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Never too old to bike to work


My NYC Biking Story: Lucette Gilbert from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Via Sarah Goodyear who writes at Grist:
“So, Friday is Bike to Work Day. And if you are one of those people who comes up with endless excuses about why you can’t get your ass onto a bicycle and use it to go somewhere, you need to meet Lucette Gilbert, the latest star in Streetfilms’ series on New Yorkers who ride.

Gilbert admits to being in her “high 70s,” and she has been biking since she was a 7-year-old in France. She and her friends didn’t have phones, so if they wanted to talk, they hopped on their bikes and went and found each other.” …
(19 May 2011)
(19 May 2011)
Bicycling to the recent Bike Party, I chatted with local bicycle hero, Ellen Fletcher who is still on her bike in her late 70s or early 80s. More on her life. – BA

Plugging High-Speed Rail Into Germany’s Power Grid

Michael Scott Moore, Miller-McCune
Using rail lines for the energy grid may help a suddenly nuclear-shy Germany transition to wider use of renewable sources

Germans, feeling the bite of necessity, have announced another use for their electrified rail network: It can carry green energy, too.

The German rail system has several thousand miles of high-voltage transmission lines that can be modified to broaden the national energy grid. And because of a seismic shift in German policy, the government has to find a quick solution to a daunting problem, namely how to move large amounts of renewable energy from one region to another. Wind turbines spin in the northeast, for example; but cities are growing in the south and west. The German grid would need around 2,240 miles of new high-voltage corridors to make renewable energy viable; about 60 miles have been built so far.

German officials last month said the government was eyeing train lines as a solution. “A close cooperation with Deutsche Bahn relating to the expansion of the power grid is something that I find attractive,” said Rainer Brüderle, the country’s economics minister, told journalists in April.

It might seem obvious to use rail corridors for high-voltage lines. But a remarkable series of events brought Germany to this crossroads, which is unprecedented in the industrialized world.
(18 May 2011)

Bikes are the future, not cars

Richard Peace, Bike Radar
Philip Taylor, outgoing president of the Bicycle Association, has highlighted how he thinks bikes are on the rise and cars on the decline.

In the course of some unusual crystal-ball grazing, Taylor stressed his belief that global urbanisation means car mileage will continue to decline and bicycle mileage will increase, as the battle for space in cities intensifies, and economic and health challenges swing the pendulum ever more the bicycle’s way.

Taylor referred to statistics compiled by the World Bank, which show that the percentage of the world’s population who live in cities is growing. That raises health and environmental concerns: more road accidents and deaths from air pollution, for example.

In the UK there’s a huge degree of urbanisation. Eighty percent of the populace (50 million people) are classified as urban-dwelling and urbanisation is forecast to grow at 0.7 percent – 350,000 people – a year to 2015.

Taylor suggested that the Government’s financial support for electric cars, to the tune of £20 million at the end of last year (grants of up to £5,000 available to individual buyers), would not solve the space problem. “This … is unlikely to change as a result of us all driving electric cars – however heavily subsidised!” he said.

He summed up the importance of the bicycle as part of the solution in rousing terms: “Although cycling in the UK may still not be what it was in the early 20th century, in either an industrial sense or in ownership and usage terms, it is, I’m convinced, on an unstoppable upward trend that can only be positive for all involved in the sector.”
(26 May 2011)

E-cars won’t solve congestion, says president of Bicycle Association

Carlton Reid, BikeBiz
… In a speech at yesterday’s AGM of the Bicycle Association, outgoing president Philip Taylor argued that, over the long term, global urbanisation means car mileage will continue its decline, and bicycle mileage will increase as cities face increasing space, cost and health pressures.

Philip Taylor has been president of the Bicycle Association for four years. Yesterday, at the AGM of the association for Britain’s bicycle and parts suppliers, he handed over to new president Mark Bickerton. His final speech was a rousing one, bristling with statistics which show that Peak Oil and Peak Car will benefit the bicycle trade in the years to come.

