Two years ago, gas was expensive. Now it's "Holy bejezus, I can't believe how freaking expensive gas is!" expensive.
The Department of Transportation said Monday it had seen the sharpest monthly drop in driving since it began keeping records. In March, Americans drove 11 billion fewer miles than in March of 2007.
And that's March. Wait until the April, May, June, etc... numbers come out.
Janaki Purushe, a 22-year-old genetic researcher living in Rockville, Maryland, bikes just about everywhere she goes. "When I had the opportunity to finally plan my own life after I graduated college," Purushe explains, "I took into consideration where I was going to shop, where my friends live, where my boyfriend lives, and I definitely tried to plan the location of my home around where I was going."
Now, although she still has a car, Purushe bikes to work every day. It's a 10-mile round-trip commute, and she carries a change of clothes for when she gets to the office. She says she loves it. "When I'm riding my bike, I really pay attention to what's around me, and the weather's been great. I feel like I'm getting more out of my days."
“A lot of people have given [high gas prices] as their reason for coming in,” said Lisa Frederickson, a saleswoman with Capitol Hill Bikes. “We’ve been hearing this for about a year,” said Frederickson, but have noticed more interest in the last few months.
“It’s become an economic issue for a lot of people,” said Eric Gilliland, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, who said he has been getting a lot of calls and e-mails from those starting to commute by bike. The WABA has had to double the number of safety classes it is offering to new bicycle commuters this year over last year.
Most customers are only going a few miles, but Frederickson has seen more commuters traveling 10-plus miles. Some of the 2008 hybrid bicycle models, which are popular with commuters, have sold out, and the 2009 models are being released, said Frederickson.
Ray Felsecker, a shop mechanic with Wheels Nut Bike Shop in Alexandria, has also noticed increased interest in hybrid bicycles, which can carry bags and backpacks, can accommodate business clothing, move more quickly than a mountain bike, he said. Aside from new bicyclists, Felsecker has also seen more people bring in their old bikes for repairs.
Bicycle shops across the country are reporting strong sales so far this year, and more people are bringing in bikes that have been idled for years
Giant, the Taipei-based maker of international bicycle brands such as Boulder, Yukon and Iguana, is reaping the profits. The company, which produced 5.5 million bikes in 2007, is expected to pull in $1 billion in sales this year, up 10 percent, it says.
Giant's story is typical of the global $61 billion bicycle industry, which is enjoying unprecedented growth as cycling becomes a major recreation sport and lifestyle option in many Western countries.
Bicycle sales have over the past five years increased by 14.6 percent among European Union nations, which buy 70 percent of the world's bikes, according to Bike Europe. In the United States, sales have increased by almost 9 percent in the same time period.
But it's not all good news.
Price hikes in metals -- especially steel, aluminum and chrome which are the main metals used in bikes -- have eaten into profits and pushed up prices as manufacturers seek to maintain margins.
Businesses become Bicycle Benefit Business Members and individuals purchase their Bicycle Benefit helmet stickers. When the individuals adhere their Bicycle Benefit helmet stickers and ride to Bicycle Benefit Business Members locations, they recieve discounts or rewards.
Maybe someone knows a business that would like to be the first in D.C? I'll promote them here for whatever that's worth. (About $100 a year according to the market).
Or just as a protest.
The Brits are biking more too.
Compared to the average annual cost of running a family car in Britain -- currently 6,250 pounds ($12,300), according to the Automobile Association (AA) -- the 1,400 pound ($2,755) cost of the [Danish-made Christiania three-wheeled transporter bike with a cargo box attached] and accessories pales into insignificance.
CTC is predicting that an extra 1.25 million journeys will be made by bike every day because petrol and diesel are now so expensive.
Branham, who heads his department's bike unit, said it began with two officers in 1994 and has grown to 25 full-time officers and 150 part-time riders. The department has about 1,800 officers.
Trek Bicycle Corp., in Waterloo, Wis., sells more than 1,000 police bikes a year, and sales have been going up for three years
"You think the car's the great savior of us all, but in urban areas and dense areas, you're probably better off on a bike," said Chris Menton, an associate professor in the School of Justice Studies at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island who has studied police bike patrols.
But there is still room to grow
More than one-quarter of all car trips in America are shorter than a mile, and half of all workers commute 5 or fewer miles, according to the community group Seacoast Area Bicycle Routes.
Let's all remember what Patrick McHenry told us
"The..answer to our fuel crisis, the crisis at the pump: Ride a bike. 'Save energy, ride a bike.' Some might argue that depending on bicycles to solve our energy crisis is naive, perhaps ridiculous. Some might even say Congress should use this energy legislation to create new energy, bring new nuclear power plants on line, use clean coal technology, energy exploration, but no, no... The miracle on two wheels that we know as a bicycle will end our dependence on foreign oil."
And clearly the American people (and the British) have listened. Wise man.