We’ve covered some cycling myths previously, but here is another one that comes up whenever gas prices go up.
Myth#6: Cycling saves on gas and lessens our need for foreign oil.
Fact: Cycling means we use more gas as a nation.
Whenever gas prices here in the U.S. go up cyclists start screaming about how they are helping the environment by riding their bikes. Much like the South Park episode about hybrid drivers, the smugness that emanates from these people is difficult to tolerate. But the fact is, it’s a lie. Cycling causes more fuel to be burned by all the other cars on the roads.
A couple of years ago I was headed to work at about 7:30 AM and was headed down HWY 5 here in GA, also known as Canton Road on the stretch I, and thousands of others, take to get to the interstate and head into the city for work. Traffic was terrible and I assumed there must have been a wreck. My normal 5-10 minute morning commute to I-75 took 45 minutes. As I neared the interstate I saw the cause of the traffic. Riding in the middle of the right hand lane (of the 2 lanes heading south) is a cyclist out for a joyride. It was impossible to pass him without switching lanes and everyone had to switch lanes to proceed.
This guy was decked out in spandex and obviously just out for a leisurely ride, so he was saving no gas. He could have just as easily gone for a walk or rode a stationary bike at the gym to accomplish his goal. Of course his true goal was to create havoc during morning rush hour, but he could have achieved his stated goal, which was some bullshit like exercise, by other means with no increase in fuel use. But just for fun, let’s say he would have had to go to the gym to die a stationary bike and would have spent a gallon of gas to do so. Ok, he saved a gallon of gas.
The problem is that every other car on the road used more gas. Let’s use conservative estimates to calculate how much more gas was used. This is a very busy street that, as I said, thousands, use to get to work in the mornings, but let’s just estimate 500 cars were slowed down by this jackass. The stretch of road that most people in Cobb County use to get to I-75 is about 8 miles long. Now since not everyone gets on at the same place let’s say that each of those 500 cars average 4 miles a piece. This is again conservative as the last mile or so is not residential.
Now here is something most people know, but cyclists apparently do not: cars get an optimal gas mileage around 55 MPH, if their speed is less or more, they use more gas to power their vehicle. During my normal morning drive, I could complete my 6 miles in around 8 minutes. That’s 45 MPH. This particular morning, it took me 45 minutes to travel those 6 miles. That’s less than 10 MPH. Your average car gets around 25 MPG when at optimal speed, it gets as little as 15 MPG when traveling at speeds less than 20 MPH, not to mention the stop and go traffic the situations creates.
So what does that come out to 500 cars traveling 4 miles is 2000 miles? It takes over 50 more gallons of gas. Fifty gallons. And again these were conservative numbers, in reality it was over 100 gallons. So by saving one gallon in gas, the cyclist caused the rest of society to use 50 additional gallons. Meaning it took 49 more gallons of gas as a nation to let this moron ride his bike on a 55MPH road during rush hour.
Now obviously this doesn’t apply to every case, but whenever you have someone on a bike, they are saving, if any, gas for one car. They however cause every car they come in contact with to use MORE gas. And it adds up to more than they are saving.
Cycling does not save gas. Anyone who says it does is spreading lies and misinformation to further their agenda.