Bicycles are the most fuel-efficient common mode of transportation, because in many cases you expend almost no energy going somewhere. (Crank yourself up to 10 mph, put your feet up, and coast for 1/10th of a mile for example.)
Next most efficient are planes and cars, followed by busses. Cars tend to be the worst, but of course, they are getting better quite rapidly over the years, whereas their competition is not improving so much.
There are two important questions that are often left out of discussions about economics of travelling.
1) Why are you travelling at all? Could the trip be avoided? In WWII, for example, people were much more alert to this. There were posters “Is this trip necessary?” But the question is still relevant today. I know people who are very proud of the “ecological footprint”. They spent masses of money to insulate their house, bought a Prius, etc. Except they conveniently forgot to include the international vacations their family takes twice a year. That causes huge ecological damage — more than everything else in their life. And it doesn’t really matter much whether they take the train part way!
2) The other thing that’s often omitted in such considerations is: What is safer? I had a friend whose girl was crippled, riding a bike to school. “But aren’t bikes supposed to be the safest?” she cried to me. Uh, no. Walking or being driven is much safer. And as for my thrifty friends who bought a Prius — well, it replaced a Subaru Forester — which is one of the safest cars for its size that HAS EVER BEEN MADE. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Prius, which is safety rated 4 stars, instead of the Forester’s 5 stars.
Does the Prius have better mileage? You betcha. Would I want to be in an accident in one? No freaking way.
Economy can be “false economy” if you consider that your health is your most valuable asset.
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