Biking: an old eco-innovation still facing major development barriersBiking can take you everywhere....almost!

While conserving energy has never been as high in the global political and R&D agenda, there are good reasons to believe one the most energy-efficient transport devices was conceived about two centuries ago.

In a 1997 experiment, engineers at The John's Hopkins University showed the bicycle chain drive to utilize between 81 to 98.6% of the energy delivered to the pedals. This utilization was measured in terms of energy (heat) lost by the friction of tires on the road. The wide range of results was affected by 2 factors: higher chain tension and larger sprocket (circular plate with teeth) size.

Biking is considered the most efficient form of human transport - being 3 times as efficient than walking for an equal amount of effort, and 3-4 times as fast. Recent multi-criteria analyses of transportation systems in the Netherlands confirm the superior efficiency of cycling and railway (Bouwman and Moll 2002).

Bike Pooling

This information is vitally important considering the increasing movement of the World's population. In 2000, world citizens moved a total of 23 billion km per day; by 2050 that figure could quadruple to 105 billion (Schafer and Victor 2000).

Biking appears a major, global eco-innovation, enjoying a wide economic, environmental and social acceptance. However, poorly designed transportation infrastructures play against its adoption: many could-be cyclists refrain to use a bike even for short rides, unwilling to chance their life in street or road automobile traffic.

EI welcomes expressions of interest or suggestions for conceiving R&D projects in this area.



Biking East

By transmitting to his bike a record proportion of the energy contained in his muesli - and thanks to a little ride on the Transsiberian - Eco Innovation's webmaster Stéphane Corlosquet managed to reach Mongolia at the end of July 2006. Read more about his biking trip to Asia in Biking East!