on human transportation

Have gotten a ride home last night with my sweetie, I had no car this morning. So I decided to try to bike to work, rather than waiting for her to get home and give me a ride. Now, I'm not much of a bicyclist. My "newer" bike hadn't been ridden for years, and the tires were dead, so I had to take the older one, which had full tires only because we take it to Burning Man every year.

4.3 miles may not sound like much, and my zoom-zoom car sure eats it up, but it was a loooong way on bike. Unaccustomed to such exercise, my legs quickly ached, and I kept shifting positions to make new parts ache. Naturally, I was wearing black, so as not to give the wrong impression about the color of my soul. After miles of struggle, as I was crossing over 101 on Shoreline, the bike echoed my feelings, giving out an anguished cry of metal on metal, and ground to a halt.

The thingy had bent, and its thingy part was wedged into the other thingies, and the chain thingy was wedged behind some of the gear thingies. 5 minutes of work with a leatherman got the chain free, but while I tried bending the thingy various ways, none of them were correct to keep the chain thingy on the gear thingies. But at least it rolled now, so I rolled it to the movie theater next to work, locked it onto a bike rack, got 6 tickets for Sin City tonight, sent my coworkers an email from my Treo, and walked the rest of the way.

Walked to the oasis that is the Googleplex: refrigerated Smart Water, cool grapes, a huge buffet awaiting my eating pleasure, refreshing air-conditioning, and a shower - with towels - less than 20 feet from my desk. A paradise built on the transformation of energy into thought, powered by the engines of high technology, a nice reminder that my own transportation should be powered by a modern engine, fueled by the energy of long-dead plants - not a reenactment of the futile struggle of individual abilities against the elements which our race had to endure for so many dreary millenia.

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A gas-powered Honda is a

A gas-powered Honda is a "modern engine"? A 4 mile drive on pavement can be "eaten up"? 4 miles is too far to ride a bike?

The automobile is not, nor should it be, an end in itself. We certainly wouldn't opt for the mess that is California-style transportation if roads were privately provided (which they should be).

Personally speaking, I

Personally speaking, I couldn't disagree more. I've commuted 8-12 miles to work and school on a bike in WI, CA, NM, and Alaska. Best hour (or half hour, as the case may be) of the day without question was the morning commute. Of course, good physical fitness makes the experience much more satisfying.

Come August I'm looking at spending at least the next five years of my life either in Cleveland, OH, or Syracuse, NY. Bike friendliness is an important consideration for which place I select.

Badass. Not only mad props

Badass. Not only mad props for taking your burning man bike to work, but double bonus for bringing your leatherman to fix it mid-route! I left mine at what remained of bike camp last year, so the connection is missed and heartfelt.

Eric - no problem. I agree

Eric - no problem. I agree that the IC engine is a bit old...but as IC goes, I got a nice one. Plenty of torque.

I'm actually in NoCal, and a freeway goes straight from my house to work, and I don't drive during rush hour, so it takes me 10-15 minutes to drive. I think a bike would be more like 30 minutes. I only do fun exercises, so I avoid exercise machines, and the only gym I go to is the climbing gym. If I already used exercise machines, then as you say it wouldn't be lost time.

I did see your link. When I'm in NYC, I walk. It all depends on the options. As it turns out, I enjoy walking but not biking.

Patri, You were on the right


You were on the right track when you opted for two-wheeled tranportation, but you would have enjoyed superior results had you selected a motorcycle. In the San Francisco Bay Area, including most any part of the South Bay, a competent motorcycle piloted by a competent rider will get the rider to work faster than a driver in any car, including the world's fastest cars. Almost everything is on the side of the motorcycle rider: Acceleration, stopping distance, maneurverability, and compared to most cars, top speed.

But more importantly, when you ride a motorcycle heavy traffic is only a minor nuisance. Most everywhere you go you have three or more lanes to travel down. Every stop light finds you at the front. Every traffic jam sees you whiz by. Sure, you have to concentrate more than a car driver, but neither activity should be performed in a thoroughly distracted state, so that's not much of a negative.

I live in San Francisco and work in the Marin Hills north of San Rafael. My friends at work who commute from The City spend an extra hour every day in their cars. That's sad.

Patri; Sorry, just bein' a


Sorry, just bein' a smartass.

Here's what I was getting at: The gas engine was invented, what? over 100 years ago? Now, if you had a fuel-cell driven motor, I would agree that *that* was modern.

Or one of these (yeah, still an old idea, but a radically more efficient evolution thanks to some new tech):


Remember: you buy horsepower, but you drive torque. And if your criteria is how *efficiently* it turns dead plants and animals into motion, diesel is where it's at, baby.

