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The IEA sees it different




You forgot to mention the accidents. Car accidents are a nasty thing with many horrible deaths and gruesome scenes. Bicycle accidents may, at worst, break a bone.

BTW, I really appreciate your work and ideas.
Keep up the great work.



There is one thing that the author is not considering here, and that is the fact that cars are more than just a means of transport. They have become an extension of ourselves, an accessory, something that defines us in a rather similar way as our clothing may do. Also, no matter how good you are pedalling, you will never beat a car when travelling a long distance in a very short period of time (in comparison with the time it would take if you do it with a bike). If you can afford it, you would not want to pedal for hours to reach to your destination only to repeat it all over again at the end of the day, regardless of the consequences (contamination, energy consumption, etc), it's a matter of status, and that is still an important issue for us, human animals that we are. Cars are here to stay, and our only hope is that the manufacturers will make them more efficient with time and the pressure that governments, competition and lack of energy may put on them.



I like the idea in general, but there are some problems. Cycling is OK when the terrain is flat, but not so in the hills. I would have to struggle for 3 hours or more to get home instead of 15 minutes by car. I could imagine a powered cycleway in places where the road goes uphill, but it costs money and maintenance. Also I vote with my wallet by going farther from the local bad shops, and I would have less choice then. The streetcar idea is OK as long as you can afford the billions to put rails on all the small roads.



What about people who live out in the country? Or people who live in places like West Virginia (called "The Mountain State" for good reason)? Or the elderly? Or people who live in places with extreme climates? I remember visiting my aunt in Phoenix in July--cycling in such weather is a good way to get heatstroke. On the other extreme, what about Maine or Alaska in the winter?

Simon Baddeley


When people ask how the bicycle can cover distances we take for granted when driving a car, they seem to forget that autodependency created those distances, making suburban sprawl viable. The car is inextricable from the settlement patterns it makes possible - including distances betwen shops, recreations areas, places of worship, schools and - so called - neighbours. The car creates access by mobility. For walking and cycling to work we need planning based on access by proximity - the recovery of centres and places blighted by the dominance of the car. The car more than any other form of transport has made the journey more important than the destination; movement of humans more important than their interaction. We are not just prisoners of the car, but prisoners of the environment it has been instrumental in creating. I divorced my car two years ago but I live in the city and I enjoy - mostly - rapid transit for the journeys I can't do on foot or by bicycle. I used to love cars but now the freedom they offer has become highly conditional. A love affair became a loveless marriage. Separation and divorce recovered a freedom I haven't known for years.
I still travel in cars occasionally, but they're not much fun, and not very efficient and ridiculously expensive.

Uncle B


No matter what happens, battery cars, Hydrogen vehicles, Bullet trains, whatever, the bicycle will always be around! Asians favor them Europeans love them, even Canadians use them summer-long! Great cheap transportation of humane speed and proportion!Billions of Chinamen can't be wrong! Americans on the other hand seem to be in for a lesson in modesty, frugality as the end of the "Cheap Oil Era" and scarcity of their favorite brew, "Light Sweet Crude" cannot be found anywhere on earth in quantities of consequence, even with sophisticated satellite searches. With Lithium battery improvements and better electric motor technologies I see the ubiquitous bicycle electrifies and Solar or Wind powered in the next few decades and very popular in a much different America than we know today, a few years hence. China may soon produce and effective re-chargable bike of light weight, durable, without planned obscolescence built in, and repairable until the last part is worn away, as is the penchant for commies and socialists to do. If allowed to be imported to Americans a small revolution in lifestyles of sustainability could be started! Even small farm machinery and rotor-tillers,saw-mills, water pumps and the like running from the rechargeable bike motors, unlike the time of adaptations for the Ford Model A's, T,s of yesteryear in America when all was "Swell"! and the corporatists were just grabbing at power.

dr. weiner


its called a bike path, dummy. they exist.



I think we can all share the road. Depending on external factors, such as oil prices, new technologies, etc, cars will either be naturally phased out due to economic factors (the only force I think capable of killing the car culture), or cars will continue to rule the roads. I'm going to keep riding as long as I am healthy enough to do so, regardless of cars being around or not.

Michael Dawson


Excellent post! Thank you.



Small motor vehicles are likely to remain part of the mix for many reasons. But it should be noted that the auto and the bike are less intrinsically incompatible on roadways than is generally assumed. The problems stem from two sources: poorly defined rights of way, and wildly divergent relative energies.

Rights of way should follow a clear cut hierarchy. In descending priority: Emergency vehicles and services; Public transport; Pedestrians; Bicycles and other Human or other Animal Powered Vehicles; Goods and services transport; and, giving way to all others, Cars and other Personal motorized vehicles.

The energy embodied in a car traveling, say, 30 mph is huge relative to a pedestrian or a bicycle. It is this relative difference that is the most dangerous element of mixed use roadways. Clearly, cars need to be restricted to a maximum of around 10 mph. The utility of the car remains almost identical, but the relative differences of energy become much more manageable.



The real problem is that the roads are owned and maintained by governments. Privatize the roads, and I would bet that you would quickly see bike lanes and other innovations to improve traffic and transportation. Get rid of zoning, and long-distance commuting would also be ameloriated, as urban design could once again be legally sensible and practical. But I doubt that automobiles will go away anytime soon.



Another problem with cars is that they kill public transport. When too many people are driving besides the bus, the bus line will get shut down. Cars are not the solution to bad public transport, they are its cause.

Well, for combining bicycles with public transport, there are folding bicycles, maybe most notably the Brompton:




It could help to have a culture shift where less-than-shower-fresh is acceptable. We worry so much about being in public with any evidence of physical activity. Many people feel it necessary to be shower-dry cleaner fresh when the sit at their desk. If our culture could relax a little on the "yucchy" standard we would find that a little physical activity usually does not make us offensive or unpleasant to be around.



