If bikes are bad for the environment, what happens if we put a two stroke motor on them?
July 23, 2006 8:06 PM   Subscribe

But the Wharton guy's thesis is that it is the increased longevity of cyclists that ultimately impacts the environment. Since assisted-power cycles require less human power, and thus provide fewer longevity benefits, they should decelerate any trend identified in your first link.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:17 PM on July 23, 2006

That first thesis is kind of nuts. I mean, just because he acknowledges that it sounds nuts doesn't mean it isn't nuts.

And speaking of nuts, the heat and friction applied to them by bicycling wears them down and cooks them so you can't procreate, thus reducing the energy impact that might have resulted from your offspring.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:20 PM on July 23, 2006

he's got you there, bigmusic.
posted by keswick at 8:20 PM on July 23, 2006

People are bad for the environment. The environment would be much better off without us. That we continue to live is an affront to the environment.
posted by scheptech at 8:36 PM on July 23, 2006


From link 1: Those who adopt the bicycle as a means of transportation could potentially develop an increased awareness of the environmental impact of their actions and may over their lifetimes reduce energy consumption substantially in their other, non-transportation activities.

This is a refrain that I hear frequently from cycling/camping/fishing/hunting enthusiasts. They wax poetically about this as they are stowing their gear in the back of their SUV before driving back to the suburbs. Generally, I find that people in my area that cycle are either too poor to own a car, have recently immigrated and have no means to obtain a license, or are well off and living a consumption-cenric lifestyle in which they can afford to cycle to work on a hot titanium bike.
posted by peeedro at 8:36 PM on July 23, 2006

Word, scheptech.
posted by peeedro at 8:36 PM on July 23, 2006

then than to too affects effects fx
posted by tomplus2 at 8:36 PM on July 23, 2006

interesting marketing:

Close to 2 million drivers lose their licenses each year because of DUIs or other traffice violations. For the period of their license suspension, each of these people represents a potential RevoPower customer.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 8:37 PM on July 23, 2006

That's the worst use of equivalence in an argument I've seen yet.

Equating long duration use of energy, without regard to efficiency, current availability, or any other needed variable, directly to excessive short term usage, which is the problem.
posted by HTuttle at 8:39 PM on July 23, 2006

Close to 2 million drivers lose their licenses each year because of DUIs

I've seen bike messengers too drunk to walk, but they could still ride like the dickens.
posted by peeedro at 8:40 PM on July 23, 2006

It's a weird argument, to say the least. He seems to be saying two things: it's healthier to bike instead of drive, and that's good. However, the increased longevity garnered from the exercise benefits of biking tends to lead to a greater use of energy over a person's life span simply because they are living longer to use more.

It is mind boggling this foray into second-order effects. What about the energy/resource cost of building new roads and maintaining old ones? Don't tell me all of the new highways I see being made are stuff to sneeze at.

Reading a little more of the details, he seems to be saying that bicycles actually are no more worse for the environment than cars (check the top of page 8). Well, 'cept that you also get that whole human longevity thing. Oh, don't get me started on second-order effects, don't even!
posted by Mister Cheese at 8:45 PM on July 23, 2006

wankonomics at its finest.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:45 PM on July 23, 2006

Reagan would be impressed.
posted by Pseudonumb at 8:56 PM on July 23, 2006

I've seen bike messengers too drunk to walk, but they could still ride like the dickens.

I've seen drivers too drunk to walk, but they could still drive like the dickens.

Are the potential dangers of drunk driving lessened by switching to an ultralight vehicle (e.g. a bicycle)?
posted by crysflame at 8:57 PM on July 23, 2006

um.... I would just like to say that the motor-inside-a-wheel thingy is kickass-bitchin and I'd like to buy one post-haste.

thankyou for your time.
posted by Parannoyed at 8:58 PM on July 23, 2006

That Wharton hypothesis is such a steaming pile of voodoo economics it makes my unwashed cycling shorts and gloves smell like fresh cut longstem roses.

Even disregarding energy expenditures or longevity, the simple fact that I don't drip oil everywhere and that a set of tires lasts me several years is much better for the local area and wide area environment than any motorized vehicle of any size or wheel count - and this isn't even counting the fossil fuel pollution and carbon issues.

