Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Three useless factoids about bicycling.

This kinda reads like a car-hate post. It's not. I like cars. Wife and I have two of them, in fact.

I would rather ride a bike. This is a glimpse into what I think about while riding.

Did you know:

The automobile didn't pave the roads, the bicycle did.

There weren't many cars around in 1880. That's the year the Good Roads Movement got it's start.

Folks had bicycles. They wanted to ride them. They weren't content with riding on the sidewalks in front of shops or on horseshit covered cobblestone streets or even muddy backwaters that stunk to high hell every time it rained. 

Kinda like this, but all over the place.

Something had to be done, and the League of American Wheelmen worked to make it happen.

Still don't believe me? How about the father of the modern American road, Horatio Earle. He's the first Transportation Director for the State of Michigan. In his 1929 Autobiography, he states:

"I often hear now-a-days, the automobile instigated good roads; that the automobile is the parent of good roads. Well, the truth is, the bicycle is the father of the good roads movement in this country."

Think about that the next time you want to yell at a cyclist for adding 13 precious seconds to your commute by riding in the street.

Bicycles beat the pants off a Hybrid when it comes to efficiency.

A 175lb cyclist burns about 500 calories when travelling 15 miles in one hour.

Considering that a gallon of gasoline contains roughly 31,000 calories, it's safe to say that a bicycle gets about 900 miles to the gallon.
Switching from a Toyota Highlander to a Toyota Prius would cut your fuel consumption in half. For comparison, leaving the Prius in the driveway and taking a bicycle would slash your overall calorie consumption by 92%. 
Considering that almost all cars sold in America are most efficient at 65mph, it stands to reason you save even more fuel by cycling to the neighborhood park instead of driving half a mile at an average of 15mph. (To be fair, the Prius is most efficient at 5mph and below, when it drains the battery pack instead of burning gasoline.)
Cyclists have always been hated by non-cyclists.

A google search of the NYT's archives from the 1890s reveals endless articls about the SCORCHER: A Cyclist who rides fast and rides hard. The name Scorcher itself conjures up a vision of a dragon-man who burns everything in sight, caring not for the world around him.

When I first heard "Scorcher", I thought of Trogdor.

All kidding aside, pedaling recklessly through populated areas did, and still will result in death. The NYT was all too eager to point this out. Repeatedly. Some of them even dropped dead. Whatever sold the papers, I guess.
The articles about the Scorcher read like articles about teenagers and dangerous roads and fast cars. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

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