TOD Local: Paris Edition

TOD:NYC has had a pretty good run over the last two years and while there is still lots going around in NYC with local environmental groups and the city"s Plan 2030, it's always good to look around at sustainable design from around the country and world. Over the next few months, I'd like to highlight best practices in making different areas of the world more sustainable communities. AND WE WANT YOUR HELP!!!

The video above from Paris about their new bike sharing program was sent to me by one of the local bike advocates here in NYC that wanted to highlight something he thought would revolutionize biking in NYC. In just a few weeks, the Paris bike sharing program has tallied over a million bike trips around town. It's hard to imagine even some of the best mass transit programs getting that much use over the first few weeks, especially at such a low cost. A friend who was on vacation in Paris at the time wrote to be that he rode for 7 miles on a tour around town and it felt great.

So I'd like all TOD readers from all over the world to contribute your own examples of environmental best practices from your community. We would like to post these examples on this page, which we are considering renaming TOD:LOCAL. And "Local" is wherever you happen to be. Please send your posts and videos to me in html if possible. Below, please find a wonderful 30 minute video created by the one and only Clarence Eckerson Jr. celebrating the changes that Portland, OR is making to become more sustainable.

Replacing cars with bikes is certainly a great idea. But it is still not the best idea.

Riding bikes -> consumes body energy -> Burns calories -> you eat more -> More food consumption - More fossil fuel spent to produce the food -> Worse off than driving a fuel efficient car.

Remember, biomass from your body is the most expensive form of energy of all. You need to eat less and conserve biomass! I would rather drive a prius than spend my body energy and ride a bike for the same distance.

A better solution, is a electricity driven bike. You get the thrift of a bike, and also preserve your body energy. The electricity can be provided by fuel cell. The fuel cell can be powered by methanol or even ethanol, which can be produced from corns and sugar.

Palladium - Metal of Infinite Energy

Most of NYC is pretty flat and the actual distances are not great so one does not really burn that many calories. The biggest problem I have with biking in the city is that it is just very unpleasant. As I've posted before, the atmosphere in NYC is one of "the cars are in charge." A large % of the cars are cabs and these seem to have gotten even more aggressive with higher fuel prices. The police do not even seem to be watching for infractions against bikes ( I think they think of most bikers as loonies or radicals![god forbid]).So I mean something would really have to change for biking to take off here. Fewer cars (which would entail higher average speeds) as well as infrastructure changes.


The whole car vs. bike or walking debate is really not about transportation itself, but how agriculture is so dependent on fossil fuels in it's current factory farm system. If you eat more local, organic and less meat, you can easily reduce the CO2 inputs into your body mass.

A healthy human body needs physical exercise. Walking and biking are natural healthy ways to get that exercise and achieve mobility needs as well.

And the assumption that we have to travel exactly the same distances is also false. People in walkable/bikeable cities and towns don't have to travel long distances so the amount of calories burned is pretty minimal.

Bikes are even better than walking in terms of efficiency. Walking a mile burns about 100 calories while riding a bike is generally only a third of that.

I'm not against electric bikes, but I just think it would be better to change our diets and get a little better exercise routines that all get on motorized scooters.

Good god. Someone please call the headshrinker...

New Guinea Headshrinker is about right. Maybe Palladin should advocate cannabalism as we wouldn't be wasting excess body fat caused by the fossil fueled food we eat.


Your write:

“Riding bikes -> consumes body energy -> Burns calories -> you eat more -> More food consumption - More fossil fuel spent to produce the food -> Worse off than driving a fuel efficient car.”

It is true that food calories represent a lot of embedded energy, but bicycles are incredibly efficient machines. A bike weighs only a fraction of its rider’s body weight and the efficiency of the chain drive is in the high nineties. Hall, Cleveland and Kaufman in their book ‘Energy and Resource Quality’ estimate the mileage equivalent of bicycles as 1560 miles/gallon of gasoline. I assume they are are just counting the conversion of calories into miles and are not accounting for the energy used to produce the food. Just to take a nice round number let us suppose that 9 calories are expended to bring 1 calorie of food to your table. This extra energy reduces the bike’s mileage to 156 miles/gallon which is still good, plus you have avoided the embedded energy represented by an automobile. If you eat locally grown food your mileage will improve even more.