Hell, I've put 30-50k miles on my current bike. It's just some low to middle price aluminum Giant mountainbike. I've gone through what, three chains? Second set of tires? 1 new rear wheel and geartrain set? Maybe 5 ounces of lubrication oil? (Yeah, I'm bad to my bike. Sue me!)

Oddly, I eat less when I bike more, 'cause I'm less bored and sedentary.
posted by loquacious at 9:01 PM on July 23, 2006

Poor thesis. The guy should really write a paper about the dangers of population growth/need for population control, but that's sort of been done. So what does he do? Write a paper about bicycles that tells us they are bad because they increase population. Not a whole lot of thought put into that one, kind of feel sorry for U. of Penn. Why not write a paper about how running or walking is bad?
posted by j-urb at 9:02 PM on July 23, 2006

Are the potential dangers of drunk driving lessened by switching to an ultralight vehicle (e.g. a bicycle)?

I have to say that they are, based on my collegiate observations of drunk-cycling. Seldom does getting drunk and riding your bike into a tree or off the road entirely result in anything more serious than humiliation and maybe a few bruises. Losing contorl of your bike on a busy bike lane is similarly un-life threatening.
posted by fshgrl at 9:04 PM on July 23, 2006

Are the potential dangers of drunk driving lessened by switching to an ultralight vehicle (e.g. a bicycle)?

From a strict calculation of momentum (mass x velocity), there is indeed much less force imparted from (any) collision.

However, the collision impulse can be delivered to a much smaller area of the body of the rider — usually the cranial area, given the position of the rider at the time of collision and how the rider is thrown from the bicycle.

The cranium can withstand some force before collapse, but brain hemorrhage can result from simply causing the brain to smack against the cranium.

The health risk from collision of a bicycle with car, wall, person, etc. is not really lessened whether or not the rider is drunk. The health risk results from lessened physical coordination, and the reduced ability to avoid said collisions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:08 PM on July 23, 2006

Why build a two-stroke engine into a wheel? An electric motor would integrate with a fraction of the complexity (as in very few moving parts), at least 2.5x the efficiency, and could use regenerative braking. And electric motors are torquey at low RPMs This thing is just silly. And two strokes are just nasty.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:12 PM on July 23, 2006

Regarding drunk cycling: chances of serious injury to self may or may not decrease, but I think we can agree the chance of serious injury to others is significantly reduced. Not removed, just reduced; It's still assinine.

As for his thesis, in addition to what HTuttle said, there may be an argument regarding the increase in food resources required to fuel human power, but that would seem to have more to do with what food is used as fuel than somehow establishing human power is on the wrong side of a comparison to fossil fuels.

Finally, regarding SUVs and titanium bikes: absolutely. Plenty of ass-hats who bike down the foothills twice a month like to pretend they're doing the world a favor by doting on another expensive machine.

The fact is, however, in lots of cities it's so dauntingly dangerous to bike in-town that the only place to skill up is outside of town. More places are adding legit bike lanes and the like, which helps, but it's still a car's domain and cyclists are only welcome when the roads are closed.
posted by abulafa at 9:20 PM on July 23, 2006

Oh, and regarding the revo-o-whatever: I guess when you have a combustion-engine shaped hammer, everything looks like a gasoline-demanding nail...
posted by abulafa at 9:24 PM on July 23, 2006

This thing would exclude you from all the bike paths in my area (no devices with motors are allowed), so it would force you to use the regular roads. I would imagine the impacts by bike vs. automobiles would more than counteract any impact on the longevity of the bike riders.
posted by crunchland at 9:25 PM on July 23, 2006

It uses a two stroke because it's the only way it could be that light, the energy density of batteries is bad enough you lose because the bike has to be so heavy.
posted by Calast at 9:27 PM on July 23, 2006

That paper is a hilarious!

At first glance an electric motor might have a fraction of the complexity, but not once you require regenerative braking. The complexity is electronic instead of mechanical..

