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Cars vs Bikes: The space efficiency

A few days ago, I said somewhere on the internet saying cars are the cause for traffic jam and motorbikes are much faster in a city. Today I’m gonna to do one of the most useless things: doing the actual calculation to verify this obvious intuition. Carry on if you’re bored enough like I am right now. It’s a lot of guesstimate, though, since cars as well as bikes come in all shapes and sizes.

I take some numbers from automobile dimension and Power Sports Guide: a car is around 4.4 meters long and 2 meters wide; a motorbike is around 2 meter long and 0.75 meter wide (less than 200 cc, the common type driven in the city). An average car is therefore 8.8 square meters large and a motorbike 1.5.

A car can take around 5 to 8 people, while a motorbike can only takes 2 people (by law—I’m sure some people can carry twice that number). So, the maximum capacity for a car is roughly 0.6 to 0.9 persons/m², and that for a motorbike is 1.3 persons/m².

Hmm… that doesn’t seem like much difference, but a motorbike is twice as space-efficient as a car. Imagine you suddenly have twice as much space for driving.

Well, that’s the ideal scenario, which is not usually the case, though. Most the time, the one doesn’t fill up all the available room on a car. In daily travel, a car carries up to 4 people: parents go to work, children to school, and I’m fairly certain that their workplaces and the schools are often far enough they drive a significant distance with much less passengers. Oftentimes, I only see 1 person/car, but let’s be generous and say there are 2 people on average. That’d be 3 times less space-efficient than an average motorbike with only 1 person (0.24 vs 0.67 persons/m²).

Conclusion: Motorbikes are better for the city. Cars can awesome for occasion when you want to go to a different city or when the weather hates you. But in terms of daily travel, motorbikes rock!

Addendum: a city bus is much more efficient than both of them: having a capacity of around 100 people on a 30m² of area, which is 3.3 persons/m², it is 5 times better than a motorbike. In contrast with cars and motorbikes, buses are often full during rush hours when traffic jam most likely happens. While buses suck more when it’s stuck in a traffic jam due to its size (just like cars), at least you can enjoy a good book on it. Public transport rocks!1


P.S. Sorry for the boring update after a long while not writing. Kinda caught up with life including frustratingly moving around in the city. I’m writing a web client for lotide, named Luna, using the least fitting web framework ever, by the way, and I’m adding matrix implementations to my long lists of cool things I could try to work on if I don’t need money to live. Next post will be about Luna, the lotide client and how I’m using the least fitting library for it.


  1. Except when you wait for it for hours at the stop due to, well, traffic jam, or when you hurt your hands when the bus brakes, because heavy things have big momentum. ↩︎


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