Re: Palladina

Given today's method of food production, that seems like it could be plausible. However, I still strongly believe that bicycling is better than driving.

Did you consider how much energy was used to build the car, which weighs - and this is a conservative estimate - 100 times more than a bike, so has roughly 100 times the material? How about all the resources needed to maintain a car, vs. what is required to maintain a bicycle, which can go a long way on a relatively tiny amount of lubricant and a small human-powered air pump? How about the vast road system required for cars, where bicycles require considerably much less pavement, and pavement that I imagine would last much longer because it is burdened with relatively light bicycles instead of so many multi-ton vehicles? How many more resources are used to maintain roads for cars vs. paved surfaces for bicycles? How about the ridiculous waste of resources used for drive-thrus alone, with cars cars running at idle just to avoid the enormous hassle of having to actually walk a hundred or two feet?

How about pollution?

And how about your health? It seems to me there is a direct correlation between car culture and obesity. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or even a study to figure that one out. How many resources are used to treat obesity?

Are you looking at the whole picture, or just the energy used during use?

Our current food production system definitely should be made to be less energy-intensive. I plan to help with this next year by starting a garden in my back yard, plus growing some fruit trees. This will partially replace the water-wasting and fertilizer-laden lawn I have now.

Now, keep in mind that I am in favor of population control/reduction by the following method: I think it would be wise to have just one batch of kids (which means usually one) or none.

Cars largely use non-renewable resources. This is true for electrics, hybrids, hydrogen, and even ethanol (considering the energy inputs). Bikes use food - the same thing we've lived on for much longer than the time we've had cars around.

Which is really the better choice?

Palladina writes: "... biomass from your body is the most expensive form of energy of all... A better solution, is a electricity driven bike"

On what planet? Those statements sound like religious belief, not science.

Some simple back-of-envelope calculations show cycling as the energy winner: Let's say you can bike a mile for about 42 (kilo)calories, or about ten kilowatt-seconds, or 2.7 kwH. That's the equivalent of a 28 watt motor propelling you that same distance at ten miles an hour -- not going to happen! You'll need at least a hundred watts (about 1/8th horsepower) to do the job.

But Palladina did say "expensive", not most efficient. A package of spaghetti costs $1.99, and supplies over 10,000 calories, so our one-mile bike ride costs well under a penny. Assuming for a moment that the efficiency is the same, and that a 28 watt motor could do the job, the 2.7kwH of electricity required would cost 17 cents here in British Columbia, with some of the cheapest electricity in the world.

Granted, these are simple calculations. But I'd be surprised if they were off by as much as an order of magnitude, and then human propulsion would still win.

If Palladina has some real numbers with references to back him up, I'd be open to changing my mind...

:::: Jan Steinman, Communication Steward, EcoReality ::::


The math of your back of envelope calculation is incorrect. Let's say your input data is correct. it takes 42 kilocalories to ride a bike for one mile. One calorie is 4.1855 Joules. So that's 175,800 joules, or 175.8 KW*second, that amount is 0.04883 KWH. The electrocity price today at is 7 cents per KWH. The cost if using electricity is 0.342 cents for that one mile drive.

My prius gives me 60 miles per gallon, at $2.75 per gallon today, it costs me 4.6 cents driving the prius one mile.

Actually the above calculation has not taken into the consideration that biomass is extremely inefficient. At 175,800 joules to propel one mile (1609 meters), the force is 109 newton. You don't need 109 newton force to propel a bike, 10 newton is enough. Your biomass is running at 9% efficiency. At 10 newton force, propeling one mile costs 16,090 joules. If the electric motor has an efficiency of 50% (the state of the art is probably 70% or 80%), it costs 32,180 joules in electricity, or 0.00894 KWH, or 0.0626 cents of electricity. That's way cheaper than your $1.99 per pack spaghetti!

