Monday, February 01, 2010

The ecology of riding.

There's a number of reasons why I encourage people to use a motorcycle for transportation as much as possible. One really big one is that the quality of the experience is much higher than in a car. Another big one is the smaller footprint we leave. There are other vehicles, such as hybrids and electric cars that are attempting to do the same thing.

I can't help but think that in many ways motorcycles are still more successful in the effort to use less resources.

Linn Benton Community College has been working on some energy saving improvements. One of the projects has been the addition of some charging stations for electric vehicles.

There are three of these things available. At this point the charging stations are functional and ready to use. Demand has been almost non-existent. I'm presuming it's because there aren't really many hybrids or electric cars being driven to the campus. Part of it might be that there's also a bunch of construction containers and equipment stored right next to the charging stations.

At the moment a driver can use the charging stations free of charge. A card is issued from the college which activates the unit. I haven't seen one, but I think the cards must be more of a circuit board covered in protective hard plastic. The cards are supposed to have cellular phone type communication abilities. When the car is fully charged the card receives a signal that notifies the driver.

The system is a great start. For cars that run totally on electricity, these kind of charging stations are going to have to be plentiful and convenient.

I applaud the efforts folks make to ease the strain on our planet. I still think motorcycles are an excellent way to do the same. Perhaps even better in some ways.

So this is kind of a thought provoking photo. A motorcycle parked next to the charging stations.

I don't know all the ins and outs about this global warming stuff, for example. Some studies claim that our pollution is causing harm to the weather patterns. Others claim the opposite. Or, at least, that the warming trends are part of a cycle that happens naturally over many years. Like I say, I'm not sure what to believe. I do know some things, for sure, however.

Whatever resources are on this planet are there in finite quantities. Whatever waste is produced from driving, manufacturing, and so on has an effect on the earth. And most of that effect isn't very good for the environment. So whatever we can do to mitigate the consumption and excretion process has to be a good thing.

It kills me when hybrid drivers look down on me for riding a motorcycle. I don't know about you, but it happens a lot to me. It's probably a combination of the smugness inherent in some people and the negative stereotypes of motorcyclists that people still harbor. Is it the motorcycle or the fact that I'm not drving a hybrid or electric car? Do they think I'm pouring pollution into the atmosphere? I don't get it but sometimes their superior attitude gets a bid old.

In the long run, it doesn't really matter to me. What they think of me doesn't change who I am. When I go to bed at night I'm still me. I must be a bit hacked off, though, if I'm prompted to write this after a recent encounter. I'll leave out the details. One of those times when if we lived in the Old West I could have just taken some smart mouth's head off. Instead, I have to swallow my bile and hope the bastard realizes how lucky he is to be able to walk away unscathed.

Some people just can't be reasoned with and hurting them isn't worth going to jail for. In a rare circumstance, I remained silent and retreated.

Coincidentally, I was reading about some remarks made by Pat Egan, vice president of customer and community affairs for Pacific Power. This is the power utility that serves our area. Pacific Power, in turn, is part of Mountain States Power. It's a large utility.

Pat stated at a Chamber of Commerce lunch that Pacific Power still generates 58% of its electricity by means of coal fired plants. The rest comes from natural gas, with a small percentage being generated by wind turbines. We do have a few dams in the area and I don't know how much electricity they produce. Whatever amount that is figures into the 42% balance.

Electric power in cars doesn't create emissions, but the production of much of the electricity does. When a hybrid car is cruising down the freeway it's using internal combustion the same as my bike. I'm probably getting better mileage which means Elvira's fuel injected engine is probably running cleaner. Since the the vast majority of my riding is at speeds where a hybrid is using the engine, would I really be doing much good if I drove one? Better fuel mileage has to translate to fewer emissions, at least in my book.

My bike takes a lot less resources to produce in the first place. All that metal, upholstery, glass, and so on requires manufacturing waste to be produced. There's just flat out less material used for a motorcycle.

There may be some advantage when the car is running on battery power at slow speeds. I don't know. The batteries have a relatively short life. Do you want to talk about cumulative hazardous waste disposal at the end of an electric car's life compared to a motorcycle when it dies?

