Among the virtues of bicycle riding — not burning fossil fuel, not adding to car traffic, enjoying the scenery — is, of course, the health benefit. You get a real workout, especially if you’re cycling against the wind or uphill.
So when I came across a chart comparing forms of transportation in the Los Angeles city government’s 2010 Bicycle Plan, I knew it would confirm that bicycling burned a lot of calories.
Sure enough, bicycling 10 miles in an hour burns 484 calories, according to the chart. Walking three miles in an hour burns 353 calories. And driving 30 miles in an hour burns — wait for it — 170 calories!
Of course, bicycling burns almost three times the calories that driving does. But who knew driving burned any calories? Far from convincing me to take up bicycling, this just raises my hope — and the hopes of drivers everywhere — that we are not simply couch potatoes on wheels in our cars.
Would we burn more if we steered harder? Went faster? Went slower? The bicycle plan attributes the 170-calorie count to driving passenger cars or “light-duty trucks.” What if we drove a big honking Escalade or Range Rover?
A check of the website CaloriesperHour.com shows a calorie count a little lower than that. (And this is a website that will give you a calorie count on most anything, including brushing your teeth and praying in church.) It depends on what you weigh. If you weigh 130 pounds, you’re only going to burn 118 calories an hour driving 30 miles in that time. As your weight goes up, so do the number of calories burned.
And, no, the count doesn’t increase if you drive 80 miles an hour. Now, if you switch to driving a bus, you can get your calorie count up to 177 calories an hour.
Los Angeles fitness trainer Steven Kates is skeptical. “If anyone tells you that driving burns x number of calories, run,” Kates advises.
Or you could bicycle.
This post is part of an ongoing conversation to explore how the city’s cyclists, drivers and pedestrians share and compete for road space, and to consider policy choices that keep people safe and traffic flowing. For more: latimes.com/roadshare and #roadshareLA.