Re: [carfree_cities] Bicycles as environmental goods
- On 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.
- I am no economist, so could you list some other advantages of
removing international tariffs and trade barriers on bicycles than
the price for the end-user?
Would it not mean that the imported junk bicycles you get from the
supermarkets will be even cheaper than today, thereby creating an
even more unsurmountable competition for the inevitably more
expensive quality bicycles?
I know it is simplistic to say that cheap bicycles are all bad and
that the good ones can only be big names worth at least 600 USD, on
the other hand we cannot deny either that someone unexperienced could
be deterred from everyday cycling by a bad quality bicycle.
At 00:15 29/04/2006, you wrote:
>Nice info, maybe we could find a way to support? Letters signed by many
>WTO Negotiations Open Possibility of Defining Bicycles as Environmental
>By Matthew Sholler
>Current efforts to designate bikes as "environmentally preferable products"
>free of tariffs
>and other trade barriers have gone largely unnoticed by the international
>Organizations promoting bicycle use at the international level may have a
>new avenue to do so -- through the liberalization of trade in bicycles,
>bicycle parts and components, and bicycle accessories that could result from
>the World Trade Organization's (WTO) current negotiations on environmental
>goods and services.
>The mandate for these negotiations comes from the so-called Doha Development
>Agenda (DDA), issued by trade ministers at the WTO Ministerial Conference in
>Doha, Qatar, in November 2002. Paragraph 31(iii) of the DDA calls for the
>reduction or elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to environmental
>goods and services. WTO ministers did not, however, define what constitutes
>an "environmental good", so the negotiations have moved forward largely on
>the basis of lists of suggested goods by WTO member economies.
>One sub-category of products is referred to as "environmentally preferable
>products", or EPPs, deemed superior to close substitutes because of the way
>they are produced, used or disposed of.
>At the end of 2004, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
>Development (OECD) was asked by its member countries to prepare a study of
>EPPs, concentrating on products whose liberalization would benefit
>developing countries, either through improved environmental outcomes or
>increased trade in the product. The bicycle emerged as one of the three EPPs
>the OECD Secretariat chose to study in depth.
>(A copy of the report may be found here:
>In mid-2005, Switzerland, an OECD member country, submitted its own list of
>proposed environmental goods to the WTO, which included bicycles, bicycle
>parts and components, and certain accessories. The Swiss proposal has been
>met with mixed reactions by other member countries, many of which are
>represented in WTO negotiations by representatives from trade ministries who
>do not grasp the bicycle's environmental relevance. Others, usually from
>environment ministries, have generally been more supportive of the idea.
>As of this writing, no definitive common list of environmentally goods has
>been agreed by WTO negotiators. There may still be an opportunity for
>bicycle advocates to tell their countries' WTO delegates just how important
>it is to grant "environmental good" status to bicycles, parts and
>[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
>Yahoo! Groups Links
- On May 1, 2006, at 4:41 AM, Andras Toth wrote:
> I know it is simplistic to say that cheap bicycles are all bad andYes, it's true about the effect of bad bicycles, but the problem is
> that the good ones can only be big names worth at least 600 USD, on
> the other hand we cannot deny either that someone unexperienced could
> be deterred from everyday cycling by a bad quality bicycle.
that even the good ones are imported, for the most part.
Kogswell.com is in the process of contracting a Taiwanese factory to
make a quality commute bike--better than the Dutch style stuff for US
distances--that they hope to sell for around $200. That's still more
than Wal*Mart/K-Mart rices, but I know Kogswell's quality and it
would be immeasurably better. There is NO ONE attempting this in
the US despite considerable unused industrial infrastructure and a
lot of people with good hands and eyes looking for work. I have been
making hints on the bike forums that perhaps the folks I know of that
are setting up bicycle factories in Ukraine, Africa, etc. and
training locals in framebuilding could do the same thing in the US
and tie in with local marketing/design companies such as Kogswell.
But as long as cheap oil subsidizes the boat ride over from China,
and as long as Americans are willing to compromise every possible
fragment of product quality for a low price, it will be difficult.
Even Taiwan bikes are "too expensive" for many Americans--Americans
who have money even. They're unusable, being really just frail icons
of bicycles, but they're cheap, and it's illusions we buy here in the
land of products made to be sold, not to be used. The illusion of
freedom a car gives you while putting you in bondage, the illusion of
community in suburbs with quaint monikers where you don't know your
next-door neighbor's name....
Nevertheless, making good bicycles available cheaper, as tariff
reductions would do (even US made frames sport Japanese or Italian
parts) would be a small step forward. It would also symbolize a
commitment to oil-free transport, which is more important in the
short term. The details can be adjusted later.