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Why Drag Two Tons of Car With You Wherever You Go?

9:08 AM PDT on May 24, 2010

4630617904_1913d7b2fb.jpgMoving a kid and a tub of
compost, with an electric assist. (Photo: Mark Stosberg
via Flickr)

How much energy does it take to move two tons?

Streetsblog Network member Mark Stosberg, who blogs at Bikes
as Transportation
, had the occasion to think about it recently when
he embarked on a renovation project that involved retiling a floor.

Stosberg doesn’t own a car, and he usually uses cargo bikes
(including the electric Yuba Mundo pictured at right) to transport heavy
loads around his hometown of Richmond, Indiana. But faced with nearly
4,000 pounds of tile and mortar, he decided the best vehicle for the job
was a car.

Handling the stuff quickly led to another revelation:

I helped load and unload much of the 50-pound bags of mortar, and two car-trailer loads of tile. By the end, I felt well-acquainted with the full impact of 4,000 pounds. I could feel in my bones the amount of energy it took to move that material.

And for a least a moment, I appreciated cars for this. They werefar better for carrying two tons of materials than a bike would be.

And that’s when it hit me like a ton of ceramic tile. Theaverage American car weighs two tons.

All this energy… all this effort required to move 4,000 pounds…all that energy is purchased and consumed every time a car is driven for any purpose. This near-miracle is being accomplished to visit thecorner store and fetch a single bag. So often, cars carry little morethan a single passenger a short distance.…

Is our energy crisis a crisis of supply or a crisis ofinefficient demand? Any way I can slice and dice it, using a 4,000-pound vehicle to transport a person and a small amount of cargo for less than five miles is a highly inefficient way to accomplish the task.

More from around the network: Spacing
Toronto
makes the case for complete streets. Urban
Out
has a guest post from planner Sarah Wilson on the best way to
shrink a city. And Building
Cincinnati
has the scoop on new requirements for bike parking in
car parking facilities.

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