Bicycles and Alternative Transportation

The bicycle is the most energy efficient form of transportation, using about 100 watts of energy to travel at 20 mph. It’s also healthier than being sedentary in an auto, and more convivial than being sealed in an air conditioned pod. 67% of U.S. petroleum consumption is for transportation, 60% of which is in private cars, and 79% of those trips are by single occupancy auto.

Bicycle transportation requires public expenditures to be viable. Safe and convenient bikeways must be fully interconnected, protected from motor vehicles, and linking neighborhoods with destination nodes. While about 8% of the population is brave enough to ride among 4000lb, 45 mph cars with only a helmet and light, about 71% consider it too dangerous even though they would like to ride. Only the city government has the authority to build safe and convenient bikeways. It unfortunately requires citizen advocacy to get them to do it. The operative decisions don’t happen by writing bicycle plans, but rather at city budget hearings.

In 2013, at the City of Lawrence budget hearings, Sustainability Action initiated the push to establish an annual budget line-item to fund bicycle lanes, tracks, and boulevards.  Several other advocacy groups joined in, and city funding has gone from $0 to $650,000 a year. Remaining efforts will focus on ensuring that bikeways are located where they conveniently serve identified needs, and are designed properly so they are safe and appealing.

The other promising means to reduce single-occupancy automobile use and emissions are electric vehicles (EVs) and mass transit, which aren’t typically the object of policy activism. EV popularity is more a matter of price than policy action, though Sustainability Action has advocated for neighborhood electric vehicles that are ideal for in-town use, but are banned in some jurisdictions for safety reasons because they “go too slow”.

Mass transit is a travel mode that is more dependent on a minimum population density than on public advocacy. However, citizen action can have bearing on social justice issues such as fare subsidies, route coverage, route frequency, and toxic diesel exhaust.




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The Sustainability Action Network is a non-profit organization that is bringing awareness of a global crisis caused by climate change, energy depletion and economic instability to communities in the Kansas River bioregion.  We are initiating positive solutions inspired by the Transition and Permaculture Movements.  We bring the tools needed to re-skill and re-localize our economy and create more socially just and ecologically sustainable society and world. Sustainability Action is a silver level Guide Star participant, demonstrating its commitment to transparency.