Tour de Lab September 1st

Drunk walking, calories, and funding: A few tidbits from TRB Annual Meeting

Posted by on January 24th, 2012 at 2:14 pm

In case you haven’t heard, the Transportation Research Board’s 91st Annual Meeting is being held right now in Washington D.C. It’s a major event in the transportation world that attracts the best and brightest thinkers and policymakers from around the country.

I’ve been following updates from the event via Twitter and two quotes have been shared hundreds of times. Here’s the first one:

On 350 calories, a bicyclist can go 10 miles, a pedestrian 3.5 miles, and a car 100 feet.

That was tweeted by @AurashKhawarzad and I’m not sure who the original source was. I’m also not sure how you convert car movement into calories, but it’s a fun way to look at the numbers.

And then there’s this quote (paraphrased by tweeters) from famed transportation researcher Todd Litman:

“Best urban sustainability measure: “whether or not you are able to walk home from a bar drunk.””

One more quick note about TRB. With the transportation funding debate heating up, a Streetsblog DC reporter attended a session on the topic. Check out what he found out in this story, Is Doing Nothing a Politically Acceptable Way to Pay For Transportation?

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7 Comments
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    Joe January 24, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    A calorie is just a measure of energy:

    A calorie is the unit of energy is takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water, one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

    So its pretty easy to get the value for a gallon of gas. Even more interesting would be a person biking using gas as their energy source:

    “If a person could drink gasoline, then a person could ride about 912 miles on a gallon of gas (about 360 km per liter)”

    http://auto.howstuffworks.com/question527.htm

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      BicycleDave January 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      We did an experiment in high school physics where we burned a peanut under a small beaker of water while measuring the temperature rise. I think we found about 1 calorie in a peanut.

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        Mike January 25, 2012 at 9:39 am

        Of course you did. What you really measured was the inefficiency of using fire to transfer energy from the peanut to the water.

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    Lindsay January 24, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    We did that calculation in one of my undergrad engineering courses. Good times.

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    Scott Cohen January 24, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    We blogged about this a little while ago. We got the info from “The Bicycle: Vehicle for a Small Planet,” a well-known science-based book of facts.

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    Dave January 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Energy per gram water per degree C is a calorie, but be careful when comparing that to food.

    Nutritional calories are actually kilocalories (kcals, 1000 calories) which makes things a little harder when you’re comparing chemical heats of combustion and food. To make things perfectly clear, the 31000 calories/gallon quoted in Joe’s link are kcals, same as we talk about for food. One kcal is the energy it takes to increase the temperature of one kilogram (~ 1 liter at room temperature) of water 1 degree C.

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    Spiffy January 31, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    being able to walk home drunk from the bar is one reason I love living in the city…

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