A tip of the hat goes to Jason Glasgow who pointed me to this Wall Street Journal article about biking trouble in San Francisco. An activist there contends that bike lanes restrict auto traffic and hence increase congestion which in turn increases pollution from longer trip times and more time idling while stuck in traffic. Hmm...
Compare that to Tom Friedman's recent NY Times op-ed noting that in Copenhagen, Denmark "... you knew it was rush hour because 50 percent of the traffic in every intersection was bicycles." The piece was about Denmark's response to the 1970s oil crisis that has resulted in the country becoming energy independent.
I think I previously mentioned the interesting math (discussed here) that, traffic jams aside, cyclists do not save carbon or other environmental burdens because, being healthier, they live longer and consume more energy in the home, at work and elsewhere in those extra years.
Similarly, look at the argument over whether New Zealand lamb has a lower carbon footprint when eaten in the UK than local UK lamb, or the argument over whether air freighted flowers from Africa to the UK have a lower carbon footprint than flowers shipped by boat from Holland.
All in all, it was never as simple as we had all wanted it to be, and grandstanding on the issue without being prepared to face well-formed scientific questions will help no-one.
On that note I am planning to put my bike on my car and drive for an hour to enjoy a serene, nature-loving, seaside bike ride. How's that for environmental footprint?
Want to make a difference? Then please support my upcoming participation in the 2008 Hazon NY Environmental Bike Ride.