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Old 11-22-08, 07:54 AM   #1
no1mad
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Help with school...

1. I'm writing a paper on alternative transportation for my Comp I class. She looked over my rough draft and wants me to prove "that cycling is perhaps the most efficient form of transportation, aside from walking". Any opinions on how I prove something that should be common sense? (She does not accept Wikipedia as a source).

2. I also need help picking out a new bag. My Ful 'pack is too organized and my Dakine 'pack when loaded digs into my shoulders a little too much. I'm car-light and need to be able to haul a load. Panniers are out because I'm currently not using my bike for the commute.

Thinking about trying either a messenger bag or a shoulder bag. 95% time I'm walking around w/only one strap anyway. Budget does not have Benjamin in it. Oh, yeah, I don't need to carry a laptop. I've got a flash drive
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Old 11-22-08, 08:02 AM   #2
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Start with all forms of transportation, both local and distance. Attack those by comparison and contrasts.
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Old 11-22-08, 08:44 AM   #3
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Check out "Scientific American" from around 1970-1973. They had an interesting article that was exactly on point. Compared to bicycling the efficiency all other means of transportation (including walking) SUCKS!
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Old 11-22-08, 08:56 AM   #4
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do the math.

you can look up the efficiency of a gasoline-powered engine, and electric engine, w.e.. a gas engine is only 60% (or so) efficient. electric is closer to 100% efficient (just remember that the electricity has to come from somewhere!).

take into account the weight of the vehicle itself, and the passenger. a car, weighing 2000lbs (just for the sake of a number), carrying a 150lb passenger means that that 60% efficient engine has to crank out enough joules to propel that 2150 lb object down the road. you can probably find the coefficients of friction of different surfaces and whatnot on the web (or other sources).

a bicycle, on the other hand, is powered by a human. cellular respiration is not 100% efficient, but a lot of that "waste heat" is needed to help you maintain proper body temperature to prevent enzyme denaturing. say if you were to ride on a 25lb bike, and weigh 150lbs, that 175lb object with a 80% (you can come up with your own value as to how efficient the human legs are) efficient engine is going to require far fewer joules to cover the same distance.

depends on what you call "efficient," though. if you're talking purely about how far a joule will get you, the bicycle is incredibly efficient. if you're talking about other things, like how productive it'll make you (and thus "efficient"), the bike may not be nearly as practical as a car, and could cost you a lot of time and energy that you may need to apply elsewhere.
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Old 11-22-08, 09:04 AM   #5
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The most efficient animal on earth in terms of weight transported over distance for energy expended is a human on a bicycle.

The most efficient machine on earth in terms of weight transported over distance for energy expended is a human on a bicycle.
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Old 11-22-08, 09:38 AM   #6
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I believe wind powered canal boats are more efficient than bicycles.
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Old 11-22-08, 10:57 AM   #7
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A bicycle is 4 or 5 times more efficient than walking.
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Old 11-22-08, 12:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
1. I'm writing a paper on alternative transportation for my Comp I class. She looked over my rough draft and wants me to prove "that cycling is perhaps the most efficient form of transportation, aside from walking". Any opinions on how I prove something that should be common sense? (She does not accept Wikipedia as a source).
Go to the definitive book on the subject, Bicycling Science, 3rd Edition, by David Gordon Wilson. It has tables and references to engineering studies as well as physiological explanations as to why cycling is the most efficient means of transport over land by an enormous margin. At 10 mph a cyclist gets the equivalent of about 1000+ mpg. Walking doesn't come close.
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Old 11-22-08, 12:59 PM   #9
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Indeed. If the size of the engine(Us) wasn't so limited we would be would be using bikes for a LOT of stuff that is currently done by motorized vehicles, because for cargoes up to around 150 or so pounds bicycles beat just about anything else out there, and are additionally cheaper and easier to maintain. Look at any "developing" country and you will see bicycles being used for serious cargo transport (and personal transport), with a great deal of success. Look at a more developed country such as Japan or the Netherlands and you will see much the same thing.
EDIT: and we know the Japanese are all about efficiency, right?
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Old 11-22-08, 01:01 PM   #10
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Gas engine efficiency is more like 30% max and an electric motor in the 70% to 90% range depending on type. A cheap split phase motor can be even lower efficiency.

I agree about the book "Bicycling Science" and the Scientific American article. Both good references. Bicycling Science is published by MIT press and the author is a MIT Emeritus professor so if the teacher will not accept his word then she is hopeless.
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Old 11-22-08, 01:51 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
1. I'm writing a paper on alternative transportation for my Comp I class. She looked over my rough draft and wants me to prove "that cycling is perhaps the most efficient form of transportation, aside from walking". Any opinions on how I prove something that should be common sense? (She does not accept Wikipedia as a source).
Good for your teacher ... you've got a great teacher there!!
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Old 11-22-08, 02:07 PM   #12
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There have been several studies on this, but those I remember (including the '70s Scientific American piece) are pre-computer, pre-Web. Don't know where to tell you to look for them.
Volkswagen once did an ad (also '70s?) contending that driving a VW Beetle was more efficient than walking--the energy to propel a VW 20 miles cost less than a fast-food hamburger that would fuel a human runner for the same distance, something like that (this was back when gas was about 25 cents a gallon). You could use a similar approach. Calorie consumption for various forms of human-powered locomotion is readily available online, as is the energy content of gasoline and other fuels. Convert to some common measure (calories? BTUs? Don't ask me--I'm a liberal arts major) and chart 'em out.
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Old 11-22-08, 04:13 PM   #13
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A study by the Australian Greenhouse Office found that cycling 7km each way to work, 5 days a week, instead of driving a car, saved around 1000kg of greenhouse gas a year. Which saves hundreds of dollars on gas and makes/keeps you fit and healthy.

