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FT: biking is great

by Jerome a Paris Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 05:35:07 AM EST

(Well, not exactly the FT, but actually even better: this is written by one of their best, most liked and most respected columnists, Lucy Kellaway: Pleasures of a balanced commute

[T]oday I have come up with 10 excellent reasons why cycling to work would be a very good idea for you. It will make you richer, healthier, possibly thinner and definitely less bonkers. It will help you make new friends, it will make you feel virtuous, it will give you more spare time. You will be more productive at work and you’ll also save the planet. If you are in your mid forties, you will lose a quarter of a century instantly and feel just like an undergraduate again.

This is a very impressive list of benefits, you must agree. In fact I defy anyone to name any other change to the working day that could be so beneficial in so many ways as commuting by bike.


By far the biggest advantage for me is what my bike does to my spirits. Every day I am calmed and cheered by my ride. (...)

The other great beauty of cycling is its efficiency. My commute is five minutes quicker than the train and costs £80 ($145) less a month.

(...)

Now for the two main shortfalls. The first is sweat, which a lot of people tell me is what prevents them from getting on their bikes. Speaking personally, I don’t find this much of a problem. I cycle in high heels, lipstick and normal office clothes and go straight from the bike sheds to my desk neither unduly soggy nor dishevelled.

(...)

There is finally the question about getting killed. Cyclists are bundles of soft tissue who don’t have much chance when up against one of those massive bendy buses. Cycling is dangerous, and you are very silly if you cycle without a helmet and all the safety gear.

Yet despite the risk, I hardly ever feel frightened on my bike. I feel alert and alive, but not scared.

Oh, and the FT also has a more wonkish opinion piece on carbon trading with the same conclusion:

Car industry needs carbon trading

Governments in much of the developed world have begun pushing the car and oil industries to invest in technologies – hybrid cars and biofuels in particular – that are not yet properly developed.

Hybrids have become synonymous with green awareness while, in the imaginations of both public and policymakers, biofuels, made from plants, must be a good thing. But neither makes environmental sense and the government-sponsored rush to adopt them pushes up the cost of both cars and petrol.

It is not that hybrid petrol-electric cars or biofuels are bad for global warming, although some biofuel, made in coal-burning facilities, produces more CO2 than petrol. The problem is that both are expensive – and far more so than other ways of reducing CO2.

(...)

Hybrid cars – transport of choice for environmentally-minded government ministers – will cost €1,062 per tonne of CO2 saved, as well as being loss-making for almost all manufacturers. As I sat on my bike watching the haze over a queue of traffic, this did not immediately bother me and few in Brussels, Washington or Westminster are overly concerned about the profitability of car and oil companies. But if the money is spent on making engines produce a little less CO2, it is not being spent on other ways of reducing CO2 that are more effective and cheaper.

(...)

Europe’s carbon trading scheme valued cuts of a tonne of CO2 at a peak of €31, because there are still so many cheap ways to save energy in less efficient industries.

This is not to say that carmakers should be free to ignore carbon emissions – their vehicles produce a quarter of man-made CO2 emissions, after all. But they should be free to choose how to reduce carbon, not be locked into certain technologies by governments. (One of the technologies being pushed by Washington and Toyota – a “plug-in” hybrid with an external recharger – actually results in more carbon emissions than a plain petrol car because so much US electricity comes from coal.)

(...)

Automotive carbon trading might not provide politicians with the image boost they get from driving a Toyota Prius hybrid or filling up a car with ethanol from Iowa’s cornfields, but it would be far more effective at fighting global warming. Or you could just get on your bike.

We have to keep on hammering this:

  • Producing more fuel is increasingly difficult
  • Thinking about reducing consumption is good
  • Using subsidies to encourage specific technologies is of dubious value
  • Reflecting the real cost in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions of various uses of energy is vital
  • Carbon trading is an effective way to get results
  • But it still won't beat using your bike...

  • Display:
    I'd love to ride to work, it's only 19 miles each way, which isn't actually that far when you're reasonably fit.

    However, it's straight across the centre of London and there are several points at which the danger of collision is particularly acute. To the point at which common sense dictates that my health is better protected by not riding.

    I'll re-consider when the oil runs out and the boy-racers are forced off the road. Till then, it's the tube for me.

    keep to the Fen Causeway

    by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 05:42:37 AM EST
    My ride is much shorter (40+ minutes according to Transport for London) and I can actually ride most of the way along Regent's Canal (and before that through Hackney Marsh and Victoria Park), so I really have no excuse. My mail-order bike should be ready some time this week.

    Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 06:18:00 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Hey good for you. Then you can cycle to Stratford with the family and take rides out in Essex. No good for the tube tho', they don't really like bikes.

    I envy your route. Stratford Broadway, Mile End Road, Aldgate one way system, Hyde Park Corner and Shepherd's Bush roundabout stack the odds too high.

    keep to the Fen Causeway

    by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 06:24:14 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I can take the bike on the tube from Leyton outwards on the central line, and on the entire Circle and District lines. {PDF map)

    Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 06:29:50 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I envy your route. Stratford Broadway, Mile End Road, Aldgate one way system, Hyde Park Corner and Shepherd's Bush roundabout stack the odds too high.