All in all, I feel pretty good about the ecology of riding. The post may not make much sense but it's my rant. I feel better, now. Go ride and feel good about it! Speaking of which, I've got to go. I have a meeting an hour North of here. It will mean riding in the drizzle but I'm going to celebrate every mile. I'm going to give a cheerful wave to every Prius driver I see today. Just to mess with them.

Miles and smiles,



Chuck Pefley said...

Interesting you mention a particular model near the end of your rant. -:)

I almost categorically avoid following one of this model in particular. In probably 97% of the times I do get stuck behind one I'm frustrated by the conservative (read that slow and sluggish) nature of the driver.

Perhaps slow conserves resources? I don't know.

Glad you feel better, though. LOL!!!

Orin said...

You know, I have never ever seen a driver of a Prius smile. This was something I noticed when the 1.0 version came out, and whenever I see a Prius on the street I look.

Of course, when Pablo lent me his, I made a point of having a shit-eating grin on my face whenever I drove it.

But Toyota's marketing people point out that while they offer a large selection of hybrid vehicles, the Prius is the only one that's in short supply. That's because a Prius comes only as a hybrid, where the others (Camry, Highlander, etc) only have a little "Hybrid Synergy Drive" badge on the sides and the rear. Toyota goes on to say Prius owners want to send a message with their vehicles.

That message: "I'm greener than YOU ARE, Nyaa-nyaa-nyaaaa-na-na!"

The electric Nissan Leaf prototype that's been on display around the country has a big graphic on the side that says "Zero Emission." The Nissan people told me large numbers of people want that graphic on the production car...

Scootin' Old Skool

Dave said...

Superior attitudes are often formed on inferior information
You cant ‘confuse them with the facts they have there minds made up. : )

I just smile an shake my head and try to keep from laughing my back side off.
If I cant and if need be I can go to my back up plan . Well your honor how is it my fault that He started a fight with a former military hand to hand combat instructor ? : )

Old F

Young Dai said...

In UK the riders taking our Advanced Test are now marked in an additional 'Eco Riding' category.

When the groups asked the Staff Examiner what Eco Riding actually meant and if it required a change in what was being taught, this was the reply :

"Addressing your point I personally don't see a problem with 'firm', as opposed to harsh, acceleration in an intermediate gear up to the speed limit and then possibly block change to a higher gear once you have achieved it and then, depending on the circumstances, maintaining that speed.

Neither do I see a problem with either reducing speed in a responsive gear (if one is already engaged) to achieve a reduction for a speed limit, or, if you are in a high gear without much engine braking, using the brakes to slow the vehicle / machine for a speed limit or similar. It all depends on the circumstances.

Reducing speed from 60 to 30 in top gear on an ST1100 for instance would take forever. Likewise rushing up to the speed limit and then braking at the last minute would equally be wrong IMO.

If you do all the things we would normally expect, that is use 'Acceleration Sense' where it is applicable to save the need for braking by extending vision and planning earlier, without it having an adverse effect on your overall progress, then I'd say you are fufilling both the 'progession' expectation and the 'eco-driving' expectation. Any situation where you have to accelerate hard and then quickly have to brake again would surely be not only eco non-friendly, but would also likely suggest poor observation and planning.

The inclusion of an 'eco-driving' heading on the test form should not affect what we've always looked for from riders and drivers, as far as we are concerned 'Advanced' riding or driving IS eco friendly riding / driving."

In other words the category is totally ortoise, should your riding cause you to "fail to meet the expected standard" on test in this box, you already would have failed on pre existing test on the more credible issue of safe controlled riding ability .

The category does not add one jot to the safety of the rider or other road users. But it does make a great sound bite

Perhaps you could use global warming as a campaign issue to allow m/c's to filter /lane-spilt. After all it most more more efficient for the planet to keep moving than to stay stationary in the queue surrounded by Prius.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad (Dan):

I drive a 1995 GMC Suburban, which is the greenest vehicle around. Not only is it great transportation, but since I work at home, I put less than 7,000 miles on it last year. And it will double as my residence, when Leslie gets around to throwing me out.

Prius drivers don't even look at me. Especially when I pull in behind them and cruise around three inches off their bumper.

