Introduction: Get Out and Get Biking (or Scootering, Etc.)... an Experiment in Alternative Transportation

Everyone knows that one of the most harmful and un-green of the things that we do to the environment is drive our gas-guzzling cars everywhere we go. We complain about gas prices while we are driving our cars that get 8 miles to the gallon. One of the greatest ways to reduce your impact is to stop using your car! I know, it sounds impossible. It actually is rather easy when you use a different form of transportation.

In this experiment I only test manually powered vehicles. While electric vehicles are great, the majority of electric energy is produced by burning coal. I thought this took away a bit from the green-ness of it. The three vehicles I will be comparing to the car are a caster board (ripstick, wave), a scooter, and of course a bicycle.

Last thing before we get on to the actual experiment. I'd just like to say how great it is that Instructables is doing a "Green" contest. I'm going to make multiple entries (if that's allowed). I got this one done so quickly because I had already been doing it for a school project. Well, enough about that, lets get on to the experiment!

Step 1: The Testing Course

The course that I'm testing these on is the strip of road from the end of my street, to the neighborhood pool. It is almost exactly one mile long and has varying terrain (uphill, downhill, flat ground, turns, etc).

Each vehicle will get one overall time (the time it takes to run the entire course). In additon to the overall time, I'd like to time how long it takes each vehicle to do segments of the course, namely the uphill, downhill and flatground portions.

Step 2: Subjective?

In additon to the hard data I'm going to rank each one in certain categories, such as store-ability, steal-ability, and overall use-ability. This should be similar to the way Consumer Reports ranks their consumables. If you don't think that I did a very good job ranking them you can just go back to the data and make your own decision.

Step 3: Trying to Keep Things Constant

As with all good experiments, there should only be one independant variable. I want that variable to be the vehicle. In order to keep all of the other variables constant, I will be using each vehicle at top speed (not counting the car, which will be going at the speed limit). So that I don't get tired I'll take a ten minute break between each run. Any run that is interupted will be redone later.

Hopefully this will keep the results accurate.

Step 4: Car (Control)

The first test I ran was with the car, so that I could have something to compare the results to. The car is a 2001 Acura MDX. Driving at the speed limit, here are the results:

TOTAL TIME (One mile, Varied Terrain): 185 s

Flat Ground: 8s

Uphill: 5s

Downhill: 3s

NOTE: The distance of the uphill/downhill test is not equal to the flat ground test. These figures are intended for comparison to other vehicles.

Step 5: Caster Board (Ripstick, Wave)

This second test is being done with a caster board. Common caster board brands are Ripstick, Wave, OBoard, and BladeBoard. These are a bit harder to learn but are fun to use. Anyway, here are the results:

TOTAL TIME: 1617 s

Flat Ground: 53s

Uphill: 57s

Downhill: 9s NOTE: I wiped out at the end of this run. Ripsticks do not make sharp turns well.

Step 6: Scooter

Ah, the scooter. I love using these. Most kids have ridden a scooter at one time or another. I'm using my brother's scooter for this test seeing as I do not have one. Here are the results:


Flat Ground: 36s

Uphill: 15s

Downhill: 6s (No painful ending this time!)

Step 7: At LAST! the BIKE!

Finally we are here. The moment you've all been waiting for! The last test before analysis and conclusions! THE BIKE! Everyone has probably ridden a bike as a kid (or even as an adult). I think everyone I know has a bike of some sort, whether it be a family bike, a stunt bike, or (note the jealousy in my voice) a wicked awesome carbon-frame road bike. Here are the results I achieved using a bike:


Flat Ground: 15s

Uphill: 10s

Downhill: 6s

Step 8: Analyze the Results

Now that all the tests have been completed, it is time to analyze the results.

The bike makes the best overall time of the alternative vehicles. It doubles the speed of the scooter, and goes at 4 times the speed of the ripstick. Of course, I've clocked the bike going far more than 4 times the speed but on a full mile run, trying to keep a pace, that is the result I get.

The scooter and the bike tie on the downhill run. The ripstick finishes a few seconds behind. The scooter's downhill speed sticks out compared to the others.