Also, no reasonable human being eat raw spaghette. You need to cook it, which add extrat fuel cost to cook. You need to add salt, tomato sauce, which adds extra cost to produce salt and tomato. You need a wife to cook for you, which adds to the cost. Human biomass, is just too damn expensive and inefficient.

Fuel cell is the future. If we are successful in cold fusion and if we find enough palladium, the energy crisis will be solved once for all. That's why I heavily invest in a palladium mining company, SWC.

Palladium - Metal of Infinite Energy

Even if cold fusion works, it doesn't solve the problem of environmental destruction.

Imagine if starting tomorrow, fossil fuels cost $0 and were emissions-free. This is the dream of cold fusion, no?

Most people would drive a lot more, use a lot more electricity, and consume a lot more food, because everything would get a lot cheaper. People would have more children, because it would be cheaper to provide for them.

To supply the greater population and greater consumption per capita, the world would need to accelerate the destruction of rainforest and other environments that stand in the way of consumerism.

Doesn't sound to me like a goal worth wishing for.

I think you guys are overestimating the number of calories used on a bicycle. "34 calories per mile (about 21 calories per km)" for a 175 lb person is what this site estimates:

Howstuffworks also has this chart comparing different activities:

How are you getting 60 MPH with your Prius? Have you had a modification done? I haven't heard of anyone doing that well, even 50 MPG without a modification. We are getting about 45. Are you using the "EV Mode", perhaps?

My prius has never been modified in anyway. I am just using it for daily commute to and from work and for grocery shopping. All I do is slow down a bit to 60 MPG to 65 MPG on highways, and stick to 35 MPG to 40 MPG on local roads. I also use the pulse and glide technique. I do not understand how you are getting as low as 45 MPG? Even if I try to waste gasoline I could not get that low. There is a web called It may help you.

If I want to push the limit, I can get 65 MPG averaged over a whole tank of gasoline.

Palladium - Metal of Infinite Energy

I got an electric assist bike and solar panels to recharge the batteries with. Do I pass the Palladina test? I guess I should quit pedalling tho. Last time I checked, I was in no danger of wasting away to nothing.


I haven`t escaped from reality. i have a daypass.

hey robert,

what kind of electric assist did u buy? How much did it cost, where did u get it? do u like it?

You might want to look at the PedElec forums...


Since you asked, I feel licensed to prattle on. I'll stick to your questions and my personal experience since pedelec will give you all the geek specs.

I bought a tres terra Europa bike from Santa Barbara Electric Bike Company. This is a premium $1500 bike with a lithium ion battery and a Heinzman rare earth motor. I figured it would pay for itself in 3 years in saved gasoline alone but the air force laid me off after one year. You can get a perfectly good lead acid bicycle for $600 but it will have half the range (10 miles instead of 20 miles).

You have to consider your need. I had a twelve mile commute against the wind (which is always gusting off the cold Pacific Ocean. This is great windmill country if the bananas would let us.) With a huge hill at the end getting over the Santa Ynez river. I did it with my steel commuting bicycle once just to see in an hour and a half and I wound up walking it up the hill. I can get home without any juice in the battery because it is downhill with the wind. But I charged it up at work on the airforce's (literally) dime anyways.

Electric bikes don't have the range to go touring with the bike club. And for under 5 miles you might as well pedal. I believe their niche is 5 to 15 mile commutes. It is one thing to pedal 10 miles for fun. Another thing to pedal 10 miles every day without fail, put in an engineer's day, pedal home, and then do it again the next day.

Love the bike. Realize its limitations.

Lithium phosphate technology looks interesting to me. My next battery will be that chemistry if reality comes close to the hype. If you think we are running out of phosporous now....


I haven`t escaped from reality. i have a daypass.

Riding bikes -> consumes body energy -> Burns calories -> you eat more -> More food consumption - More fossil fuel spent to produce the food -> Worse off than driving a fuel efficient car.

Have you seen the numbers?

