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C200: The Bicycle

2011 March 24
by Michael Hintze

“Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia.” – H.G. Wells, 1905


Given their dense street networks and proximity of land uses, cities are ideal places for bicycling. Consider this: Bicycles are the most efficient vehicles yet invented by humankind. A bicycle needs only 35 calories per passenger mile, whereas a car expends 1,860 calories. Even walking is not as efficient (it requires three times as many calories as biking). Bikes can move more people per meter-width-equivalent right-of-way than cars, as well (1,500 per hour v. 170). These facts alone have large implications in terms of how we should be designing our cities and transportation networks in the face of rising oil prices, depleted municipal budgets, and the soaring healthcare costs associated with the expanding waistlines of the American public.

But then, when you start to layer in the more difficult to quantify benefits of bicycling (and walking), e.g., the endorphin rush that could substitute for that cup of coffee in the morning, greater social connectedness, less ambient noise and air pollution, you begin to understand why cities across the nation, and the world, are investing more in bicycle infrastructure. Yes, we have a long way to go to get more people biking, but as more and more people in more and more cities across the country are discovering, “nothing compares to the simple pleasure [and efficiency] of a bike ride.”*


Michael Hintze, AICP, is a Senior Planner at Toole Design Group, one of the nation’s leading planning and design firms specializing in multi-modal transportation.


*John F. Kennedy