Of course the real issue is energy density. What's wrong with torquey?
posted by Chuckles at 9:47 PM on July 23, 2006

Not removed, just reduced;

By an order of magnitude, or two..
posted by Chuckles at 9:48 PM on July 23, 2006

Applying the same hyphothesis as the article puts forward, cars should return to placing spikes in the middle of the steering column and generally massively downgrade their safety. This would result in earlier deaths and hence less environmental impact.
posted by sien at 9:51 PM on July 23, 2006

It uses a two stroke because it's the only way it could be that light,

I suspect that it is a two stroke because it is the only way for it to be so cheap. The weight savings is nice too, but..

Here is my reasoning:
.60 size two stroke glow engine
1.85 BHP

.90 size four stroke glow engine
1.6 BHP
First place I could think of that would provide comparative numbers, but it might not be the most appropriate comparison..
posted by Chuckles at 10:00 PM on July 23, 2006

Awesome! I love the fact that someone makes a completely contrary statement and actually argues it in a semi-logical and straight-faced way. Aerobics triggers Armageddeon! Jogger unleashes the Apocalypse! Whatever. People are bad for the planet. I give you: Soylent Green! (It's made of people!)

The real reason a lot of people bike is not for excercise. It's because if you live in a city, it's faster and cheaper to get around on a bike than in a car, provided you don't have to go too far. Which is why the suburbs and LA suck.
posted by tighttrousers at 10:05 PM on July 23, 2006

What's wrong with torquey?
Nothing at all. Torque at low RPMs is a very good thing in this application, which is why I mentioned it. Anyway, I'd agree that energy density is important, it's not all-important; if electric makes more sense for four out of five reasons, you might be able to live with the fifth. And with regenerative braking, you should be able to get by with something about the weight of a motorcycle battery, which is no heavier than the average (effective) bicycle lock.

In any event, how many bicyclists actually want to put gas and oil into their bicycles?
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:06 PM on July 23, 2006

Oh, and in addition to regenerative braking, there's also primary generation by pedaling. Depending on your usage patterns you might not have to plug it in very often.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:12 PM on July 23, 2006

Electrical generation for storage is not very practical if efficiency is a concern. The coulometric efficiency of batteries is just too low - you only store about half of the energy you put into a battery while charging, the other half of the energy is lost as heat. I don't know for certain, but I suspect it is better to keep that energy in your leg muscles..

Also, I suspect that regenerative breaking has a lot of problems in practice. Using the motor to break while going down hill is ideal, but that is only a fraction of the breaking used on a trip. For example, what is the maximum breaking force of the regenerative scheme? No higher than the maximum acceleration force, one assumes, and that isn't enough to fully replace friction breaks. During the typical application of breaking, how much of the energy will go into the regenerative scheme vs. the friction breaks?
posted by Chuckles at 10:31 PM on July 23, 2006

I like my bicycle because I get a good workout while riding it. And its fun to ride that way. If I need to get somewhere for real, I ride my motorcycle. Its far more comfortable and capable.

But I do support the further Bike-ification of the universe though. Just like I support the de-Monstro-SUV-ification of the universe.

To that end, I support efforts like the Revopower even if I think its kind of silly to add motors to bicycles.
posted by fenriq at 10:32 PM on July 23, 2006

That paper is a hilarious!

Yes, yes it is, I'm printing it out tomorrow. A+ material. I eagerly await a follow up essay on the long term positive environmental impact of nuclear warfare.
posted by bobo123 at 10:32 PM on July 23, 2006

I'd just like to say that I'm impressed with any of you who made it past the abstract of that thesis. My tolerance for the ridiculous was nearly immediately exceeded. From the sounds of it, it didn't get any better.
posted by Brak at 10:33 PM on July 23, 2006

For reference, it takes approximately 100W to ride a normal bike on level ground at 14 MPH, while Lance Armstrong can put out 500W for up to 20 minutes. But Lance weighs 5 times as much as Stokemonkey.
posted by Chuckles at 10:38 PM on July 23, 2006

Without bikes, people will just drive to the gym. Just as bad.
posted by delmoi at 10:46 PM on July 23, 2006

The real reason a lot of people bike is not for excercise. It's because if you live in a city, it's faster and cheaper to get around on a bike than in a car, provided you don't have to go too far. Which is why the suburbs and LA suck.