“I would like to draw your attention to a few reliable statistics that I consider more than a little thought-provoking and sobering,” started Taylor, who, until his final speech, has been a low key president.

“According to the World Bank, 3.3 billion people now live in cities. By 2030 60 percent of the world’s population will inhabit cities. Every day almost 180,000 people take up residence in cities. In the developing world 60 million people move into cities each year and, unless there is a dramatic and unforeseen population crash, this rate will continue for at least the next 30 years.

“The result is that city populations are growing faster than city infrastructure can adapt and not only does this cause health risks and social problems, but also environmental concerns. Air quality worsens with the result that worldwide 1 million people die each year as a result of urban air pollution. Traffic increases, leading to more congestion and more road crashes.
(20 May 2011)

Cars & Capitalism

Yves Engler, ZNet

“Let’s make sure we get the business and economic message out first. Bikes mean business.”

Gary Sjoquist, Bikes Belong spokesperson, describing a recent lobbying effort on Capitol Hill to the Washington Post.

If you care about safety, livability or fresh air it’s hard to criticize someone pushing for bike infrastructure. But, compared to what do “bikes mean business”? A pedestrian’s socks and shoes? Bikes can’t compete with buses or trains let alone personal cars as a source of profit. In fact, part of the bike’s appeal is that it is a relatively simple and inexpensive product, even if the manufacturers and travel companies funding Bikes Belong want to promote high-end recreational cycling.

Those who promote cycling should be careful about reinforcing the idea that business interests ought to direct public policy. Bikes, feet and trolleys play a subordinate role in the North American transport hierarchy largely because transit policy has been designed to serve business interests.

An anecdote about the lobbyists who launched the Good Roads Movement helps illustrate the point. Begun by bike makers in the 1890s, the Good Roads push for government-funded roadway failed to gain much momentum until bike magnates (and others) started producing automobiles and lobbying for roads for cars. (Early U.S. carmakers Pope, Peerless, Rambler, Winton and Willis all began as bike makers.) Financed by the world’s leading bike magnate, Albert Pope, the League of American Wheelmen (LAW) promoted road building for cyclists. Yet LAW’s political clout was limited and change came slowly. In 1902 the American Automobile Association, which included former bicycle manufacturers, emerged as a successor to LAW. Many lobbyists remained, but they were far more influential lobbying for roads to serve cars than they had been in the bicycle movement.

The bicycle lobby achieved relatively little because it could not attract a host of associated industries. Unlike the car, it’s a simple product. Just two skinny tires and a frame. While some bike companies were profitable, they did not generate close to as much economic activity as the auto industry.

Stephen Goddard describes the attitude during the 1910s resource boom spurred by the car: “To the industrialists, who were now selling glass, rubber, steel, concrete and their end products in numbers beyond their wildest dreams, whatever needed to be done to sustain the boom and to build pressure for good roads simply had to [be] accomplished.”

Today, the economic might of the automobile is hundreds, probably thousands, of times greater than the bike. During their recent lobbying effort on Capitol Hill Bikes Belong told John Sarbanes, a Democratic representative in Maryland, 51 stores in his district selling bikes grossed $20 million in 2009. Compared to the car, this is a drop in the bucket.

All 435 congressional districts have at least one car dealership and most of these do more than $20 million in sales. New U.S. car sales topped $450 billion in 2007, with the used car market generating another $260 billion. For government statisticians, automobile sales warrant their own category of retail trade. At its high point in 1977, auto dealers accounted for a whopping 28.5 percent of all U.S. retail trade.

In 2005 the global automotive industry was worth $2,100,000,000,000 and ranked eighth among the world’s largest economies. Yet only about one in three automotive dollars is generated directly by carmakers. The rest comes from repairs, fuelling, finance and insurance, amongst other allied ventures. Gasoline is a trillion dollar industry and banks do $700 billion in car loans each year. At $160 billion annually the U.S. auto-insurance industry is one of the more successful offshoots of the automotive sector.
(6 May 2011)