On Bike Efficiency -- And Pricks

The Bike Blog is pleased to see the many comments on our recent bike feature. What with the back and forth, we did want to clarify one point of fact.

After being called “a prick,” for remarking that bicyclists should “just get out of the way of those of us who have things to do,” the commenter going by the name ‘Anthony’ further asserted the following:

You are out joyriding and wasting more of the world's resources by riding your bike(Yep you use up 3X the energy per mile than the average car.” (He also asked rhetorically whether he really is “a prick.” As a matter of self-imposed editorial discipline, however, the Bike Blog does not answer rhetorical questions).

But we will address his claim that a bicycle uses three times the energy of an average car. One common way to measure energy is in calories, one calorie being the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius.

According to the World Watch Institute, an environmental research facility based in DC, a bicycle uses about 35 calories of energy per passenger mile. One passenger, one mile, 35 calories.

A car uses 1,860 calories per passenger mile – which would make it not three times more efficient than a bike as Anthony claimed, but, in fact, about fifty three times less efficient. Indeed, it’s worth noting bicycles are the most energy-efficient transportation machine created by humans beings, ever (even our own feet get us around at only 100 calories of energy per passenger mile).

You can find the study, and references, here.

The Bike Blog would like to emphasize that Anthony’s factual error in no way implies that he is a prick.

-- Isaiah Thompson

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