9856Re: [carfree_cities] Bicycles as environmental goods
- Apr 30, 2006On Apr 30, 2006, at 1:09 AM, Ian Fiddies wrote:
> Hi AllRegarding the bicycle:
> 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.
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
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.
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