Orin makes a great point that Prius drivers never smile. I understand that many of them are so green, that they never take a dump either. They eat "just enough." That kind of concentration precludes smiling.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

bluekat said...

Yeah, what is it with the Prius bunch? Other hybrids can't do eco-snobbery like the Prius bunch can. ( I know a few cyclist though...nevermind). I favor Jack's approach. We have a 77 Chevy pickup (Old Blue). If she rusts any more we'll have to call her Old Red. Old Blue is great for clearing the road...Hey you, you in the prius...I want your lane NOW. Who's gonna mess with a 30+ years old rusty blue tank?

When you see a Prius don't forget to wave with all fingers! :)

all the best,

Arizona Harley Dude said...

I prefer to call that car by a different name. It starts with the same letter and is part on the male anatomy because the people who drive them are a bunch of the slang term for that p part that begins with d and is what we sometimes call a Richard.

Anonymous said...

Saw the charge point and thought that somebody had created a plug-in for the warm the engine block heater for my car.
Such plug in points complete with a length of cord are common sights where the winter night temperature drops below the freezing point.
Keeps the engine oil warm whih assists starting the vehicle when needed. Remenmber to unplug when leaving.

Anonymous said...

Saw the charge point and thought that somebody had created a plug-in for the warm the engine block heater for my car.
Such plug in points complete with a length of cord are common sights where the winter night temperature drops below the freezing point.
Keeps the engine oil warm whih assists starting the vehicle when needed. Remenmber to unplug when leaving

Conchscooter said...

The issues you brought up which are where I agree with you need to be explored more (electric vehicles,the role and obstructionism of utilities, consumption of materials in construction etc.) while the attitudes about conservation need to be left at the curb.
We need more conservation, we need green amnufacturing and we need less dependence on Peak Oil. However if you drive 7,000 miles a year in a 12 mpg Suburban or 50,000 miles a year on a 43 mpg Bonneville who is making the smaller footprint?
The issues are complicated and need to be discussed. There's way too much defensiveness on the right (how precisely is it unAmerican to promote conservation of resources?) and way too much holier than thou crap on the left (everyone needs to do everything all at once).
But as usual we don't have a national debate, just a shouting match. Where's my 43mpg Bonneville?

Orin said...

We had all kinds of conservation when gas was $4.00/gal. We'd have even more at $6.00. During the '04 presidential campaign a $2.00/gal tax on gasoline (which was selling for about $2.00/gal) was proposed, and shot down in flames because, as we know, taxes are evil, EVIL!!! So when gas hit $4.00/gal, the money went to foreign nations that sponsor terrorist activity and unaccountable corporations instead of to the Federal treasury, where it could've paid for alternative energy research, high-speed intercity railways, or just reduced the national debt.

One of the car magazines' editors many years ago proposed raising the federal tax on gasoline 10 cents a month for three years. The gradual phase-in would allow people to pay off car loans, complete leases or otherwise make a gentle transition to more fuel-efficient vehicles. It would still make gas cheaper than anywhere else in the industrialized world, and a tax credit for the poor who have no alternatives to driving would be quite easy, one should think. But this made too much sense...

Scootin' Old Skool

Karina at Tiny Choices said...

I love my hybrid, and I love my motorcycle! however even I felt a little funny for buying a new vehicle when I have a perfectly good Insight to drive around in. Happily I was able to justify it - I wrote all about it in this post.

Anyway, I'm not allowed to be smug about my hybrid car because although I get 2x the mpg that the average american driver does, I drive 2x as many miles so in terms of hydrocarbons released it's a wash!

(and driving in NJ frequently has taught me the palliative effects of a big grin at a driver who ticks you off. it's amazing.)

cpa3485 said...

There is a lot of what you said that I agree with. What would really be cool would be if that charging station had a little solar panel attached to it to provide its own electricity. Probably expensive for now, but computers used to be real expensive too.
We as humans are very inefficient in how we use energy. So many improvements could be made.
I know the little engine on my scooter is about 7% the size of the engine in my car (175 cc vs 2.5 liter). It is carbeurated and not as efficient as the engine in my car, but gets about 3 times the gas mileage.
Whether global warming exists or not, we use the resources on our planet very badly.

irondad said...