On the uphill run, the bike blows the other two away. The ripstick once again finishes in dead last. The uphill run has similar results to the flat ground run.

Step 9: Conclusion

In conclusion, for most commutes, the bike is your best option. It climbs hills far faster than the others which saves valuable time. The scooter can also take downhills quickly, but is comparable to the ripstick in the uphill climb.

The pro of the bike is that it saves you time on the actual commute. The con is that it probably can't be taken with you into your job and will have to be chained outside.

The pro of the scooter is that it is easy to fold up and take inside with you. The con is how long it takes to ride.

Finally, the ripstick may be fun to ride, but is difficult to learn and is very slow.

The spread sheet with all of the information can be downloaded or looked at here.

With this information you can make your decision on which green vehicle you will be riding. Please consider using one of these in place of your car whenever possible.

FINAL NOTES: In the science community, feedback is always important. It helps to come to a better conclusion by sharing results, ideas, and criticism. So please... feedback! Thanks in advance.


j2daleft made it! (author)2011-02-02

i ride a mountin bike with an 80cc motor - yes it uses gas - but i get 150 mpg at 35 mph and when i ran out of gas then i'll pedal

BtheBike made it! (author)BtheBike2011-03-21

yea, those gas kits are cheap and powerful. Do you or others find that they are loud and smelly ? When people sell them on craigslist /bikes they always get flagged . They get harsh flames from the bike community out here.
For this and many other reasons I got electric bikes . When I talked to my landlord , he says it was good that i went electric instead because gas is not allowed indoors .

I'm still temped though

PKM made it! (author)2008-04-05

Stand back- Gjdj3's going to try science. (science) Well, what do you know. Bikes are a practical/cheap/green method of transport, but a pain to transport if not being ridden. + for objectivity, impartial attitude, attention to detail and trying to persuade people out of their cars and onto bikes. Two wheels good, four wheels bad :)

xana made it! (author)xana2010-04-18

   if you think about it changing the laws to suet the pigs and keep the uneducated farm animals under their hooves, is exactly what the green leaders are doing by telling you where you can live, what you can eat and what you can drive and where.     Tell me one time they have not wanted you to limit your self by there standards?

bylerfamily made it! (author)bylerfamily2009-07-21

You got that off animal farm! "four legs good,2 legs baaaaaaad."

thapropguy made it! (author)thapropguy2009-11-11

"all modes of transportation are equal [in that they get you where youre going], but some are more equal than others"

masterochicken made it! (author)masterochicken2009-07-13

Not if you skate or drive a pedal car.

Musicman41 made it! (author)Musicman412009-07-03

How about the end of that quoted book "animal farm?" "Two wheels good, four wheels BETTER!" just kidding Great instructable!

Gjdj3 made it! (author)Gjdj32008-07-11

Wait a minute... was there an xkcd reference in there too?

PKM made it! (author)PKM2008-07-11

Indeed there was. I think that's the most common webcomic t-shirt I see people wearing in this country. Because it rocks.

Gjdj3 made it! (author)Gjdj32008-07-11

Haha, nice. I just started reading xkcd and vaguely recognized that. Then I remembered your comment.

Wasagi made it! (author)Wasagi2009-04-06

Science- It works B*tches! -xkcd

pineapplenewton made it! (author)pineapplenewton2009-03-29

it is true that a bike is hard to transport wile not being ridden but, a car is much harder

zleebme made it! (author)zleebme2009-03-16

a skateboard has four wheels

Xellers made it! (author)Xellers2008-09-02


teh darkcloud made it! (author)teh darkcloud2008-07-17

"a pain to transport if not being ridden"

Maybe consider a folding bicycle?

I bought that one a few weeks ago.
I had to return it because my mom thinks bicycles are "dangerous". -_-

Also check out, I heard people are pretty happy with those.

Gjdj3 made it! (author)Gjdj32008-04-06

I dig the animal farm reference! And thanks for the feedback. I know that it's a bit simple, but sometimes simple gets the message across well.

killerjackalope made it! (author)2010-02-21

Must say I got a scooter for christmas from my brother, think two guys in smart jackets, on scooters, has has two and half feet of hair, I have giant spikey hair...

