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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 12-20-07, 07:08 PM   #1
cerewa
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roads and the price of petroleum

I don't know about the rest of you, but I have certainly believed (at times, at least) that the scarcity of petroleum will increase to the point that it would even make petroleum-derived clothing too expensive, to say nothing of burning a couple gallons to drive to work in the morning.

My question is, what do you think is going to happen to roads if/when it becomes too expensive to pave a road with millions of gallons of petroleum every couple of decades? I could be wrong, but my guess is that the "bottom of the barrel" sticky part of crude oil in roads is going to run out around the same time as the lighter motor fuel part, and that cars will wear out the roads they run on somewhere around the same time they wear out the oil resource they, ummmm, run on.

Stone paving works okay for pedestrians, but it's pretty bad for your average bicycle. There are plant substances that have at least some of the characteristics that make asphalt (that black stuff) a desirable material for paving. But I really don't know whether they'd ever be a workable alternative in terms of how much one can produce, how cheaply, and how well the stuff would work as an asphalt substitute.

Recognizing that almost all of us ride our bicycles around on millions of gallons of sticky black stuff from out of the ground, what do you think the road situation will be 100 years from now?
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Old 12-20-07, 07:26 PM   #2
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Concrete?
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Old 12-20-07, 07:53 PM   #3
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i prefer dirt paths/trails
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Old 12-20-07, 08:26 PM   #4
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Concrete or packed earth.

Most bicycles will handle packed earth paths just fine, so long as it's not muddy!
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Old 12-20-07, 08:47 PM   #5
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I think wider tires and suspensions will be required, the roads will be bad. But they will be 6 feet above me!
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Old 12-20-07, 09:00 PM   #6
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Dirt roads are great. It's what I ride everyday. Dirt roads can handle an amazing amount of heavy traffic. They need regular maintenance. But less costly than a what regular roads require. I've also seen roads made with recycled tires. These roads are amazingly quiet. I think they will start using more fillers if the price of oil rises enough.
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Old 12-20-07, 09:11 PM   #7
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Luckily we will all be several hundred of years dead before this is a problem.
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Old 12-20-07, 10:34 PM   #8
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The Romans built good roads and they didn't do it with oil.
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Old 12-20-07, 10:39 PM   #9
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The Romans built good roads and they didn't do it with oil.
What did they use to build their roads? I heard that many lasted hundreds of years.
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Old 12-20-07, 10:57 PM   #10
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What did they use to build their roads? I heard that many lasted hundreds of years.
Stone and concrete. Unlike modern roads, they were built to last centuries with minimum maintenance. The smooth concrete surface has worn away now but [edit: in many cases] the underlying stone and earthworks are still in fine shape.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_road

Last edited by Platy; 12-20-07 at 11:49 PM. Reason: factual correction
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Old 12-21-07, 04:52 AM   #11
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What did they use to build their roads? I heard that many lasted hundreds of years.
In some cases thousands. IIRC there is what was a major Roman road at the time in the north of England near Darlington that was built around 8 BC that is still in use today.

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Old 12-23-07, 01:08 PM   #12
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I'm not into the peak oil thing so much, but I think there's a more immediate concern. Roads are paid for in large part by gas taxes. But these are flat taxes that haven't, in most cases, been increased for many years. So they haven't kept up with inflation at all. And, if people do drive less because gas is more expensive, there'll be fewer revenues for road upkeep.
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Old 12-23-07, 03:41 PM   #13
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With the trend now to reclaim roads beds with grinding machines
is a good one. Instead of using all new asphalt and stone the old
is chewed up then mixed with just enough new asphalt to make
make the road mix plastic enough to re-lay right back down.

The is also some very good work going on the use reclaimed
oils to make "new" asphalt mix with. So when that comes to
market 100% the only lost oil will be fuels to power the
road machines.

Roads can them be taken up and re-layed over and over.
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Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 12-23-07, 07:56 PM   #14
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I'm not into the peak oil thing so much, but I think there's a more immediate concern. Roads are paid for in large part by gas taxes. But these are flat taxes that haven't, in most cases, been increased for many years. So they haven't kept up with inflation at all. And, if people do drive less because gas is more expensive, there'll be fewer revenues for road upkeep.

Quote:
TABLE 2-1 Highway Spending by Level of Government and Function, 2004 (Percent Distribution)

Federal, state, local, total
---1 ---37 ---13 ---52, Capital outlay
---0 ---11 ---16 ---27, Maintenance and traffic services
---2 ---12 ----8 ---22, Admin, research, and police
---3 ---60 ---37 --100, Total



"Governments spent $136.4 billion to construct and operate highways in the United States in 2004. Highways are predominantly an activity of state governments: 60 percent of all spending and 72 percent of all capital spending are by the states. Highways accounted for 9 percent of state and 4 percent of local general government direct expenditures in 2003."

TABLE 2-2 Highway User Revenues by Level of Government and Source, 2004 (Percent Distribution)

Federal, State, Local, Total
---31 ---32 ----1 ---64, Fuel taxes
----0 ----6 ----2 ----8, Tolls
----3 ---24 ----1 ---28, Other user taxes and fees
---34 ---63 ----4 --100, Total

"State and local governments legally dedicate the revenues from particular taxes in addition to highway user fees to pay for transportation programs. Such taxes are most commonly local property taxes and state and local sales taxes. Revenue from taxes dedicated by law to highway use, other than highway user fees, was $15.4 billion in 2004, 11 percent of all highway spending. This ratio has been nearly constant over the past 40 years, although the portion derived from taxes other than property taxes, including dedicated state sales taxes, has been growing."

