TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
April 4, 1999
Biking saves money and environmentBy Lynne Tolman
A simple kindness to the planet for Earth Day would be to leave
your gas-guzzling, air-polluting car at home. Why not pedal instead?
Biking to the Earth Day celebration April 24 in Green Hill Park
in Worcester wouldn't be as fraught with obstacles as, say, biking to work. As a
bike commuter, besides contending with potholes and rush-hour traffic, you must
consider what to wear, whether you can shower at work, how to carry everything
you need, where to lock the bike, and how to ride safely after dark if need be.
Forget picking up the dry cleaning or dropping Junior and his science project
off at school.
A bike can more easily prove its worth on
less-pressured trips, such as Saturday errands or a visit to a park or
playground, suggests state bicycle-pedestrian coordinator Josh Lehman.
The Worcester chapter of MassBike aims to demonstrate the viability
of bike transportation with a "bike vs. car vs. bus" comparison on Earth Day.
Three travelers will start at 1 p.m. from Cleveland Avenue, near Webster Square,
and head for Green Hill Park, one on a bike, one in a car and one on a city bus.
It's not a race. Cyclists and drivers are subject to the same
rules of the road -- no running stop signs or red lights, for example. The idea
is for all three to proceed at a safe, comfortable pace, and to evaluate whether
our cultural predisposition to hop in the car for every trip stands up to
Greg Root, MassBike Worcester president, expects both
car driver and cyclist can make the 4.6-mile trip in about 15-20 minutes. The
bus ride might take longer, but of course the passenger doesn't have to hunt for
a parking place.
- A 10-mile bike trip requires 350 calories of energy. The same trip in an
average American car requires 18,600 calories of energy (about half a gallon
of gasoline); or 9,200 calories per person by bus, according to the Worldwatch
- Bicycling costs approximately 13 cents to 15 cents per mile, according to
a 1994 study by the Conservation Law
Foundation, while driving with no passengers costs 54 cents to 94 cents
per mile, depending on the city and the time of day. About 30 cents of that is
the cost to the car owner alone, including insurance premiums, and the rest is
borne by government (read: taxpayers) and society at large. These costs
include building and maintaining roads and parking places, addressing the
health and environmental effects of air pollution, and paying for accident
consequences not covered by insurance.
- Auto emissions are the No. 1 cause of air pollution. Motor vehicles are
responsible for 55 percent of cancer contaminants, greater than any other
source, according to the League of
Dr. Judson Somerville,
paralyzed from the waist down at age 28 in a bike crash on Mount Wachusett nine
years ago, has received a $545,000 settlement from the makers and sellers of the
Team Fuji bicycle and its rims and tires.
Somerville sued the
bike companies after he hit a stone wall while riding down the paved auto road
from the mountain summit on Aug. 5, 1990.
He believes the front
tire rolled off the rim. It was a tubular tire, or sew-up, as opposed to the
more common clincher. Tubulars, favored by many racers, are one-piece tires,
consisting of an inner tube enclosed in a sewn-together casing that is glued to
the rim. Clinchers use separate inner tubes and are seated on the rim with air
Somerville's lawyer argued that the manufacturers and
retailers did not provide adequate instructions for the sophisticated sew-up
Defendants contributing to the settlement included frame
maker Toshuku, rim maker Mavic, tire manufacturer Hutchinson, and retailers
Performance Inc. and Bicycle Alley of Worcester.
Texas native, had moved to Worcester for a residency in anesthesiology at the
University of Massachusetts medical center. He completed his medical training
after the crash and has a medical practice in Laredo, Texas.
The first federal standard for bike helmets went into effect
last month, covering helmets manufactured after March 10. Look for helmets with
CPSC certification, meaning they meet the requirements of the U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission.
Helmets made before March 10 are
still legal, and much of what is in stores today is the older stock. The new
standard is slightly more demanding than the most prevalent older standard, that
of the American Society for Testing and Metals. For example, CPSC requires
helmets to better cover the rear of the head.
The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute recommends
ASTM-certified helmets as a second choice, noting that such helmets should cost
less than ones with CPSC approval. Snell B-95 or Snell B-94 stickers require
even better performance, the institute says, but many Snell-certified helmets on
the market only meet the older, B-90 standard. Also, Safety Equipment Institute
certification meets the CPSC standard.
The institute also issues this
caveat: "CPSC covers only bicycle helmets. You will still see helmets on the
market that don't meet the CPSC standard and just omit any reference to use for
bicycling. They can be for skating, skateboarding, surfing or tiddlywinks, as
long as they are not labeled 'for bicycling.' They can be sold in bike shops or
in discount stores on the same shelf as the bicycle helmets."
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