Yup. I used to cycle to work. Time: 20 minutes. Cost: essentially zero.

When I drove: Time: 30-45 minutes, depending on where I parked. Cost: Gas, plus $4 to $12 a day, depending on where I parked.

If I rode the bus: Time: 30-40 minutes. Cost: $3.00 bucks a day.

The reason driving and bussing took longer was because of the traffic in the center of the city, and the distances I had to cover on foot to get to the bus or my parking place.

I appreciated the exercise and the ride, but the primary reason I rode had nothing to do with that, or the environment. It was just the cheapest, least stressful and fastest way to get to work/school.

Oh, and genius thesis writer: if we're considering secondary effects, you're going to have to start tallying up the cost of health care for sedentary, drive-everywhere folks. And the costs of roads, and cops, and lost productivity due to traffic accidents and early deaths and... Oh, just shut the fuck up, you idiot. Your boss needs to give you a stern talking to. All of these things have a major impact on your thesis.
posted by teece at 10:48 PM on July 23, 2006

This is why business schools should be razed to the ground.

This is not Springfield Community College, it is the Wharton School at Penn for god's sake. This is what the "best and brightest" in Operations Management come up with. He isn't some kid, he's a big-shot professor and knows about bikes:

From 1999-2002, while on leave from Wharton, Ulrich founded and managed Nova Cruz Products (now Xootr LLC), a manufacturer of high-performance personal transportation products including the Xootr scooter and Swift bicycle.

Unbelievable. This has to be satire.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:03 PM on July 23, 2006

Ynoxas, maybe he figured no one would read past the first paragraph? And damn, those are some expensive scooters he makes!

teece, I thought about secondary factors too and the third tier and beyond. All I can add is that he needs more charts and graphs. Shit like this is alot more fun when its got charts and graphs.
posted by fenriq at 11:27 PM on July 23, 2006

First two wheels, then four. The addiction is not in oil, but rather a lifestyle.
posted by NewBornHippy at 11:37 PM on July 23, 2006

This has to be satire.

Maybe this is a wildly indirect way of getting revenge against his old scooter company. I won't waste much in the way of energy costs in trying to figure it out, though.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:37 PM on July 23, 2006


After the law allowing 1hp motors on a bike was passed, I built my own. (I wonder what Bush's signing statement was on that law)

35 on a bike gets spooky on the open road.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:40 PM on July 23, 2006

posted by strawberryviagra at 12:03 AM on July 24, 2006

Are the potential dangers of drunk driving lessened by switching to an ultralight vehicle (e.g. a bicycle)?

Besides what others have said about lesser mass and velocities, there's also the whole issue that you can only get so drunk and still ride a bike. You need balance. Kinda.

Ok, I'm talking out of my ass. None of that ever stopped me from being sent on ultra last minute, last call beer runs for the insatiable drunks in various arts villages I've lived in. But it's a whole lot of challenging drunkard fun to try to rush to the mini mart 2.5 minutes before it closes and ride back with two suitcases of cheapass beer under one arm.

And falling over hurts a lot less.
posted by loquacious at 12:08 AM on July 24, 2006

Even if we accept the individual claims linked in the FPP, put together they are contradictory.

First link claims that bikes force you to excercise, and excercise makes you live longer, and the longer we live, the worse our impact on the environment.

But then the second link is for a powered bike that you don't pedal. Which relieves us from excercise. So how would this bike be bad for the environment, since it wouldn't make us live longer?
posted by randomstriker at 12:54 AM on July 24, 2006

Are the potential dangers of drunk driving lessened by switching to an ultralight vehicle (e.g. a bicycle)?
posted by crysflame at 8:57 PM PST on July 23 [+fave] [!]

Bicycles can still be extremely dangerous to other people (other bicycles and pedestrians). They are still a big metal object hurtling toward you at considerable speeds, albeit lower speeds and with less mass than a car. So, no, you probably shouldn't ride after drinking, especially if you live in a really cycle and pedestrian filled place like I do.