Last edited by Velomancer; 11-22-08 at 04:26 PM.
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Old 11-22-08, 04:28 PM   #14
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I believe wind powered canal boats are more efficient than bicycles.
Until there's no wind.
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Old 11-22-08, 04:33 PM   #15
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To all, thanks for the references/ideas. Luckily, this is just an essay that I'm writing and not a doctoral thesis, so I don't have to be too technical.

In the subtopic on bicycling, I pointed out that you don't have to register or insure a bike, and that there are health/enviromental benefits as well.

FWIW, the other subtopics are buses and trains. I want to go to Japan now after reading about those Bullet Trains...
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Old 11-22-08, 04:37 PM   #16
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Until there's no wind.
So long as there is beer, brats, and beans around, running out of wind will not be a problem.
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Old 11-23-08, 09:56 AM   #17
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This is an English composition class, yes? Expository writing exercise? Maybe no need for footnotes, not really a research paper.
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Old 11-23-08, 10:55 AM   #18
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Quote:
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1. I'm writing a paper on alternative transportation for my Comp I class. She looked over my rough draft and wants me to prove "that cycling is perhaps the most efficient form of transportation, aside from walking". Any opinions on how I prove something that should be common sense? (She does not accept Wikipedia as a source).
"...aside from walking"??? No...including walking.

Don't accept Wikipedia as a source for any conclusions, but you can use them as a source for sources, so to speak. The good articles include a list of references.
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Old 11-23-08, 11:08 AM   #19
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This is an English composition class, yes? Expository writing exercise? Maybe no need for footnotes, not really a research paper.
Correct. It's an exercise to develope the understanding of writing an MLA styled paper. Three-pronged thesis statement, each subtopic in order (as mentioned in the thesis statement), in text citations, work cited page...
Minimal research is required, but that is also part of the exercise.
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Old 11-23-08, 11:34 AM   #20
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Biking is more effcient than walking, based on distance to calorie.
since everyone else had great responses to the paper question i'll start out with the backpack one. Ogio makes a couple great packs, i really enjoy mine. It's an Ogio Atrix, their entry-level pack, in Hi-Viz Orange. I was worried it would be too small, but I haven't had a problem going to and from school, as well as some grocery shopping trips.
If you want a messenger bag the good ones are over $100. Chrome, Timbuk2, and many others make great ones, but like i said they'll cost ya. Go large with a messenger bag, i have a small Timbuk2 one that i got off CL for cheap, and it sucks only based on the size. Another downside is you can't fit a waterbottle on the outside of it, which i like to do since my Nalgene doesn't fit in the waterbottle cage. I also like an outside pocket for coffee.
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Old 11-23-08, 03:53 PM   #21
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Biking is more effcient than walking, based on distance to calorie.
since everyone else had great responses to the paper question i'll start out with the backpack one. Ogio makes a couple great packs, i really enjoy mine. It's an Ogio Atrix, their entry-level pack, in Hi-Viz Orange. I was worried it would be too small, but I haven't had a problem going to and from school, as well as some grocery shopping trips.
If you want a messenger bag the good ones are over $100. Chrome, Timbuk2, and many others make great ones, but like i said they'll cost ya. Go large with a messenger bag, i have a small Timbuk2 one that i got off CL for cheap, and it sucks only based on the size. Another downside is you can't fit a waterbottle on the outside of it, which i like to do since my Nalgene doesn't fit in the waterbottle cage. I also like an outside pocket for coffee.
The commutiny college that I attend classes at offers Ogio and Jansport. I like some of the Jansport designs, but I am not conviced that they would hold up for very long. I checked out Ogio's website, spotted the Epic, and actually have the school checking their inventory at all four of the campuses to see if they have any in stock. Supposedly, the Epic has two deployable, insulated bottle holders w/drain ports. I'm hoping that it can hold a decent sized bottle.
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Old 11-23-08, 05:45 PM   #22
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Well no1mad, it appears that you certainly hit a gold mine in your search for info. Use it well and let us know how you did. These guys that hang around here are great. Would you agree?
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Old 11-23-08, 05:58 PM   #23
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So long as there is beer, brats, and beans around, running out of wind will not be a problem.
With that combination you would probably be able to capture enough "wind" to fuel a methane powered engine...
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Old 12-11-08, 07:42 PM   #24
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To give an update, I received a score of 65/100. I will find out Friday night (last class of the semester) why it is so low.

Don't think that it was subject related, though. Probably had more to do with the format, especially the work cited/reference page. I was in a hurry, and MS Office '07 is a PITA. Microsoft really did idiot proof that app...
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Old 12-12-08, 10:59 AM   #25
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To give an update, I received a score of 65/100. I will find out Friday night (last class of the semester) why it is so low.

Don't think that it was subject related, though. Probably had more to do with the format, especially the work cited/reference page. I was in a hurry, and MS Office '07 is a PITA. Microsoft really did idiot proof that app...
Just as I had thought. Its all about form and not so much content.
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