Why Bikes Are a Sustainable Wonder

From Sightline.org:

The gist: Two-wheeling ranks as the most energy-efficient form of travel–and makes you healthier to boot. Let’s give it more respect.

The details: Northwesterners might not believe it, but our love affair with bicycles puts us squarely in the transportation mainstream. The bicycle is the world’s most widely used transport vehicle.

Worldwide, bicycles outnumber automobiles almost two to one, and their production outpaces cars three to one. Rush-hour traffic in China is dominated by human-powered vehicles (though that’s beginning to change). Even in the wealthy cities of Europe and Japan, large shares of the populace get around by bike.

Despite its popularity elsewhere, the bicycle gets little use or respect, except as a plaything, in North America. Of all trips in the United States, less than 1 percent are made by bicycle. Some government agencies have embraced bikes, but they remain the exception.

The bicycle–the most energy-efficient form of travel ever devised–deserves better. Pound for pound, a person on a bicycle expends less energy than any creature or machine covering the same distance. (A human walking spends about three times as much energy per pound; even a salmon swimming spends about twice as much.)

An amazing invention, the automobile has given twentieth-century humans unprecedented mobility. Yet cars have proliferated to the detriment of all other means of getting around and at great expense to human and natural communities.

But today, cars so dominate transportation systems and communities in North America that their own usefulness is on the wane: they are crowding themselves to a standstill.

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