2015/05 – Escalade

With increasingly frequent and severe weather events in the offing, the PA should upgrade terminals and crossings to a “hybrid” model that supports the growth of resilient, sustainable modes of travel. 

One evening I’m coming home from a hundred mile bike ride, when I pull up to next to an Escalade Hybrid. The driver and I exchange pleasantries and check out each others’ ride before setting off.  Later I compared the specs.

  • The Escalade weighs 6000 pounds, has a pair of 60 kilowatt electric motors plus a 332 horsepower V8 and gets 20-odd miles per gallon.
  • My bike and I weigh 185 pounds.  I can sustain 0.2 horsepower while burning 34 calories per mile—the equivalent of 912 miles to the gallon.

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 7.00.52 PMEscalade Hybrid.  Image NY Times.

Besides the Escalade’s size, what struck me was the owner’s decision to option it with the electric assist—a three-ton hybrid seemed a conflicted choice.

Perhaps he’d waited on gas lines after Superstorm Sandy and wanted a “Plan B”.

Maybe his kids shared homework on global warming and secured a promised that daddy’s next car would “help save the planet”.

The Port Authority should consider the analogy as you prepare to renew your lease on the George Washington Bridge.

Gas-620x400Gas lines in Woodbridge, NJ.  Image AP.

A bicycle is a resilient, sustainable and cost effective means of transport — one that deserves equal consideration with mass transit and the automobile.

In the aftermath of Sandy, which crippled primary means of transport, bike traffic across East River Bridges spiked from 13,000 trips per day to 30,000. Fortunately, the routes had been developed over the preceding decade; the commuters had become accustomed to cycling; and the bridges themselves had capacity to absorb the surge.

Knowing that severe weather will disrupt future travel, and that the GWB is the only the bike-able connection between North Jersey and NYC, shouldn’t the Authority provision for its use as part of a regional “Plan B”?

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 6.28.38 AMWilliamsburg, Manhattan and and Brooklyn Bridges.  Image Streetsblog.

The “hybrid” option would also help Port Authority “save the planet” — or at least help meet its 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals.

An enhanced GWB would add enough cycling capacity to reduce annual gas consumption by 100,000 gallons and greenhouse gas emissions by 900 metric tons.  That’s more than 15% of what NYDOT claims for its Clean Pass program for low emission vehicles (LEV) for the entire 40 miles of the Long Island Expressway.

And considering that it takes takes two trips by a low emissions vehicle to offset a regular vehicle vs.one by bicycle, expand cycling capacity certainly would be far more cost effective than the $2.25-7.75 per trip subsidy that PA currently affords LEVs under Green Pass.

Neile Weissman, 2015


– Estimated annual capacity of Cyclists’ Proposal is 5,000,000 trips per year, or ten times current use of 500K bike trips per year.

– The GWB is 1.1 miles long

– 5,000,000 * 1.1 = 5,500,000 miles per year

– By 2024, when the GWB paths are due to fully re-open, EPA will require cars and light trucks to average 54.5 miles per gallon.

– 5,500,000 miles traveled ÷ 54.5 mpg = 100,917 gallons of gasoline

– Per the EPA, burning a gallon of gasoline = 8,887 grams of CO2 (99% of total GHG emissions from burning gasoline)

– 8,887 grams ÷ 54.5 mpg = 163 grams per mile

– 163 grams * 5.5 million miles = 896 metric tons of CO2 per year

– In 2006, NYS DOT estimated that the Clean Pass Program for low emission vehicles for the entire 40 miles of the Long Island Expressway would result in savings in excess of 500,000 gallons of gasoline and the reduction of 6,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

– Clean Pass Vehicles eligible are those whose estimated US EPA highway rating of least 45 miles per gallon and meet the California Super Ultra Low Emissions Standard (SULEV).

– Effectively, by 2024 when cars will be significantly more fuel efficient, Cyclists’ Proposal would create capacity to offset 20% of the annual fuel savings and 15% of the reductions to GHG emissions accorded to the Clean Pass Program for the entire 40 mile length of the Long Island Expressway.