Also, I question whether the 15 minutes required to ride 4 miles is wasted time, given the fact that (A) it probably takes at least that long to drive (doesn't it take at least 45 minutes to get *anywhere* in SoCal?), (B) many Americans (perhaps not you) pay for exercise machines, gyms, etc. Why pay to do something that takes another 60-90 minutes out of your life when you could combine it for free with something you are already doing?

Also, did you see the link I put in my previous comment?

Gee, I'm surprised I got to

Gee, I'm surprised I got to the bottom of comments without seeing anyone hit my favorite commute option. I have 45 minutes of the nicest auto commute in the world, past winding rivers and mountains of Appalachia, but broadband is still my favorite commute option.

Skype, GoToMyPC, and a measly 384kB DSL line save me 90 minutes/day (more if I don't shower and shave) plus fuel, maintenance, and the risk of sliding into one of those pretty rivers when there's ice on the road.

VoIP savings alone are paying for the DSL line--now we're trying to live with one less vehicle (and so cut insurance/licensing/maintenance/finance overheads) to improve even more on the savings.

Bicycles are a great way to

Bicycles are a great way to get around, especially if your commute is less than 10 or 15 miles--I used to do 8 each way all winter long in Chicago. Well, until I trashed my ankle in a drinking accident. Anyway.

Oh, and as to cars needing "infrastructure" and bikes not? W/out cars there would be no concrete, and riding a bike in the mud is an ugly, ugly thing. You're going to need to spend for your roads, whether it's to some government thug with a gun to your head, or a corporate thug with figurative gun to your ability to travel.

Well, you could go with

Well, you could go with something archaic like a coalfired locomotive,
or an internal combustion engine based on government-built highway, licences, and oil obtained by a series of wars.
I'm not sure if a 4 mile commute is practical for a segway, or if they keep spare segways around the googleplex.
My current bike cost $8 and gets me around for those kind of distances, and keeps me in shape. It's easy to throw it away if it breaks and I can't fix the thingy. Right now both my cars are broken beyond my ability to fix myself, and are targets for being hassled by government agents.
I do have some lost productivity from the bike.
If i had disposable income i would get an electric bike, say from http://www.zapworld.com. An electric racing tricycle would be cool.
Summary: a bike is a useful tool as part of the transportation mix. To stay useful, it needs to be ridden now and then. Locomotives, steetcars and automobiles require a certain amount of infrastructure, that tends to attract rent-seeking highwaymen.

Eric - how is my 2L, 240hp

Eric - how is my 2L, 240hp engine not modern? It is very good at turning dead plants and animals into VRRROOOOOOM.

So is the "engine" of a bicycle. Fat and protein from dead animals and plants are metabolized and used in ATP synthesis. That, and I think in terms of calories spent per unit of work, the bicycle is more efficient than an average automobile. Plus, the costs of operating a bicycle, even when you account for the longer time to get from point A to B (in a city, say) on a bike, as opposed to a car, are far lower than the operating costs of a car. All of which I would have thought would cause the consequentialist to stand up and take note!

Anarchy on a bike (choose

Anarchy on a bike (choose "drag race NYC" 50 MB).

Now *that's* efficiency!

Well, I did say more

Well, I did say more efficient *in terms of* calories spent per unit of work. I wouldn't discount the cost to one's attention, but quite honestly, and I'm not exaggerating here, some of my best "cognitive" time occurs on the bike. For example, on my way into work I used to debug programs in my head, or at least work through how I plan to attack a problem once I do arrive at work. Driving a car requires attention, too -- or at least it should! -- and in some contexts a great deal more than riding a bike does. So I'm not convinced of your conclusion on that basis.

It should also not be overlooked that the money saved commuting by bike versus a car could be viewed as a "wage." Particularly in light of the present price of gasoline and diesel. And of course there's all those "external" costs of driving a car which are not totally irrelevant.

RKN - I quite disagree on

RKN - I quite disagree on the efficiency of human-powered transportation. This is because bicycling uses up the attention of a human. That attention is worth far more than the difference in cost - at least, mine is. Humans may be decent at turning food into movement, but we are uniquely capable of turning food into thought.

From an opportunity cost standpoint, it is terribly inefficient to waste my valuable cognitive time on directing my movement, when I could use it to earn money, use some of that money to pay for transportation, and have money or time left over.

Obviously if one enjoys biking, that changes the analysis completely. And the exercise factor is certainly relevant - that's the only reason I even consider biking, for example. But from a pure transportation standpoint, it seems clearly inferior.

Eric - how is my 2L, 240hp

Eric - how is my 2L, 240hp engine not modern? It is very good at turning dead plants and animals into VRRROOOOOOM.

I'm not saying 4 miles can't be ridden on a bike. Just that there are other ways I prefer to use my time.

I dunno about the rest of California, but I commute to work via a highway with fairly little traffic that goes almost straight from my home to my job. There are some construction delays, but its still quite fast.