Jay Angler wrote:Many humans think they deserve "new experiences" and "holidays". If they can also consider the petroleum foot-print of that, and choose biking as a way to accomplish it, I think it can be a positive. However, compared to walking, it takes better infrastructure and more embodied energy.
I'm not sure that bit about bike vs ped infrastructure is so cut and dry. gravel on a bike is more pleasant than on foot, for example, at least to me. like your pa, I do a fair amount of bike camping, and that's mostly on gravel and dirt roads that nobody walks on. in more developed areas, bikes can easily share space with cars so long as that space isn't optimized for speed above all else. on the other hand, I can walk across much more rugged terrain than I can bike across. traveling in a wheel chair also complicates the picture.
Jay Angler wrote:2. I think it's possible to "make people want to bike or walk" by using intelligent design.
doesn't even have to be that intelligent in my experience. any town or city built before automobiles came onto the scene is likely a much more pleasant place to bike or walk than to drive, assuming it hasn't been entirely renovated to accommodate cars. even rural areas with sparse population are really pleasant for walking and bicycling in places where small vehicles and narrow roads are the norm. a nice bonus is that small vehicles and narrow roads consume far fewer resources than their larger versions.
the really pernicious part of all this is how it has come to perpetuate itself. following WWII, the US went all in on orienting the entire built environment around personal cars. several generations past that, very few people in the US outside a handful of metropolitan areas can even imagine what a life that doesn't rely heavily on daily driving would look like. suggestions to shift even marginally toward more sane means of transportation feel very threatening to a lot of people in the same way that anyone whose way of life is questioned feels threatened. so instead of places where it's plausible to walk or bike in addition to driving (leave alone where driving is actively discouraged), almost everywhere in the US gets even more automobile-oriented places.
into this scenario comes the promise of electric cars. we don't have to dramatically reshape our built environment for them or significantly change anyone's habits, because they're still cars. only without any of the negative impacts, right? well, I don't know about that. as I understand it, the main negative impact that electric vehicles reduce so far is carbon pollution. the extra weight of the batteries means that local ground level air pollution is worse than that from a modern petroleum powered car. maybe more significantly, infrastructure built for electric cars isn't any less antagonistic to those outside of a vehicle than infrastructure built for petroleum cars.
cars are an incredibly useful and beneficial tool if their use is tightly restricted. ultimately, how they're powered seems like a red herring to me. more important is that they be treated as a last resort instead of as the default.
paul wheaton wrote:And if you are doing bike/ped in the city, without a garden, then you still have a pretty beefy petroleum footprint.
I have not yet looked into it critically, but I've heard that if a person's nutrition is supplied via industrial food supply chains, one's petroleum "footprint" will generally increase if they walk or bike for transportation. the reduction from not hopping in the car to get across town is erased by needing to eat more petroleum-heavy food to make up for the additional metabolic cost. I think that's probably an oversimplification because of the knock-on effects of automobile use, but it does illuminate just what a quagmire we've created for ourselves.