

Instead I must pack an unnecessary amount of clothes, an extra pair of shoes, ride on the shoulder of a busy road filled with glass and rocks, all because biking still is an alternate form of transportation. Funny that we're trying to kick out "Illegal Immigrants" since they are the most friendly to our environment. Sure they may work in industries that over-use energy, but they themselves can't even afford to screw with the environment and most of the bike commuters around here are poor and don't speak English.

runbrianj said...

I ride 14 miles instead of 9 to work because, although I'd like to make a point to motorists, I don't think it's worth death or disability. For me, it's just the reality of dealing with a poorly-designed bridge span. I can use the exercise anyway . . . until I'm as lean as Sans.

matt mccluskey said...


What book are you reading with these stats? I am interested.

sans auto said...

The book is called The Bicycle and City Traffic by Hugh MacClintock. He was quoting an article by Lowe from 1990.

Anonymous said...

Hey, while searching for widgets for my blog, I stumbled upon and wow! I found what I wanted. A cool news widget. My blog is now showing latest news with title, description and images. Took just few minutes to add. Awesome!