The average American eats 4000 calories/day.
Lance Armstrong used 5200 calories/day riding on average 100 miles/day in Tour de France.
A normal person need 1500 - 2500 calories.

You would not need more food, you would only get healthy.

If an average person needs no more than 2500 calories and Lance Armstrong needed 5200 calories for his 100 miles a day ride. That means he is consuming more than 2700 calories a day. Also I would assume he burns off some body fat during such intense competition, instead of gaining weight. So I would probably say he consumes 3500 calories per day for the 100 mile a day ride. That's about inline with the 35 calories per mile figure.

Palladium - Metal of Infinite Energy

If I use the 35 calories/mile number I come to this conclution.

Americans already eat enough to bike 40-70 miles/day, and the spaghetti gets eaten anyway.

Thick skull. Thick skull. Knock, knock. Anyone in there?

As every commenter has said, average Americans eat that many calories ANYWAYS, independent on whether they get on a bike and ride. Your argument is moot. Do not discuss it anymore.

Amen to that. I recently started using my bike for transportation as much as I can, and haven't noticed that I've been eating more at all. I have lost weight, but I had weight to lose anyway. I'm quite certain the average American could get on a (human-powered!) bike, keep his current diet - you know, Egg McMuffins, Big Macs, and extremely large amounts of french fries - not eat more, and still be more heathly for it.

I would rather drink the ethanol and pedal the bike. RUI is a hoot!

I just get in the F 150 and drive down to WalMart and get a case of Bud--
Bikes are for pinko-Lefty Bre eaters--
I'm getting as fat as I can, because Fat and Stupid are a bad of honor in the USA today.

Good allegory.

The right-wing nut-jobs are getting off on creating new ways of raising fear. Take a look at this "top-tier" conservablog to see where their mindset is right now:
Bicyclists gone wild

The chicken-hawks are now scared of a bunch of bicycle riders. OMG, when will it stop?

Well, I use it almost every day and it's great. This should be replicated everywhere.

And the interesting thing is that you see more people with their own bikes in the street since this started - the plan has clearly encouraged people to switch back to bikes.

In the US people would just steal them and sell them on Ebay or Craigslist. We'd have to put LOjack on the bikes.


In the US people would just steal them and sell them on Ebay or Craigslist. We'd have to put LOjack on the bikes.

You could make the same argument about rental cars, yet that system works and as far as I know those cars do not have gps...

We need to hire somebody to make a credit card imprint when you borrow a bicycle and somebody at the other end to check you returned it. And get a supercomputer and a data entry person to match up the data. Some things are possible when you charge thirty bucks a day and are not possible for a volunteer organization.


I haven`t escaped from reality. I have a daypass.

On a related tack...

Commuters offered unclaimed bikes

Use of cycles will be offered free of charge in Inverness
Bikes handed into the police and have remained unclaimed are to be offered to commuters so they can cycle the last leg of their journey to work.

I wondered about that too (see more cyclists on the streets). I couldn't decide that I was seeing more because there were more, or I saw more because I began to look for them.

In any event, I never fail to be delighted when I look at a long avenue and see a steady stream of white-LED bicycles moving along.

I just hope the vandalism is kept under control: I've seen punctures, no chains, rear wheel jammed, handle bars in freewheel mode and saddle adjustment lever snapped off at the base. Not to mention people putting their own padlocks on the bikes to reserve for their own personal use.

One thing I like is the meme of pointing the saddle backwards to indicate that the bike is defective.

The very first bike I took out had a punctured tyre, and when I put it back at one of the stations someone wanted to take it. So I told them it was broken and as an afterthought flipped the seat around to signal to other people after I had left. I make no claims as to having invented this... the gesture was probably invented independently all over the city during the first week. Still, it's an effective way of signalling that something is wrong with the bike.

I've just come back from Paris.

I was told the bicyles were primarily for Paris residents and not tourists; you have to register and so forth.

They, rightfully so, want to cut down on fuel consumption and not encourage joy riding.

Velib bicycle system likely to spread to other European cities but USA may be left behind

On a recent trip to Paris, my collegues there said they use the bikes quite a lot and they are really useful late at night when you are trying to get home. The great thing about it they said was that the system is 24hr x 7 x 365.

