[TheThinkTank] Social effects of motorized transport - Ivan Illich

Geoffrey B vous.je at gmail.com
Mon Feb 18 14:44:28 PST 2008

PLease, someone should make a report, some one should take Illich's cause. I
adhere to it. I am trying and so can anyone of you.

On Feb 18, 2008 11:09 AM, Bruce Lien <bikedadlien at yahoo.com> wrote:

> 1978.  I wonder what these statistics are today.
> *Rich Points <rich at richpoints.com>* wrote:
>  http://www.cogsci.ed.ac.uk/~ira/illich/facts/social_effects.html<http://www.cogsci.ed.ac.uk/%7Eira/illich/facts/social_effects.html>
>   Social effects of motorized transport
> ------------------------------
> Ivan Illich gives a set of very interesting facts and figures when he
> discusses his concept of convivial transport:
>    - *The United States puts between 25 and 45 per cent of its total
>    energy* (depending upon how one calculates this) *into vehicles*: to
>    make them, run them, and clear a right of way for them when they roll, when
>    they fly, and when they park. For the sole purpose of transporting people,
>    250 million Americans allocate more fuel than is used by 1.3 billion
>    Chinese and Indians for all purposes.
>    - The model American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to
>    his car. He sits in it while it goes and while it stands idling. He parks it
>    and searches for it. He earns the money to put down on it and to meet the
>    monthly installments. He works to pay for gasoline, tolls, insurance, taxes,
>    and tickets. He spends four of his sixteen waking hours on the road or
>    gathering his resources for it. And this figure does not take into account
>    the time consumed by other activities dictated by transport: time spent in
>    hospitals, traffic courts, and garages; time spent watching automobile
>    commercials or attending consumer education meetings to improve the quality
>    of the next buy.
>    - The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: *less
>    than five miles per hour*. In countries deprived of a transportation
>    industry, people manage to do the same, walking wherever they want to go,
>    and they allocate only 3 to 8 per cent of their society's time budget to
>    traffic instead of 28 per cent. What distinguishes the traffic in rich
>    countries from the traffic in poor countries is not more mileage per hour of
>    life-time for the majority, but more hours of compulsory consumption of high
>    doses of energy, packaged and unequally distributed by the transportation
>    industry.
>    - Man, unaided by any tool, gets around quite efficiently. He
>    carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer in ten minutes by expending
>    0.75 calories. Man on his feet is thermodynamically more efficient
>    than any motorized vehicle and most animals. For his weight, he performs
>    more work in locomotion than rats or oxen, less than horses or sturgeon. At
>    this rate of efficiency man settled the world and made its history. At this
>    rate peasant societies spend less than 5 per cent and nomads less than 8 per
>    cent of their respective social time budgets outside the home or the
>    encampment.
>    - Man on a *bicycle *can go three or four times faster than the
>    pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one
>    gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only
>    0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's
>    metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. *Equipped with this
>    tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other
>    animals as well.*
>    - Bicycles are not only thermodynamically efficient, they are also
>    cheap. With his much lower salary, the Chinese acquires his durable bicycle
>    in a fraction of the working hours an American devotes to the purchase of
>    his obsolescent car. The cost of public utilities needed to facilitate
>    bicycle traffic versus the price of an infrastructure tailored to high
>    speeds is proportionately even less than the price differential of the
>    vehicles used in the two systems. In the bicycle system, engineered roads
>    are necessary only at certain points of dense traffic, and people who live
>    far from the surfaced path are not thereby automatically isolated as they
>    would be if they depended on cars or trains. The bicycle has extended man's
>    radius without shunting him onto roads he cannot walk. Where he cannot ride
>    his bike, he can usually push it.
>    - The bicycle also uses little space. Eighteen bikes can be parked
>    in the place of one car, thirty of them can move along in the space devoured
>    by a single automobile. It takes three lanes of a given size to move 40,000
>    people across a bridge in one hour by using automated trains, four to move
>    them on buses, twelve to move them in their cars, and only two lanes for
>    them to pedal across on bicycles. Of all these vehicles, only the bicycle
>    really allows people to go from door to door without walking. The cyclist
>    can reach new destinations of his choice without his tool creating new
>    locations from which he is barred.
>    - Bicycles let people move with greater speed without taking up
>    significant amounts of scarce space, energy, or time. They can spend fewer
>    hours on each mile and still travel more miles in a year. They can get the
>    benefit of technological breakthroughs without putting undue claims on the
>    schedules, energy, or space of others. They become masters of their own
>    movements without blocking those of their fellows. Their new tool creates
>    only those demands which it can also satisfy. Every increase in motorized
>    speed creates new demands on space and time. The use of the bicycle is
>    self-limiting. It allows people to create a new relationship between their
>    life-space and their life-time, between their territory and the pulse of
>    their being, without destroying their inherited balance. The advantages of
>    modern self-powered traffic are obvious, and ignored. That better traffic
>    runs faster is asserted, but never proved. Before they ask people to pay for
>    it, those who propose acceleration should try to display the evidence for
>    their claim.
> [from: Energy and Equity<http://www.cogsci.ed.ac.uk/%7Eira/illich/texts/energy_and_equity/>.
> In Ivan Illich: *Toward a History of Needs*. New York: Pantheon, 1978.]
> --
> Rich Points
> Community Cycles Director
> http://CommunityCycles.org
> Rich at CommunityCycles.org
> 720-565-6019
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"Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia" - H.G. Wells
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