The article is very silly. Does he even have stats?
posted by jb at 1:04 AM on July 24, 2006

Bicycles can still be extremely dangerous to other people (other bicycles and pedestrians). They are still a big metal object hurtling toward you at considerable speeds, albeit lower speeds and with less mass than a car. So, no, you probably shouldn't ride after drinking, especially if you live in a really cycle and pedestrian filled place like I do.


Also it should be noted that in many US jurisdictions you can get a "real", driving record negative, fines and jailtime capable DUI for operating a bicycle while intoxicated. It's rare but it has happened.

I'm not going to spend much energy defending my DUI bike riding, but it should be noted that it has been exceedingly rare and always at night and always in extremely light traffic, pedestrian and otherwise.
posted by loquacious at 2:05 AM on July 24, 2006

I put my money down for one of these a couple of months ago. A freeway (with associated bike track) is being built from just near my house to right behind my work. This means I can cycle to work. I walk when I can, but it takes an extra 2.5 hours out of my day.

The biggest problem is it's an average uphill climb all the way home, and I'm on my feet all day, leading to reluctance to want to cycle home.

The idea is that if I'm really tired at the end of the day, I can get an assist on my way home if I need it. It will burn a lot less fuel than the 6 cylinder car I normally drive to work.

It also has me champing at the bit to do some really long bike rides. If I overextend my range and am too tired to ride all the way back, I can fire it up and cruise for a while.
posted by tomble at 3:20 AM on July 24, 2006

*Rides to Wharton School on fixedgear bike, smacks author with frame pump, rides home*
posted by fixedgear at 3:24 AM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

*Rides to Wharton School on fixedgear bike, smacks author with frame pump, rides home*

I seriously hope that you're using one of those beefy aluminum Zefel full-frame monstrousities and not some newfangled ultracompact dual-stroke plastic wibbly things. Otherwise, please feel free to borrow my 10 pound Kryptonite Classic with extended shackle and hooked-foot latch.
posted by loquacious at 3:34 AM on July 24, 2006

Since the Revopower is a two-stroke with a simple exhaust, its emissions are likely to be horrible.
posted by scruss at 4:23 AM on July 24, 2006

Freakonomics for freakonomics, the paper can be easily argued

energy expenditure of about 4200 kJ/wk (1000 kcal/wk) is associated with a 20-35 percent reduction in risk of all-cause mortality.

Associated, but energy expenditure does not cause reduction of risk ; it is an effect of physical activity, but I could cause increase in energy expenditure in other ways (for instace reducing room temperature or moving people to colder region) which would make the body consumer more energy to heat itself without the benefits of exercising.
the automotive energy consumption does not account for the energy required to manufacture the vehicle, which is typically about 10 percent of the energy consumed over the life of the vehicle.The average automobile in the U.S. achieves fuel economy of 11.6 km/kg (Davis and Diegel, 2004), which is equivalent to an energy consumption rate, at the vehicle’s fuel tank, of 3.8 MJ/km.
1) An average lifetime of a vehicle measure in kilometers is 150000 Km ; 150000km*3,8MJ= 570000MJ/km= 570GJ to which we should add the production cost estimated at 10% of 570GJ , which is 57 GJ. Therefore the total energy cost of a the vehicle+150000km of transport is 570+57GJ=627GJ (not mentioning maintenance energy cost etc)

Note: we don't have production energy cost estimate for bycicles, but we will assume that all the bycicles and pieces changed in producing 150000km has the same energy cost of a vehicle production
and so the total energy cost of cycling is approximately 443 kJ/km.
2) When using a bycicle, 0.443Mj/km*150000km=66450MJ = 6,6GJ + 57GJ = 64GJ

Note: it should be noted that when a vehicle is produce there is a sunk cost of 57GJ that is spent if the vehicle is used to ride anywhere between 0 and 100000 Km. The same can not be told for bycicles as the production energy cost of a single bycicle is probably far lower.

Note2: the average speed of a person of a bycicle is substantially lower then the average speed of a person in a car , therefore more time is spent on bycicle then in car to ride 1 km. The increased time on bike can not be spent in activities like watching an energy consuming TV/computer or increasing heating/air conditioning, which may add to the energy saving effects of riding a bycicle.

