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Default.png    See also the Cycling category.
for subtopics, how-tos, project pages, designs, organization pages and more.

An efficient mode of transport

Even areas with just footpaths bicycling is the most energy-efficient means of transport generally available. Bicycling at low to medium speeds (10-15 mph, 16-24 km/h), uses only the energy required to walk.

In both biological and mechanical terms, the bicycle is extraordinarily efficient. In terms of the amount of energy a person must expend to travel a given distance, investigators have calculated it to be the most efficient self-powered means of transportation.[1] From a mechanical viewpoint, up to 99% of the energy delivered by the rider into the pedals is transmitted to the wheels, although the use of gearing mechanisms may reduce this by 10-15%. [2] [3]

In terms of the ratio of cargo weight a bicycle can carry to total weight, it is also a most efficient means of cargo transportation.

An added bonus is that a bicycle can utilize gravity to go faster down hill and even partialy any counterpart hills.


Many people choose not to cycle due to safety concerns. However, Alan Durning on the Sightline Institute blog argues that cycling is safer than people think - even safer than driving, when all health factors are taken into account (see the argument and analysis at Safe Streets (Bicycle Neglect #9). (No doubt this would vary a lot depending on the location and traffic conditions - Jakarta for example could be expected to be extremely dangerous for cyclists as well as pedestrians - certainly motorcyclists experience a shocking rate of death and injury).

Compare the effects on public health as well. An Australian study concluded that more people die of respiratory conditions due to air pollution from cars, than die from traffic accidents.[verification needed]

Another Australian study compared the exposure to pollution of various modes of transport - walking, driving, transit, and cycling. (what were the exact results? Was this a proper study or just one sample of each, for the What's Good for You? TV program?[Suggested project])

Of course, safety is much greater when wearing a helmet, and this is highly recommended. However, a UK study found that requiring people to wear helmets had resulted in a drop in the number of cyclists, and it was estimated that more people died due to low fitness (heart problems etc) than would have died if they'd been allowed to cycle without helmets.[verification needed] This suggests a more lenient policy - encouraging helmets, but not carrying out actions (in particular fines) that will discourage people from cycling if they hate helmets. Perhaps more comfortable helmets could be designed, as an option for the helmet-averse - safer than going bareheaded, but more likely to be worn.[Suggested project] Another idea might be to allow non-use of helmets on bike paths, but require them when cycling on the roads - though legal penalties should still be weighed carefully, lest cycling be discouraged.

Regardless of the actual safety of cyclists on the road, it seems obvious that safer and more pleasant cycling conditions would lead to more people cycling.

Economic impacts of cycling

Cycling offers various economic benefits:

  • cycleways are cheaper than roads
  • leads to better health, meaning lower medical costs[4] and higher productivity
  • leads to better physical health (obviously - if there is believed to be a safety problem which depends on the particular location, this has to be weighed up as well, as one factor).
  • would be expected to lead to better mental health (less stressful, more enjoyable, plus the
cycling is often quicker than driving, when traffic is heavy, leading to more

Alan Durning on the Sightline Institute blog offers his analysis: Wheels of Fortune (Bicycle Neglect #10)

Social impact of cycling

Social capitalW and happiness in the community are important factors in setting policy. Cycling offers several advantages:

  • Faces are visible and conversation is possible making it possible to connect with and possibly befriend other cyclists and even pedestrians, especially when meeting them on regular commuting or recreational routes.
  • Exercise improves one's mental state.[verification needed]

Bicycles with lever arms

Maurice Houbracken's bicycle

Bicycles can be equipped with lever arms, in order to reduce the effort required for the bicycling. The first bicycle with a lever arm was built by Maurice Houbracken. The effort required "reportedly" reduced the effort required by 50%. After a conversation with the builder though, it is clear that the system was built immediately without much prior designing. This would mean that much improvement is still prossible (ie the lightgreen lever arm could possibly be attached elsewhere, on a more favorable position, and the angle might also be changed). Also, by increasing the lever arm, the fabricator stated that a 100% effort reduction is definitely possible, and perhaps that a redesign is thus useful for other purposes (ie vehicles where the driver takes another position; ie such as with the AT e-velomobile). Also, a similar lever arm could also be used for purposes other than transportation (ie winching, ...).

Electric bicycles

Electric bicycle drivetrain

Bicycles can also be fitted with an electric motor and a battery. If recharged with renewable energy, this is another sustainable option. Less effort means less sweat, but also less of the benefits of exercise. A great option when covering long distances or avoiding sweating (e.g. on the way to work in hot weather).

Bamboo bicycles

Several (traditional-styled) bikes have been produced mainly from bamboo. Price ranges of these vary greatly[5][6][7][8].

Speculation follows: The likely difficulties include:

  • Getting consistent size and shape of bamboo.
  • Consistent mechanical problems (only if mechanical parts are made of bamboo or wood as well).
  • Avoiding splitting by use of special fittings and glue (mentioned in the article) - yet it must still be strong enough to safely carry a rider.
  • Does the bamboo potentially create large splinters in the event of a serious accident? If so, these splinters could cause serious injuries

Benefits of cycling

See Benefits of cycling.

Using cycle power for other purposes

See also Pedal power, Category:Pedal power and Human power.

Charging a mobile device

The bicycle's dynamo can be used to charge a mobile device. See the universal bike charger system

Footnotes and references

  1. "Bicycle Technology", S.S. Wilson, Scientific American, March 1973
  2. "Johns Hopkins Gazette", 30 August, 1999
  3. "Bicycling Scie 1000 nce", Frank R. Whitt, David G. Wilson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1982, ISBN 0-262-23111-5
  4. Whether this is directly a community cost or purely borne by the individual depends on which country is being examined, whether there is a state-funded system.
  5. Bamboo Bike design 1
  6. Sustainable bamboo bikes
  7. [ Calfee bamboo bikes]
  8. Bamboo bike project

See also

External links