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9856Re: [carfree_cities] Bicycles as environmental goods

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  • Richard Risemberg
    Apr 30, 2006
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      On Apr 30, 2006, at 1:09 AM, Ian Fiddies wrote:

      > Hi All
      > As I understand it the concept of an environmentally friendly
      > product is
      > comparative. Production, use and disposal at the end of the
      > products life
      > all have a varying impact.
      Regarding the bicycle:

      1) Low embedded energy,e specially if made of steel instead of
      aluminum or carbon-fiber (the latter being made entirely out of oil)
      2) Low energy use in operation: we saw the figures on this list, I
      believe, with cars using at least 50 times more energy per mile to
      move one person than bikes--and of course the bicycle fuel comes from
      food, which can be produced locally almost everywhere.
      3) Bicycles are far more durable than cars, that is, have a longer
      service life--I am currently riding two twenty-year-old machines that
      run as if new with mostly original components, and fifty year old
      bikes in daily service are not at all rare. So the embedded energy is
      amortized over a longer period, what there is of it. They are easily
      rebuilt, repurposed, or recycled.
      4) Bicycles increase social cohesion. It is common for not only
      other bicyclists and pedestrians to engage me in conversation (asking
      directions etc), but even motorists will roll down their windows and
      talk with me.
      5) Bicycles take up little space, both on the road and for parking,
      yet give you much more flexibility than any other mode of travel
      (including cars), except for walking. (Variety of terrains
      accessible, etc.) I'm 53 and can easily ride over fifty miles in a
      day, over steep hills. My most expensive bike, with all the extra
      parts I bought included, for hard high speed riding, cost me far
      under a thousand bucks. I could do 95% of what I do with a much
      cheaper one (and in fact am now mostly riding a fixed-gear built of
      eBay parts.)
      6) If you must import bicycles, you need fewer ship trips to do it
      than to import the equivalent in utility as cars.
      7) Bicycles can be built using village-scale technology, as long as
      there are tubing and tire suppliers. And there is at least one
      serious competition bicycle built of bamboo, as I think we mentioned
      here a few weeks ago. A good blacksmith can build a usable (though
      not impressive) bicycle. The first pneumatic tire was designed and
      made--for the bicycle--by a Scottish veterinarian, John Dunlop.

      A hundred years ago the bicycle was king of transport. A hundred
      years from now it will be again.

      That said, while I think tariff reductions on bikes might be just
      fine, encouraging local production of them (and as much as possible
      of everything else) would be yet better. Or just do both. Though
      tariff lovers will say that tariffs encourage local production , that
      obviously hasn't happened in the US as far as bicycles go--locally-
      produced bicycles are almost all custom-built racing and touring
      machines that are the equivalent in price of Range Rovers and
      Maseratis. Some of them in the low five figures--meaning you
      certainly wouldn't lock them to a parking meter while you shop!

      I park my fast but grungy wheels almost everywhere, though.

      Richard Risemberg
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