Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Are motorbikes better than cars? (Jan08)

My sons were more impressed with these bikes than I was!

Are motorbikes better than cars? I’ve recently had email correspondence with someone who is convinced they are. Clearly a biking enthusiast he says that: small motorcycles use far less petrol than cars, don’t stand in traffic jams using up fuel getting nowhere and don’t waste fuel on heating. He points out that using a motorbike avoids carting around a ton or so of empty car, clogging the streets and causing congestion. And they have another benefit – using less parking space.

I have to admit that I’m not totally convinced by his arguments. I went on a motorbike across France in the summer and was horrified by what I learnt from fellow bikers. One biker had travelled from Wales to West Germany for a weekend on a bike that did around 20mpg. Now that’s not environmentally friendly. And he wasn’t the only one – I hadn’t appreciated until this trip that the big, super-powered bikes are far from super-efficient.

On my return, a friend came to dinner on an old motorbike – an antique. That was much better – it did about 70 mpg. And my email correspondent says that ‘the ubiquitous Honda 50′ does 125 mpg’.

My view of the issue is this. Enthusiastic bikers generally like powerful bikes that aren’t very fuel efficient. But if we could get large numbers of people out of their cars and onto small whizzy bikes – particularly in urban areas – that would be great. Less emissions, less congestion and less land taken up for transport.

So a cautious thumbs up for motorbikes – but not testosterone powered gas guzzling monsters.

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