    I queried the Transport for London journey planner for your commute and it says you can do it in 1h57m (if you can do that 10 times a week you're ready for professional cycling ;-) and it suggests crossing Central London along "my route". You should check it out, it gives you a nice PDF map of your route.

    Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 07:34:14 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Well, I don't know what route yours is, but the route I take is 19 miles and uses roads all the way and the only time I rode it during the last petrol strike it took me 1 hr 20 minutes. I felt that with improved fitness from repeating I could probably take 10 mins off that.

    I think your route is probably one of those all-round-the-houses tourist specials that Britain specialises in cos we don't want to encourage cycle use.

    Any other route is simply impractical, there are no E-W green corridors to follow. I have to cross the R Lee over Stratford Broadway - absolutely no choice, which pushes me onto Mile End Road, into Aldgate one way.

    All traffic at the West end of london roughly in the direction I'm going goes through Marble Arch or Hyde park corner. There is simply no avoiding both.


    keep to the Fen Causeway

    by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 07:46:46 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    The route involves going from the River Lee to Victoria Park and then going all the way on Regent's Canal. But as you say it costs you an extra 40 minutes.

    Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 07:57:12 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    That would require either crossing redbridge roundabout into Wanstead or going through walthamstow and the roundabout at the bottom of the M11. Neither is a survival positve strategy.

    That'd also put me onto the euston road at some point. Do I look suicidal ?

    keep to the Fen Causeway

    by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 08:10:33 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Get the PDF from TfL.

    Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 08:14:35 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    If it's only tube riders that switch to bikes, the overall impact will be minimal, sadly. What we need is to get people out of their cars. How do we persuade them?

    In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
    by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 06:46:17 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    The congestion charge is a great idea. And I just read last week that it has led to a 25% reduction in traffic in Central London.

    The 7/7 attacks and the congestion charge together have quadrupled the number of bikers in central London.

    Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 06:48:03 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    And when it comes to biking, there is safety in numbers. The more you are, the more the rythm of traffic adopts to bikes and every biker is safer. Which is a reason why I am against mandatory bike helmets (proposed now and then here in Sweden). Though helmets are sensible, the key factor is reducing accidents, and that is done by increasing the number of bikers. Thus it should be as easy as possible to bike.

    In my student town, bikers dominate and every one else adapts.

    Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

    by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 07:38:13 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I've only ever driven a car to work once, when I was heading off west afterwards. The 19 miles took me nearly 3 hours !!

    Not something I'd consider except in the most extreme circumstance.

    keep to the Fen Causeway

    by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 06:59:39 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I went to Brighton with my mother yesterday and we took 2 hours each way using train and tube. Last time we had visitors who insisted on renting a car, we took 4 hours each way.

    Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 07:03:27 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    and yet lots of people see mto have no other choice.

    In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
    by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 07:18:20 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    That's so not true in London.

    Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 07:23:09 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    One difficulty with evaluating hybrid cars is that they represent a technology that allows reduced generation of pollutants AT A GIVEN PERFORMANCE LEVEL. Today's hybrids have to be able to operate successfully in a highway environment where speeds in excess of 80 MPH are routine, which means that they have large propulsion systems.

    If the west would reduce her top speed limit to 35 or 40 mph, as was done in the U.S. during the second world war, all vehicles could have much smaller engines. It only takes about a dozen horsepower to move a car at 40 mph, which can be obtained easily with a 200 cc engine.

    In many situations this would not have a significant impact on trip time.

    by asdf on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 08:59:35 AM EST
    Now that's actually a proposal that makes a lot of sense and would be quite easy to implement (even if it appears totally unfeasible today politically speaking...).

    I find myself really annoyed to see ads today for Lexus' huge hybrids, with 3.5 liter or bigger engines. They're not saving any fuel. Just packing more power or more kilos onto existing cars, thus working agaisnt solving the problem.

    In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

    by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:20:40 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    How about 6.1 liters?


    by asdf on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 10:51:39 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    And how about 8.0 litre?

    Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 10:59:52 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Fuck. That 6.1 liter Lexus is obscene.

    I can feel disgustingly smug about this because my daily commute takes me from the bedroom to the spare bedroom via the kitchen and landing.

    I've lost jobs through refusing to commute. Aside from the CO2, wasting two to four hours a day isn't an acceptable way to spend my time.

    by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 11:57:44 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    That's a Chrysler 300, you ignorant fool!

    In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
    by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 04:50:54 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Was reading a new book on Victorian London just 2 months ago.

    They used to walk everywhere.

    Dickens was a Marathon man.

    Getting off 2 tube stops short of destination, and walking might be fun and less dangerous.

    Unless everyone over there now is particularly keen on running over pedestrians.

    "When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

    by EricC on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:02:11 AM EST
    Timely writing; I walk to my work...only 3km round trip but I am looking at moving, temporarily, in with my GF while we do some house-hunting.  That will make my one-way commute about 10km.  So, I am looking at purchasing a newer, better bike for myself this summer.  
    by aoxomoxoa on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 09:49:10 AM EST


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