I really appreciate everyone's comments. My plan is to show that appreciation and to honor you by offering indivdual replies. Please bear with me a day or two. Life is rushing at the moment and I want to do all the comments justice.

Take care,


Dean W said...

My FJR's older, so I'm greener, neener neener! :P

Contrary to others, I've frequently seen Priuses (Priui?) flying down the interstate, at speeds high enough aerodynamic drag is a serious factor in economy. Maybe they think that because they drive a hybrid they can drive it faster?

But I've also made one even unhappier by pointing it'll be a long time before their 5000 pound eco-mobile will be as green as my seven year old motorcycle, by the time they factor in pollution and environmental damage done in their car's name to build it.

Somewhere I saw a guy who built a road-going streamliner from a 125cc scooter, aiming for 240mpg. Hm... Need to keep my eyes on Craigslist for a cheap Piaggio MP3. (Even the 1255cc hybrid would be OK!)

irondad said...


I always wonder if the way they drive is due to the limits of the car or the effort to conserve fuel. As to the model, I do want to be clear that it is the attitude, not the actual car I have an issue with.


I'm sure some Prius owners do actually smile. Karina, who comments below, must smile in her Prius. Of course, she's a rider, too!

Interesting point about the badging. I'd read the same thing. You have to feel that some Prius drivers actually care about the environment. While others seem to want to show off how "green" they are. More show than go.


I've always wondered if it would be considered too provocative in court if I simply invited the other person to throw the first punch?

Take care,


irondad said...

Young Dai,

I think, as your comment shows, that being smooth is not only more efficient, but safer. Interesting that there is a higher level of testing. People here don't take driving skills seriously enough.


Total emissions have to be factored in, for sure. Just be sure you're doing your part to reduce ALL noxious gases, ok?


Interesting. You seem to have a mean streak buried under that artistic surface. I'm beginning to like you more all the time!

Take care,


irondad said...

Arizona Harley Dude,

Really? Interesting, as it has been said by some that the particular part in question is the best part of a man!


That would be convenient. I've used an extension cord when I had the old diesel pickup.


Reasonable discussion would be an excellent option. How about a world where everyone has an awareness of the need to conserve, does what their circumstances allow, and pools their resources? Funny how easily divided the human race is.

Take care,


irondad said...


Thank you so much for gracing my blog! I took a look at the post you cited. It is a very balanced view of motorcycling versus driving, in my opinion.

Please see my comment to Chuck that my issue is with the attitude, not the vehicle.

I'm going to spend some time looking around your site. There is much of interest to explore.


Like you say, we are inefficient. We all just need to care enough do what we can to help. Balance is the key. Some vehicles won't work for certain purposes. The internal combustion debate is just one of many aspects.

I guess the trick would be to take financial profit out of the picture. Good luck on that, eh?

Take care,


irondad said...

Dean W,

How do you figure your older bike is more green than my sleek, modern, fuel injected beauty? :)

I've seen the speeding Prius, as well. Always wonder how they get them wound up so tight.

Can you imagine a streamliner like that cruising down the freeway?

Take care,


Karina at Tiny Choices said...

irondad - thanks so much for the kind comment. I hope you find more you like at TinyChoices! I have been enjoying your blog since I first learned to ride in April of last year, and I have to say, with great motorcycling blog content out there I feel more of a need to resurrect my personal blog so I can contribute to the conversation.

and for both you and Chuck: driving slower IS to save fuel. It turns out that when you've got an instantaneous fuel consumption meter sliding around on your dashboard, you really do find out at which speed your engine is tuned for best efficiency - and it's almost a game for some people to peg your engine at a constant efficiency rather than a constant speed.

For example in my Insight I average about 5 mpg greater efficiency if I drive at 55 mph than if I drive at 65 mph, and driving at 75 mph knocks me down a solid 15 mpg over 55 or 60 mph.

(and if you can wade through all the mphs vs mpgs I just used, you are a superstar.)

Anonymous said...

I always wanted to get one of these to put on my RT.
Prius and Smartcars seem to always drive slow in the fast lane.