Best spectacle transport yet, mainly because flaming skateboards are impractical and will ruin your trousers, shoes, socks and legs. 

bmxsvh052 made it! (author)2009-03-20

umm actually i have a ripstik and i can turn on a dime (literally i tried this morning ) by putting ur back foot on the edge of the board and pushing=]

Mike13815 made it! (author)Mike138152009-10-20

Sharp turns are for experienced riders, only. After owning one for awhile and going through a dozen or so back tires, you learn to pick up the back a bit and kick it instead of flowing into a turn. That prevents you from ruining the tire.

merpius made it! (author)2009-08-31

Your method is flawed; you have a control sample, but then don't compare anything to it. Why even have a "control"? In fact, given your results and testing basis, the car is, by far, the best choice, empirically.

MattPendley made it! (author)MattPendley2009-09-03

While I wouldn't go so far to say it's flawed, I do agree that the control sample is a bit pointless. The only reason you would put the car in as a control if you were talking about total energy used (IE: Joules). You can't really compare human power to motor vehicle power without going into such detail; it skews the data. That aside, it doesn't surprise me that the bike wins from the human powered vehicles considering it's the most efficient means of transportation, including cars.

Gjdj3 made it! (author)Gjdj32009-08-31

I'm sorry, I don't follow you.

CybergothiChe made it! (author)2009-06-21

you really worked at

123456789pos made it! (author)2009-06-12

did you make it up a hill on a ripstick? how did you do that?

Wasagi made it! (author)2009-04-06

Isn't it Objective if you can measure it, and subjective if you can't? I'm confused.... I may just have no idea what I'm saying.

Molant made it! (author)2009-01-08

I will mention that bicycles are the most efficient means of transportation we have - up to 99% of the energy exerted goes into forward motion, nearly all bikes over 90%.

I smell bacon made it! (author)2008-11-19

Go Bikes! In terms of speed, terrain they can cover, energy, pollution and load, bicycles are on of the most efficient vehicles around. I ride everywhere I can. Cycling is great as it is exercise, has minimal impact on the environment, and is a fast way of commuting (compared to walking ripsticking ect.)

freerunnin1 made it! (author)2008-08-21

ive got a ripstick and i started a craze in a camsite called bunree in schotland just outside of fort william, a shop called toy master was sold out cos of the craze lol

cjj1 made it! (author)2008-08-04

teh darkcloud man unlucky my mum likes me to ride my bike everywhere

cornboy3 made it! (author)2008-04-17

course then you actually have to exercise. :)

Gjdj3 made it! (author)Gjdj32008-04-17

Haha, true

argentum86 made it! (author)2008-04-15

Good scientific work... bike rules... mmmm i dont have a car... well i can feel better helping to keep our planet "clean". Its a excellent choice for people who live in big cities, you can cover very fast short distances and its an easy transportation method you can combine with train. At least in here in Buenos Aires there's a special wagon in the train for hanging your bikes, and then you can ride to your work or college from the train station... don't forget helmet, kevlar, life insurance and 5 heavy duty chains to lock your bicycle and hahaha.

pfeng made it! (author)2008-04-10

An additional characteristic you could have tested: ability to transport additional items (such as: a backpack, a few [non-plastic] bags of groceries, or a small child). My bicycle is totally awesome at any of these, although for the child I have an additional accessory (bike trailer). I will guess that the scooter is not as good at groceries or small children, and the ripstick is probably worst for each. I have not actually tested this hypothesis, however, and I'm not sure how ethical an experiment it would be trying to carry a kid while riding a ripstick... :-) Nicely done, overall!

Gjdj3 made it! (author)Gjdj32008-04-11

Thanks. You'd actually be surprised about the ripstick. For a child, it may not be the best but it works pretty well for groceries.

tshadow6 made it! (author)2008-04-10

I may not ride my bike to work, but I motorcycle to work. My m/c gets about 50 mpg vs. my truck's 18 mpg. I do ride my bike to my local library. I also combine my errands. Go Green!!

GorillazMiko made it! (author)2008-04-05


Gjdj3 made it! (author)Gjdj32008-04-05

Haha. I'm seriously thinking of changing my name to that.

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