14 May 2012

Infinity Miles Per Gallon

Infinity Miles Per Gallon

by Bakari Kafele on May 14, 2012

What can you do to absolutely minimize your fuel use?

Not drive a car.

As much time and effort as we all put into making our cars and trucks more efficient, [I originally wrote this for ecomodder.com] its easy to forget that even at their absolute best, a motor vehicle is still a pretty inefficient way to get from point A to point B.
Even with a 100% efficient engine, which would of course violate the laws of thermodynamics, the machine is still using more energy to move itself around than to move you.   In most modern gas powered cars, only about 1% of the energy in the fuel is actually being used to transport you from place to place.  With extreme hypermiling, we might raise that to 2%, or even 5%, but the best-case-scenario is pretty awful.
There is only one machine which is actually more energy efficient than the mode of transportation God gave us and that is the bicycle.
By combining human legs with the power of the wheel and the leverage of gears, it is possible to easily travel over 6 times further in a given time span (or the same distance 6 times faster) than you could with just a pair of shoes.
In contrast to the 6x multiplier effect a bicycle has over walking, driving a car only nets about a 4x multiplier in speed/distance compared to a bike.
Given that this is ecomodder, chances are that many readers probably fall into one of two categories:
1) People who already bicycle to work everyday, and as much as possible for errands
(perhaps for all trips below 5 miles?)
2) People who want to bike to work everyday, but have a good reason why they can’t (but still ride for short trips whenever possible!)
The reasons for not doing it are usually distance, weather, traffic, and/or needing to carry a large amount of people or stuff.  (UPDATE – Or, “I don’t own a bike” – in which case please read this article)
And I get that.  I own 2 motor vehicles myself.  There would be no reason to be on ecomodder if we had no motor vehicle to mod.
But May is National Bike Month, and for just one day this month, one day out of the entire year, I challenge everyone from the second category to try cycling to work, no matter how good your excuse is the other 364 days a year.
If that means you have to bring a change of clothes and wash off with a cloth in the bathroom because there are no showers, transport stuff to the workplace (laptop, work tools, whatever) the day before, get up an hour and a half earlier, invest in a super bright headlight and taillight to stay safe, or even if it means buying studded tires so you can ride through the snow, do it.
If it is still an insurmountable challenge, you could try taking public transit part of the way and biking the rest, or if there is no transit, you could even drive halfway with your bike in the trunk, park, and bike the rest of the way.  You would still be cutting your fuel use in half for that commute, reducing your impact on air quality, saving money, and getting some exercise.  (You should spend at least 30 minutes exercising everyday anyway, so when you look at it that way, you could actually be saving time.)
One way or another, no matter how inconvenient it is, just this one day, give it a try.
And even though it is called “Bike to WORK Day”, it doesn’t really have to be to work.  You can bike to school, the supermarket for groceries, or where ever you have to go that day.  If you don’t need to go anywhere that day, it can be another day the same week.  Or at least in the month of May.
At some point in the month of May, use a bicycle as a means of transportation to somewhere you needed to go anyway.
Bike To Work Day, originally created by The League of American Bicyclists, is a tradition going back 56 years.
In the majority of the country it falls on Friday, May 18th, so you have a little time to get ready.  (EDIT: this was posted a week later than intended, for administrative reasons.  So you don’t have much time after all.  And everything in the next paragraph is now past tense)
In a few areas it is celebrated on a different date; in the San Fransisco Bay Area (including Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, and the rest of the 9 county metropolitan area) it is coming up fast: Thursday, May 10th!
As usual we, the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, will be providing energizer stations all morning with free goodie bags for everyone on a bicycle, as well as a free pancake breakfast at Oakland City Hall, where we will also be providing free valet bike parking all day for anyone who works in the area or wants to catch the train from the 12th St Station.  After work there will be a bicycle block party from 5:00pm to 8:30pm at Ninth and Washington Streets in Oakland.
(Sure, you may have to get up 2 hours earlier to bike to work, but I’ll need to get up by 4am to get to Oakland city hall by 5:30am, and then I’m working until at least 8:30pm.  So no complaining.  Its only one day a year…)
For a list of whats going on in your own neck of the woods, contact your local Bicycle Coalition, or check in at any local bike shop.  Or just Google “bike to work day” plus your own city or county name.  You can also find many events on the League’s website. In the even that there are none, you can create one for your local area yourself, and then post info about it on their website.
It will take some time until we get there, but hopefully someday our future will look just like this:

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