Active transport is physical activity undertaken as a means of getting about one's daily business.
Most of us live in cities and are wedded to our cars or tedium of public transport. Material prosperity has brought declining public health in countries like Australia, the United States and Canada. We can change this and incorporate Active Transport into our daily routine and live healthier and happier lives, if we want to.
There is an important place in the transport mix for motor-assisted Active Transport. This fact appears lost on a wide number Active Transport advocates including bicycle, health, road safety, environment and sustainable transport specialists. Here is a summary of issues dealing with motor-assisted Active Transport:
- Health benefits: Motor-assisted Active Transport can be an effective way of building physical activity into personal daily routines
- A Hybrid Pedal-Power Cycle is Active Transport: A vehicle which can be both a conventional pedal cycle and power-assisted pedal cycle is an Active Transport vehicle. The Ped-Power Bike is such a vehicle.
- Lightweight is right weight: Only lightweight human powered vehicles (HPVs) are serious Active Transport contenders.
- Active Transport safety: Active Transport thinking need not exclude motorized personal vehicles. While powered two wheelers (such as scooters and motorcycles) carry more risk for the riders compared with bicycles, research shows that there is safety in numbers and the more pedals there are on the road, the safer it is for cyclists.
What is Active Transport?
"Active transport is emerging internationally as an effective method of moderating the growth of car use." NSW(Aust) Roads and Traffic Authority.
"Active transport is defined as physical activity undertaken as a means of transport and not purely as a form of recreation. Active transport generally refers to walking and cycling for travel to and/or from a destination ...." Read more on Victoria(Aust) Go For Your Life website
"Many people find that choosing active transport is an effective way of building physical activity into their daily routines. Active transport also benefits the Tasmanian community and the environment by reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions". Read more on Get Moving Tasmania(Aust) website.
If your daily walking or cycling journey to work exceeds 45 minutes, it is unlikely to be sustainable. Try it. 45 minutes each way plus a change of clothes takes out 2 hours per day. Can you afford the time? Can you get to work hot and sweaty every working day?
There are other modes of Active Transport. Fred Flintstone had the right idea and the HumanCarģ Inc looks pretty Active to me.
Here in Tassie, students at Rosny College have come up with a pretty nifty hybrid; a 2-seater pedal/petrol hybrid that recorded 160 kilometres to the litre in the recent Hybrid Powered People-Mover class in the HPV Challenge at Maryborough (Victoria, Australia) in November 2008.
By the way, there is another definition for Active Transport, but we'll leave that for others to mull over.
HybriPed Bike is healthy Active Transport
As an Active Transport vehicle, a HybriPed bike is hard to beat.
HybriPed is the complete personal transport solution. If you donít need the engine, DONíT USE THE ENGINE. You can cover 15 kilometres along the bicycle track with no engine at all. Beyond 15 and up to 30 kilometres you can travel under hybrid pedal/engine power at up to 50 or 60 kilometres per hour (but NOT ON THE BIKE TRACK). The Ped-Power Bike prototype has now covered 9,000 kms (of which 3,000 kms have been engine-assisted) in two years as an everyday commuter and utility vehicle.
First and foremost, the Ped-Power Bike is a conventional pedal cycle, both enjoyable and easy to ride anywhere. It is light enough to ride all day if you have the time.
Secondly, it has a lightweight engine to about 1.5 kW, suitable for occasional use when you need extra power.
For example, there are instances and occasions when you need a 1000 watts to get where you need to go. The picture illustrates a 200/800 watt split between pedal and engine. If you are young and healthy you might even be able to manage 500/500 split for a few minutes. Everybody is different and we should not to judge the needs of others by our own capabilities.
Lightweight is right weight
The very light weight of the Ped-Power bike optimises its use as an Active Transport pedal cycle and slashes consumption of fuel and carbon emissions.
The key technical challenge for Active Transport is to develop power-assistance that is as light as possible, while the vehicle remains manageable and useful in a wide range of applications. Battery weight and battery cost bedevil electric vehicles, otherwise electric-assistance technology makes good sense and suits many people where low power assistance is all that is needed.
The HybriPed concept minimises vehicle weight in 3 ways:
- pedal start facility eliminates pesky rope-pull starter and engine starting
- gearbox is not required. Pedal is always used to get the vehicle moving and to provide a boost where needed.
- heavy engine flywheel is not required. There is no need to idle the engine to keep it idling when the bike is stationary.
A further benefit of the HybriPed concept is that is suits bicycles with centrally mounted engines. This means that the bicycle has good balance with optimal handling qualities for the rider.
Safety and Active Transport
Unfortunately, accidents happen. There are three main issues that confront us when we think of putting motors on vehicles:
- Active Transport vehicles provide minimal protection for their operator/riders
- Inexperience or low rider competency can be a fatal mix when combined with power-assistance.
- Motorcars dominate road networks and place Active Transport users at a distinct disadvantage and significantly elevated personal risk.
Australians have a poor cultural attitude to vulnerable road users. Many appear to have the view that bicycles and very light vehicles are a nuisance and should not be on the road in the first place. In time that attitude must change but in the meantime road network managers need to look closely at identifying parts of the road network as suitable for Active Transport and regulating the traffic environment so that vulnerable road users get a fair go on the road.