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Why Drag Two Tons of Car With You Wherever You Go?

10:33 AM EDT on May 24, 2010

4630617904_1913d7b2fb.jpgMoving a kid and a tub of compost, with an electric assist. (Photo: Mark Stosberg via Flickr)

How much energy does it take to move two tons?

Streetsblog Network member Mark Stosberg, who blogs at Bikes as Transportation, had the occasion to think about it recently when he embarked on a renovation project that involved retiling a floor.

Stosberg doesn't own a car, and he usually uses cargo bikes (including the electric Yuba Mundo pictured at right) to transport heavy loads around his hometown of Richmond, Indiana. But faced with nearly 4,000 pounds of tile and mortar, he decided the best vehicle for the job was a car.

Handling the stuff quickly led to another revelation:

I helped load and unload much of the 50-pound bags of mortar, and two car-trailer loads of tile. By the end, I felt well-acquainted with the full impact of 4,000 pounds. I could feel in my bones the amount of energy it took to move that material.

And for a least a moment, I appreciated cars for this. They were far better for carrying two tons of materials than a bike would be.

And that’s when it hit me like a ton of ceramic tile. The average American car weighs two tons.

All this energy… all this effort required to move 4,000 pounds… all that energy is purchased and consumed every time a car is driven for any purpose. This near-miracle is being accomplished to visit the corner store and fetch a single bag. So often, cars carry little more than a single passenger a short distance.…

Is our energy crisis a crisis of supply or a crisis of inefficient demand? Any way I can slice and dice it, using a 4,000-pound vehicle to transport a person and a small amount of cargo for less than five miles is a highly inefficient way to accomplish the task.

More from around the network: Spacing Toronto makes the case for complete streets. Urban Out has a guest post from planner Sarah Wilson on the best way to shrink a city. And Building Cincinnati has the scoop on new requirements for bike parking in car parking facilities.

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