So we see two things happening: (1) Gas prices have gone up (2) bike usage has gone up. Taking these two facts (admittedly the second is only anecdotal, but I feel its true)
While there have been no formal studies of the trend, transportation experts and cycling advocates say the number of suburban bike commuters is growing.
the MSM has found a causal relationship when all we have is a correlation.
I think gas is only one part - and a small part - of the equation. Here are the other 8 reasons
1. Cycling is fashionable
"Somewhere along the line, we made biking a hobby and a sport instead of a way to get around," says Alexandra Dickson, an architect who commutes from Southwest Washington to her downtown office on a blue Breezer Villager that she calls Babe, after Babe the Blue Ox. "I'd like to see it get back to being a way of getting around."
And it is, in a very big way.
the American conception of the bicycle-as-toy and the bicycle-as-sports-equipment is being infiltrated by the European notion of the bicycle-as-transportation and the Asian notion of the bicycle-as-cargo-hauler.
A bicycle is a minimalist sculpture, an object that is also a concept, sparely rendered in a few lines and curves. The old ones have a certain special elegance. Never discount the aesthetic motive when it comes to biking -- even commuter biking.
Emily and Chris Leaman ride fixed-gear bikes. Favored by messengers, now adopted by hipsters
The Gen Y kids are getting into the workplace and more and more of them had bikes at college. They're used to getting around that way and they expect that to continue on the job. They're showing up to work and asking why there aren't showers, where are the bike racks etc...When the representative of Humana was talking about why they invested in bikes for their employees, she said it came up from the young employees. The same group that are pushing for a less formal workplace - the kind of place where you can wear t-shirts, flip flops and shorts. The kind of place where it's OK to show up a little sweaty. Showing up to a meeting looking like you just biked 4 miles is becoming more acceptable - people are even dealing with peer pressure
"It's just subliminal peer pressure," said commuter Bob Bristow. "You know, 'he rode in, but I was a wuss today.'"
Work places are responding and more places are providing showers, parking etc... I heard someone say recently, "you are no longer weird if you show up to a bar-b-q on a bike - you're cool"
2. Fat and Not Happy - Obesity is up and people are beginning to see bike commuting as a way to shed unwanted pounds with out feeling like you're chaining yourself to a treadmill (the very embodiment of drudgery).
Are there any other noticeable benefits for you?"
"Absolutely. I don't mind telling you that I've dropped 10 pounds in 2 months."
3. An Inconvenient Truth - People are making decision to reduce their carbon footprint and improve the environment. Al Gore's movie really got some people to rethink their lives. And regardless of your position on global warming no one rejects the notion that cars and driving create pollution.
we were going to reduce our energy usage and waste.
on CBS Sunday Morning...
"We've seen nearly 150% increase in the last 10 years of trips made by bikes, especially in the central city," Portland's Mayor-elect Sam Adams says "imagine all the smog we're not producing with these bikes trips."
4. The truth is, it's convenient - For short trips, a bike simply can't be beat. Sometimes I've left places on my bike at the same time my wife left in a taxi - and gotten home before her. If a taxi can't beat you, the bus, train or even your own car - which has to be parked - won't.
I'd take my eight-minute morning bike ride over a 20-minute trek.
it takes me two minutes to bike there, 10 minutes to walk there. So I figure I might as well bike because it’s quicker
And biking can free up time elsewhere too
Taking the train left “no time to exercise,” he said. “I just thought I’d combine the workout time and the commuting time.”
5. Cities have invested in biking - Maybe not at the level we'd like, but for the last 5-15 years cities have been hiring bicycle coordinators, making maps, laying out routes, painting bike lanes, building trails, including bikeways on bridges, putting racks on buses etc... And we're still pretty early in this. Many of the projects that were talked about when the DC bike plan was created are going to be coming on line in the next year (Bike Station, Met Branch Trail, Wilson Bridge etc...) and of course SmartBike just kicked off. All of these investment already made are starting to pay off - people who would've never gotten on a bike 10 years ago are finding it to be a safe option.
Cities across the country are making a palpable commitment to bicyclists by installing designated bicycle paths and racks, working to distribute information about bicycle safety, and ramping up traffic regulation.