3) The energy consumption per km increases significantly when a vehicle is idling or moves below certain speed, as urban car commuters know ; a bycicle doesn't consume energy when idling. It would probably be safe to argue that for short trips 3/4 km a bycicle consumes a lot less energy then a car while not being much slower, factoring in traffic jams.
posted by elpapacito at 4:54 AM on July 24, 2006

I'm a committed cyclist and anti-car person, but I don't feel the need to pooh-pooh the research paper. I think he has a point. There's always a catch.

He is however failing to take into consideration the fact that there seems to be a strong negative corelation between longevity and reproduction, which results in a net slowdown in population growth.

About cycling when drinking: it's dangerous. Very dangerous. Cycling is already two orders of magnitude more dangerous per distance travelled than driving; I'd be willing to bet drinking increases the danger of cycling to oneself as much or more as it increases the danger of driving.

However it probably does not increase the danger to others nearly as much, so it is perhaps less socially irresponsible.

I haven't owned a car for 18 years (though I could easily afford a couple) and increased longevity through enforced exercise is a major part of that lifestyle choice. In order to offset the increased risk of fatality I am very conscious about where and how I ride. As an ex-messenger I do ride very aggressively, but also very paranoid. As any messenger will tell you, aggressive is often safer. Anyway, the great thing about living in Europe is that I am able to ride >95% off the street, on well-maintained bike paths.
posted by lastobelus at 5:12 AM on July 24, 2006

lastobelus: 95% ? You must be in Holland ?
posted by elpapacito at 5:56 AM on July 24, 2006

I think he has a point.

Only if "medical advances leading to increased longevity are detrimental to the environment" is also a point.

Smog is a deadly problem. Bikes can reduce it. Obesity is a deadly problem reduce. Bikes can reduce it.

If overpopulation is a problem, it's a separate problem that needs to be solved separately, not by killing excess people with smog and obesity.

But I don't like that noisy 2-stroke smoker. If they come out with a clean fuel cell version, let me know.
posted by pracowity at 6:36 AM on July 24, 2006

I don't feel the need to pooh-pooh the research paper. I think he has a point. There's always a catch.

If you don't feel the need to pooh-pooh that paper, you either didn't read it or didn't understand it. Don't trust something just because it's a "research paper". I honestly thought it was a joke at first. Bicycling is inherently more efficient than driving for moving one person around. Even if it weren't, the essential premise of his paper is absurd: this man is arguing that bicycles may cause increased energy use because of extended life. He's saying living longer is bad for the enviroment. That's fucking dumb. Especially when you consider people who get exercise are healthier and thus use less energy in the form of visits to the hospital in their extended later years. It's not as if the energy is being spent on nothing - it's being spent on sustaining a human who can do useful and productive things with it. And besides, this effect could be completely offset if I just shot myself when I turned 30 - think of all the "wasted" energy that would save. Can I start thinking of smoking as "doing my part to save the environment." And who knows if some of the other factors of bicycling could, in fact, reduce one's lifespan irrespective of increased health, something like...maybe...

Cycling is already two orders of magnitude more dangerous per distance travelled than driving
posted by nTeleKy at 7:12 AM on July 24, 2006

I've just had my morning coffee. I feel the need to pooh-pooh.

Also, a friend has one of those Xootr scooters. It's a fantastic piece of equipment.
posted by ninjew at 8:22 AM on July 24, 2006

I think it's nice that a sociopath can succinctly explain their rationale for exterminating humankind. We are a blight.
posted by Busithoth at 8:34 AM on July 24, 2006

And speaking of nuts, the heat and friction applied to them by bicycling...
posted by George_Spiggott

I always find friction and heat to my nuts a good thing.
posted by NationalKato at 8:41 AM on July 24, 2006


It's as clean as what, a lawn mower engine? Or do they just mean it meets all the EPA restrictions for a nonexistent category, that is none at all?