The real killer for commuter cycling is the hill. They might be fine for the macho weekend fitness fanatic, but for the mass of us then hills, especially the long dragging variety are the killer.

I ride regularly along the nearby canal and have to put up with a sttep hill. There are 5 locks. So far I have made it up in one go, once.

If I want to go off from the canal then there is only one way, up!!!

I have yet to try power assistance but I think there is a market for small motors say powered by the same type of gas cylinder used for camping stoves. I reckon one of those would have more potential energy than a battery system.



No thanks, I'll keep my motorcycle. I've become sick (literally sick) one too many times from riding a bicycle. All of the heavy breathing in the winter, I guess. I've also had many near misses with cars at crosswalks and stoplights. Of course, the drivers don't care and will even honk for inconveniencing them. Drivers are much less aggressive when they know that you can keep up with them.

Nathan Young


During the annual bridge pedal in Portland the entire route (including most of the bridges in town) is closed to cars.

Riding in this event and being in and around town during the event bring up two points that support your article:

Firstly - a road open only to bikes is a thing of beauty. The bikes can go a lot faster because they have the space and safety they need. One full traffic lane is several lanes of bike traffic, and the ability of bikes to maneuver in and around each other in this space has a breathtaking complexity and self organizing beauty. A big mass of bikes makes an unearthly whirring noise that's profoundly relaxing.

Secondly - road capacity is is geared toward traffic peaks; also known as rush hour. Driving in Portland during the bridge pedal (on a weekend morning) it's surprising to note very little increase in congestion even with 2/3 of the critical traffic arteries closed to auto traffic.

As I spell this out, I'm thinking: why not, as a first step, convert 50% of our roadways to bike only routes EXCEPT during rush hour. It would be like taking the current "carpool lane" approach used on freeways to the n-th degree and (I speculate) encourage a profound cultural shift.

Howard Nauss


Apart from the "lofty" thoughts, and wishful thinking apparently from bicycle
enthusiasts...it seems to me (my opinion) that transportation has many aspects.
Walking - Horses - Bicycles - Cars/Trains/Trucks etc. While each has given way
for varying benefits...horses could travel further and comfortable. Bicycles were cheaper than horses(not beneficial for hills & trips). Cars allowed one
to travel even farther-faster-in comfort compared to horses OR bicycles. The "paved" roads have replaced those trails that farmers & travellers used to
get to towns and other destinations, and were "designed" for cars. Trucks are
roadway users that provide; food-building materials-machinery-equipment to allow many people to live where they want. Trains and boats are obsolete.
Until vehicles can fly...the roads still belong to them. -AHNauss



Yeah, and it hasn't been worth it at all. Every day I have to look at these things all over the place like mold. I have to walk around them, cycle around them, dodge out of their way, I have to smell them, I have to hear them, and worst of all, I have to know that having them around me is making me sick, and causing sickness further on down the road. And I have to remember that the drivers know that as well, and they have decided that their convenience and competitiveness are more important than my health or even theirs. I used to love cars but now that I've seen what they do to civilization, I just want them gone. Hey, there was a time when oil tycoons dreamt of a world covered in cars, which was so far-fetched given that Americans typically don't like products that smell bad, sound bad, and offer a quick way to commit suicide (carbon monoxide poisoning) although I guess the other exception is the gun.



If you want to get cars off the road com up with something better. Don't just declare bicycles better and preach the joys of arriving at work exhausted.

In the last forty year l have seen the number of cars on the road over double and the pollution decrease to the point that the EPA is throwing fits about wind born dust.

Champion a bicycle & pedestrian level above the automobile traffic lanes. This also provides the perfect base for providing electrical service to trolleyvehicles.

Frank Krygowski


I must disagree with one of your key points: "... riding a bike is dangerous at the very least and plain suicide at worst, in spite of the pneumatic tyres and chain drive. The reason for this is simple: cars rule the roads."

The "Danger! Danger!" myth is one of the main factors dissuading ordinary people from using bikes for ordinary transportation. But it _is_ a myth. Example: In the U.S. (which is probably the most car-centric country in the world) over 10 million miles are ridden on bikes per bicycle fatality. Some other countries are even safer, but still, one would need to ride for thousands of YEARS to reach a 50/50 chance of dying from a bike crash.

Furthermore, we must acknowledge that there is risk in everything. Even walking can be considered dangerous, because far more pedestrians die per year than bicyclists. (Actually, bicycling is safer than walking per km traveled!) So if everything has some danger, what activities should be labeled "dangerous"?

One simple metric is this: Do the health benefits of an activity (such as bicycling) outweigh its risks? It turns out that for cycling, the benefits FAR outweigh the risks. This has been the result in every study that has examined the issue. Benefit-to-risk ratios calculated for bicycling ranged from 7-to-1 up to an astonishing 77-to-1.

By that measure, one can see that bicycling is actually safer than NOT bicycling! So it makes no sense to pretend that bicycling is dangerous. It's much better to spread the word that it is, comparatively, safe and beneficial right now, on the roads we have. And if cyclists could be educated to obey the normal rules of the road, it would be even safer. (Studies consistently find that half of cyclist fatalities are due to the behavior of the cyclist himself.)

Beyond that, we might make cycling more pleasant by changing the rules of the road. Motorist should have speed greatly restricted anywhere cyclists and pedestrians are road users. Cyclists should have specific permission to ride lane-centered, not "as far right as practicable," which is too often interpreted as "in the gutter." Passing clearances should be generous and should be legally enforced. Aggressive driving and distracted driving should be effectively prohibited. And anyone hurting another person by use of an automobile should never drive again.

For some data on the relative safety of cycling, with sources:


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