"State and local governments appropriate funds from general revenues each year for spending on roads. Many jurisdictions deposit some part of their highway user revenue into their general funds and then make appropriations for highways out of general funds. Also, the federal government distributes about $1 billion per year from general fund appropriations to state and local governments for highway purposes. Highway user fee revenue equaled 78 percent of highway spending in 2004, and revenue from dedicated taxes other than user fees equaled 11 percent, so the net contribution from general revenue may be defined as the remaining 11 percent."


http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?re...=11568&page=24

So it looks like about a third of state and federal funds come from fuel taxes- about two thirds of overall spending. And a car free resident would be providing about 22 percent of highway funding. Note this comment from the study cited above:

Quote:
"State and federal tax and fee schedules discriminate between light and heavy vehicles in an effort to collect revenues from different kinds of vehicles proportionate to relative responsibilities for highway costs.
States also impose higher fees on trucks, and a few states charge trucks a tax based on mileage. Large trucks pay higher average fuel tax per mile than light vehicles because they have lower fuel efficiency. The average total user fee per mile paid to all levels of government is six times higher for a combination truck than for an automobile. Combination vehicles, which account for 5 percent of all vehicle miles, pay 19 percent of all user fees in the USDOT estimates."
Accordingly, due to the vanishingly small impact bicycle use has on the public road, we are more than pulling our share of the cost.

For context, collectively we spend about four times what we spend on roads each year for K-12 education. (Estimated to be $500 billion a year.)
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Old 12-24-07, 08:49 AM   #15
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The Romans built good roads and they didn't do it with oil.
Does this mean "good" roads in terms of, say, bicycles with 2" tires? I don't think I've ever seen a picture of roman roads.

I do think that, considering people saw fit to pave their roads in the roman era, it's likely that paved roads will still be desirable if/when personal cars become too expensive to use. Roads that are paved in some way are really the way to go if the roads ever see heavy traffic and wet weather, otherwise ruts and potholes will be a serious problem.

Present day bicycles and the cobblestones that Philadelphia used to pave streets a couple hundred years ago don't go together. (These are cobblestones that have remained in place and in good condition to this day).

But I do think that if road surfaces were as bumpy as the cobblestone ones in Philly we would do fine on bicycles with 10psi, 3 or 4 inch tires. Maybe full suspension would be just as good or better.
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Old 12-24-07, 09:22 AM   #16
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Cobblestone

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Does this mean "good" roads in terms of, say, bicycles with 2" tires? I don't think I've ever seen a picture of roman roads.
Years ago there was a Robineux-Paris leg of the Tour de France that was partially done on roads left over from the roman empire and maintained over the centuries - was always an endurance event for riders and equipment. I think there's still remnants of that ride that is still done as well - and it remains a great endurance event.

The Cobblestone roads in Philadelphia are a smoother variety on the theme in reference to cobblestone. Those few that do remain in europe many of which have lasted 100s of years, are like you state, not really compatable with modern cycling wheels. While they could be bearable with a full suspension mountain bike with fat tires, I'm sure it would still be a problem in the long run. They're not there for looks, but to keep wagon wheels from getting stuck in muddy ruts, not for inch or inch and a quarter racing tires.
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Old 12-24-07, 10:48 AM   #17
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Cobblestones, ouch. I know there's at least one tour guide in Nantucket who hates them, he urges tourists to each pry up a cobblestone and take it home as a souvenir.

I doubt we'll need to build new cobblestone roads. The existing car roads will last much longer if traffic becomes lighter. We might not be able to rebuild collapsed bridges or interstates, but with a little patching here and there the existing roads would remain bikeable for a long, long time.
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Old 12-25-07, 06:04 PM   #18
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Surviving Roman Road. Suspension recommended.

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Old 12-25-07, 07:48 PM   #19
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Surviving Roman Road. Suspension recommended.

I could ride that on my Randonee. No problem!
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Old 12-26-07, 08:00 AM   #20
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Surviving Roman Road. Suspension recommended.

That is actually the road bed, it is missing the top layer...I agree that a suspension or at least fat tires would be appropriate.

ChipSeal pointed out some interesting items in his posts on taxes and amounts paid. I still contend we all pay more than our fair share in hidden costs when it comes to purchasing goods transported by truck. The heavy trucks destroy the roads at a rate much greater than the average automobile. Roads have to be built much heavier (read expensive) to accommodate them. According to an engineer friend of mine who is in the road building business; an 80,000# truck rolling over a particular piece of road at 65mph does as much wear damage as 5,000 card rolling over the same piece of road. One example that comes to mind is the various parkways that are closed to the heavier trucks, Blue Ridge is one that comes to mind, they last much longer and don't require the massive infrastructure to carry automobiles. Bicycles will do even less damage than cars. Also as fuel prices continue to rise people will drive smaller lighter cars again extending the life of the roadways.

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Old 12-26-07, 09:47 AM   #21
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No more oil? Guess the alternate fuels will become popular at that point. Peanut Oil and other deep fat frying oils are making a great BioDiesel and as long as MickyD's and the like are around there's no fear of losing that source of fuel. It's still not in the profit margin for many things to work right now. Still I believe there could be a problem with fosil fuels, as a whole, I'm fairly sure that the industrialized world will remain under the addition of some type of fuel.
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Old 12-26-07, 10:11 AM   #22
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Alternate fuels are available...however they cannot be produced in great enough quantiles to completely replace our current usage of fossil based oils. A lifestyle change is coming...like it or not.

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