"1 hour using a gas powered 3.5 horsepower lawn mower produces the same amount of air polllution as a car driven 500 km."
posted by hank at 8:56 AM on July 24, 2006

Living in a city as i do .... i have to think that if word ever got out that these things existed a motorized bike tire would last about .5 seconds before stolen.
posted by Dr No at 9:19 AM on July 24, 2006

I think we can all agree people who drive their cars to the doctors are the real criminals. Burning fossil fuels while attempting to live longer is completely irresponsible, especially compared to drunk bikers which risk their own lives and the lives of complete strangers.
posted by Crash at 9:55 AM on July 24, 2006

hank, don't confuse an older two-stroke with a newer one. It's possible to make a clean two-stroke, as clean as most fours, but under the old emissions laws it was never cost effective to do so. It's not impossible for a two-stroke to meet the new, more-strict emissions regs if it's engineered and built right.
posted by bonehead at 10:42 AM on July 24, 2006

It gets 200 miles to the gallon. Who cares if the emissions are bad.
posted by stbalbach at 10:45 AM on July 24, 2006

I help students prepare for the GMAT. It makes perfect sense to me that a B-school student wrote this drek.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:52 AM on July 24, 2006

Drunk biking can be bad, but you're far less likely to hurt anyone but yourself. One fine morning when I lived in Japan, I was riding my bike home while pissed drunk. I made a right turn and plowed head on into the side of a bus that had stopped at a bus stop.
I was fine, and so was the bus. I just felt like a total dumbass.

And two stroke motors on a bike really aren't anything new, are they? I've seen them my whole life. Now I see more of those smaller electric motors that you charge up by peddling for a while. In fact, I saw some guy with one this morning. Seems like a decent idea.
posted by drstein at 10:58 AM on July 24, 2006

As someone who commutes by bicycle, I asked Dr. Ulrich whether he was writing a work of satire or not. I don't believe he would mind reprinting an excerpt of his response:

Great questions...and as usual, this stuff is really complex.

I am serious about the analysis in the paper, although it is deliberately provocative, obviously.

For more detailed responses to the typical objections people have raised about the paper, including some of your issues, see Adam Stein's outstanding blog on the key issues.


Karl Ulrich

p.s. For the record, I'm a strident environmentalist and bicycling advocate. I commute by bike 20 miles per day. Bicycling is a great policy objective...but principally for public health reasons.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:18 AM on July 24, 2006

Not had a chance to look at the new source, but big kuddos to him for responding to BP.

Matt/Jess... complimentary membership for the good professor? His email is on the bio page linked above.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:41 PM on July 24, 2006

Trees are the leading cause of pollution. You know, twigs, rotting leaves, yucky stuff.
posted by illovich at 2:08 PM on July 24, 2006

The TerraPass blog doesn't really do anything to address the actual problems with the paper.

Cycling miles aren't equivalent to driven miles, and bicycle commuters don't consume as much other energy as car commuters. Bicycle commuters are bound to live closer to their work, and by implication they are bound to live in more moderate urban homes.

Those are unmodelable (well, hard to model, at least) first order effects. There are some higher order effects which aren't considered as well. For example, health care costs are not energy costs, certainly, but.. Health care costs do predominantly go to rich doctors (and etc.) to help fund their presumably extravagant lifestyles. Less money spent on health care means fewer 5000 sq.ft houses with more cars than people.

In fact, the problems with Ulrich's paper are the elephant in the room for the environmental movement. Are hybrid cars and the like going to solve environmental problems, or does the consumer lifestyle have to change fundamentally? The later, obviously, but that scares the shit out of people (Hence questions like Help me understand the anti-progress crowd).

In my opinion, TerraPass, and Ulrich "who also happens to [be?] the founder of TerraPass", promote a fiction, that you can solve human environmental impact problems while maintaining the decadent consumer lifestyle. They may well believe it, even if they don't it is a useful fiction, but recognizing their perspective explains the cognitive dissonance many experienced when reading Ulrich's conclusions.
posted by Chuckles at 2:11 PM on July 24, 2006

Thanks for e-mailing Ulrich, Blazecock Pileon; his paper makes more sense in light of that exchange.

I finished reading the paper and found that he addressed most of my issues and additionally came to the conclusion that despite increased longevity bicycling still provides net energy savings (see Figure 1 on p.7), albeit within the margin of error. The ambiguous/inflammatory presentation of the information annoys me, but at least it's understandable.
posted by nTeleKy at 5:09 PM on July 24, 2006

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