I came across this article by John Schinnerer, a whole systems designer from Hawai'i. Most people are probably aware that biking is more energy efficient for human transporation and human-scale loads. But how much more efficient? I'm not sure I trust these numbers, especially without doing the calculations, but John claims that:
a cob of corn has enough calories to transport a human by bicycle 3.5 mi (5.6 km)
A medium-sized car uses approximately 1,860 calories per passenger mile
public buses average 920
rail transport about 885
walking roughly 100 calories per "passenger" mile
a bicycle comes is about 35 calories per passenger mile
embodied energy in a car is roughly ten times that of a bike
I'm not an urbanite myself, and I'm well aware of the environmental limitations placed on bike users in rural areas with snow for a large part of the year. If we could got enough torque from our monster quadreceps maybe we could build some kind of tracked bike like Hans here.
Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen: even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.
--Leonardo da Vinci (So let's get to it.)
There are tons of bicycle innovators in many progressive urban areas, pushing the functionality of bikes to the limit. For many years the utility biking niche has been extremely ignored especially in america. I am happy to see it on the rise. Something that would be useful for many rural dwellers would be so called fat bikes and fat trikes. Basically bikes with 4+ inch tires. These are designed to go over sand, mud, snow, and untended terrain. my heart would warm if people would embrace bikes like these for rural settings. I will when I get land eventually. Need to cover a few miles ground? Why bother with solar electric vehicles let alone gas. Each type of vehicle has its place I know, but human powered bikes are still an undervalued vehicle, especially in the utility sector.