The hare and the tortoise is a story of a car rushing to the next set of red lights with the cyclist catching up. The paradox of modern cities is that a car at peak hour can be the slowest way to get around.
Paul Tranter in Not so fast! How car commuting is taking your time (The Conversation, 14 October 2012) writs of the paradox.
Motorists may think they are saving time with their cars when it takes 20 minutes to drive to work, compared to 30 or 40 minutes on a bicycle. However, motorists might be spending one or two hours per day (or more) earning the money to cover the cost of their cars, while cyclists spend only a few minutes per day earning the money to pay for their bicycles.
The concept of “effective speed” takes into account all the time costs of any mode of transport, not just the time spent travelling.
When the various costs of cars are taken into account, their effective speeds are surprisingly low. Estimates of effective speed show how slow cyclists can travel and still be effectively faster than a car.Not so fast! How car commuting is taking your time, Paul Tranter, The Conversation, 14 October 2012.
The effective speed of a car in Sydney or Melbourne is just 15 km/h. Provided with good infrastructure a cyclist would be quicker.
The higher trip speeds of cars do not save time; instead they encourage longer travel distances as the city spreads out and local shops, schools and services close. In cities dominated by cars people spend more time travelling by motorised transport than in cities where public transport and cycling are the main modes.
As the speed of cars increases, so does the cost. When motorists drive faster to save time, the few seconds they may save will cost much more than that in the time needed to pay for the extra fuel, wear and tear on the car, and stress. Paradoxically, switching from the car to the bicycle will reduce the total time we spend on travel, as well as boosting our health directly through increased physical activity.Not so fast! How car commuting is taking your time, Paul Tranter, The Conversation, 14 October 2012.
It has been long accepted that we cannot build our way out of congestion but still investment in cycling infrastructure is not forthcoming.
If governments understand the concept of effective speed they will also appreciate the futility of trying to save time by trying to increase the average trip speeds of private motor vehicles. Cities that invest most effectively in cycling infrastructure will have more time and money to devote to things other than transport, including health promotion.Not so fast! How car commuting is taking your time, Paul Tranter, The Conversation, 14 October 2012.