In the nation's capital, SmartBike DC will soon launch a bicycle-share program similar to ones already operating in Oslo and Barcelona. Subscribers will be able to swipe a membership card at kiosks at 10 racks throughout the downtown to unlock a four-speed, lightweight bike for up to three hours. The program is a joint venture between the District Department of Transportation in Washington and Clear Channel Outdoor. "[The city government] is very excited about it; they're looking to hopefully expand it to other parts of the city," said Jaye Padgett, an administrator with SmartBike.
Cities are trying to be more walkable and more bikeable because its the only way to deal with the congestion and the pollution that the previous direction led us to.
The State Department of Transportation has studied how to create “continuity and contiguity” for cyclists between Long Island and Queens, said Howard J. Mann, a bike and pedestrian transportation analyst at the Metropolitan Transportation Council. “There’s been a refocus on sharing the road, on making bicycle enhancements work,” he said.
Boston has instituted Bike Fridays - a little like having bike to work day several times a year.
The event involves six different bike routes. Interested participants meet at a designated location or join in the group along their path. To make the biking safe and fun, each group rides with police escorts from the Boston Police Department Tactical Bicycle Unit.
There's farther to go though
Boston, like hundreds of communities across the country, has miles of bike paths. Still, when it comes to cycling in the central city, "It's definitely challenging," said David Watson, the executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition. "I wouldn't recommend that an inexperienced cyclist just dive into commuting in Boston traffic."
6. Shorting American Health Costs - Cities have some incentive to get us healthier,
"Imagine all the health improvements." Adams says.
but the health insurance companies have an even bigger one. Like I said, Humana started a bike fleet program for their employees, and they're subsidizing the bike sharing program at the National Conventions. The bike station in Minneapolis is subsidized by a hospital. Kaiser-Permanente has given some money to the Met Branch Trail. Health companies know they've shorted American bad health and so if they invest in our good health, they'll be among the biggest winners.
Biking not only fights obesity and all the problems associated with it, but it improves cardio-vascular health, muscle and skeletal strength and there's evidence it prevents depression and skin cancer too - and probably more that I can't think of. I would not be surprised to see more and more health companies subsidizing biking and putting pressure on the companies who hire them to do the same. "10% of your work force bikes or walks to work? well then, you get a discount". If not just for the individual health benefits than for the public health benefits of cleaner air too.
7. Fun, even after Daddy takes the T-bird away - When I find myself behind the wheel for some reason - and stuck in traffic - all I can think is "Man I wish I were on my bike."
"When you first take off your training wheels, the first excitement of being allowed to ride to school -- that was the first level of freedom. I think that's something you never lose."
"I went from hating my commute to having the commute be what I was looking forward to all day," says Cabic, now 28. "I come into work happy."
So happy that: "I found my commute was not long enough."
While some cite the environment and rising gasoline prices as reasons to bike, most suburban cycling commuters say they do it more to get outdoors, to get moving and to make the daily commute a little more enjoyable.
Car commercials always make driving look like so much fun - tooling down some empty leaf-strewn country road, but driving for me is rarely like that. It's work. Biking can work some times too, but less often and less so.
8.Money - Yes, riding a bike does save you money on gas, but there's also the other money you save. Free parking, cheaper maintenance, no taxes and all the money you can save if you can get rid of a car.
Douglas Kelbaugh, dean of the University of Michigan School of Architecture and Urban Planning,
conservatively estimated that a vehicle costs most households $600 per month, a tally consisting of insurance, maintenance and repair, purchase price, garage upkeep, and of course that scary three letter word currently eating into most Americans' wallets: gas.
Gas is only one part of the puzzle. When winter comes some people will give up biking - as some always do. But they'll be back in the spring regardless of the price of gas. And I wouldn't be surprised if the trails are a little more crowded this January too, quite a few people are saying they're not going back to their car.
"You're going to see more and more biking in places like Toledo," Mr. Kelbaugh said. "I think you'll see people biking more within a 10-mile radius."
As Jill Rosen at the Baltimore Sun learned
"Walking or bicycling will save you money, but it's about the things that are priceless, too,"