The need for credit cards doesn't present a problem either because their usage is so common in France. Whenever you go in Paris, you can see the bike points. Paris has already got a great and very comprehensive metro and rail system and these bikes complement nicely.

I can definitely see this concept spreading rapidly to other cities in France and elsewhere in Europe, because they will be easily accepted as numerous places already have a relatively bike friendly culture. For example the Netherlands and Germany are both great countries for bicyle lanes and paths and already have significant infrasture adapoted for bikes.

I can't see this catching on in the USA except perhaps in one or two places like New York and Boston and Portland and Seattle on the West coast. Elsewhere I would think the American attitude, culture and existing infrasture is not really capable of being able to take this system onboard.

It is quite clear to me from what I have seen is that the Velib bicycles in Paris may represent a key turning point and could hopefully have a revolutionary change in progressing towards a more sustainable system. I would be pretty confident that this scheme will spur many similiar types of innovations and help push sustainability to be a mainstream idea and cause knock on effects in other areas.

For example at the present time a relatively large number of towns and cities in France are installing brand new tram systems and they are viable because the population density is relatively high in these places, and do not quite suffer the same spread urban sprawl of other cities like Dublin (Ireland) for example which has had a big car lobby and tends to look West rather than East.

The key idea here though is that for a city with a large population, ideally from a sustainability point of view, it should be compact. And since any city, and the more people there are, the more comprehensive and efficient must be the transport system. A system based on cars is simply too ineffient and actually demands too much space (as well as energy). In the case of Paris and other European cities, with really good metro systems and buses, this criteria is more or less in place. The addition of the Velib bicycle system adds further flexibility and options into the transport and at little or no resource cost and is highly efficent.

As Peak Oil begins to show up the true cost of cheap energy, it is clear that Europe is far more prepared both structurally and culturally than the USA. The Velib system has come at a good time or probably just in time, because it demonstrates a clear signpost for the way ahead and can be quickly implemented by those places which are already partway down the sustainability path.

Free Public Transport in the City of Hasselt, Belgium since 1997

Since 1997, public transport in the city of Hasselt (pop: 70,000) in Belgium has been free. It came about when the city was considering building yet another ring road and instead sanity prevailed and they came up with the idea of making public transport free.

A common criticism often made in many cities about such a suggestion is that the buses would be crowded, but in Hasselt, they had thought of that and in the few months before making the sytem free, they increased the service frequency and increased the fleet thus radically improving the service and making it attractive.

Fore more information see the excellent article:
No Hassle Transit? Try Hasselt

...but insanity prevails in Ireland ....
...meanwhile in Dublin, where the relatively new M50 ring round is regularly completely blocked and the city bus service is one of the least subdised in Europe and whose service suffers from the chronic traffic, the government is now proposing to build a second ring road around Dublin which would in fact simply make the country even more car and oil dependent and further accelerate the insane urban sprawl that is taking place there. The Irish government should look to the city of Hasselt and do the same for Dublin. But this is extremely unlikely to happen because they are firmly and dogmatically politcally opposed to any such non free market solutions. Instead they have over the past 5 years been trying to undermine the existing Dublin City Bus by trying to break it up and privatise it in parts.

I live nearby, and the free buses in Hasselt have made a few nearby cities to increase their bus services too, in order not to look backwards. They're not completely free, but still cheap, and more importantly, hourly.

I love bikes and there will be many niches where they make great sense. There are others that will not work:
- mom traveling with 2 small children and luggage.
- elderly people.
- business travelers.
- cargo.

Please review Solar powered transportation networks are very practical.
It costs less to move less

Mom with two small kids and luggage can buy a trailer from BoB or their competitors. The Lompoc bike club are all retired people and they kick my ass. I suggest a rephrase as sick people like somebody who needed open heart surgery.

Business travel to another city is by plane (possibly personal plane) and bulk cargo is by rail. I agree with that.


I haven`t escaped from reality. I have a daypass.