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The Popularity of Bicycling is Growing

by Bike Shop Girl

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Every morning I wake up, check email and then quickly go to my Google Reader.  It is loaded up with over 200 feeds and I do my best to jog through them in the morning or over lunch, each day.

One of the common trends for this morning was that many people think that bicycling is becoming more popular.  As I work in a bike shop, you can tell that there is more interest in bikes, even over a year ago.  Numbers are higher and there is hope that either the economy is turning a leaf, or people are learning the benefits of bicycling.

My biggest fear for this year and our economy is the gas pricing going back up.  Yes, temporarily this will benefit the bike industry, but could cripple your regional economy. Long term it would also hurt anything that needs oil to be made or transported (just about everything!)

What are you seeing in your local area? Are more or less people biking, and why do you think that is?

 
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18 Responses to “The Popularity of Bicycling is Growing”

  1. Murali says:

    I don’t think the “fear” of higher gas prices is really needed. Much of the industrialised world has energy prices two to three times higher than what we have. And they have robust, functional economies.

    It won’t “ruin” the economy. Some sectors will whither while other sectors grow. That is the nature of any structural change.

    To the effect that it will affect the American lifestyle, it would be change for the better (including more bicycling).

  2. Allie says:

    Personally, I just started to bike as a mode of transportation – rather than for fun and sport – so I would consider myself an example of biking growing in popularity. I’m working on converting my friends as well, so there should be more soon!

    The main issue I would say is convincing people that biking does not require an overhaul in lifestyle, just a commitment to not being lazy..

  3. Charlie says:

    I think over the past 2 years or so bicycling as a way to get around town (commuting, errands, etc) is going up. This winter I have seen more people than ever bicycling on my morning and afternoon commutes. I think once the weather really warms up, we’re going to start getting bicycle congestion!

  4. Andrew says:

    the unusual thing i notice, is that in my county, city planners have magically appeared all promoting bicycles and new urban planning and design! Greenville, South Carolina is full of these people, but there is one leading planning in Simpsonville, and planning complete design overhauls for Fountain Inn and Mauldin. then, Traveler’s Rest, the residence of our state Rep or Senator, is doing the same planning.

  5. Raise gas prices or a carbon tax says:

    Murali has it right. Higher gas prices should have instituted when we were first warned in the 70s, but we ignored the warnings and kept polluting the atmosphere, killing people (our own and theirs in Iraq) supporting corrupt repressive governments (Saudi Arabia), etc.

    The sooner we start weening ourselves from wasting energy the better. Which country leads in solar panels-Germany.

    Europe gets on just fine with smaller cars and houses.

    Very few people will start using bicycles more because it it good for them or the right thing to do. Higher gas prices and a much better bicycling infrastructure are required. But we can do it if we can overcome the short term interest groups. We’ve been through the cycle before, smaller cars after the 70s gas crisis, but then we bought SUVs and larger houses.

  6. Marc says:

    I never know if I’ve been seeing more bikers – or I just notice them more because I bike. However, there’s at least two more in my immediate neighborhood, several more using the main bike route, and even one of my co-workers (who uses an electric bike).

  7. BluesCat says:

    Yes, Murali has it right, but that whole argument misses one important point: the vast majority of Americans have become members of a fat, lazy population addicted to big cars and drive-thru convenience.

    Enter a Wal-Mart parking lot and you’ll see a legion of chubby patrons circling and circling, looking for that parking space which will put them less than fifty paces from the front door.

    Until we change THAT mindset, the mindset that Murali proposes will remain a distant dream.

  8. ha1ku says:

    I moved closer to work precisely because of the cost of gas. Before $4/gallon, I was cycling just for fun and exercise. Now I’m commuting by bike regularly because I want to be in reasonably good shape in case it goest back to that price level (or higher). I’m sure a lot of people have a more optimistic view of the future, but I just want to feel prepared.

  9. dgard73 says:

    There’s no doubt that the economy has taken a definite down turn. All over the news, blogs such as this. The consensus at street level is that things aren’t bad yet, but could be pretty easily. Fuel here isn’t quite to the $4 mark yet, flirting with $3 though and that has been felt by many. I see more walking. Talk to more people in service industries that are driving less. Also seeing more “alternative vehicles”, though they remain those driven by internal combustion. Local farmers are feeling the pinch, but the guys working the oil patch are still going to work and have more hours than they want. The car, truck, suv is still seen as too convenient to leave at home. Many eyes roll when I suggest that bicycle they bought to ride around the block on as a real alternative to driving. Even if other cuts in the household budget have to be made to crank up the tahoe.

    I remember talking with my dad a couple years back after one of his trips to Norway, he told fuel was going for around $6/L (equiv) and this was in an oil producing country (He worked for a company that supplies fluids for oil drilling). He suggested that the bulk of the difference may have been taxes. Possibly going towards social programs and infrastructure maintenance/improvement. He mentioned the number of people he saw riding and walking and taking advantage of public transport. We own two cars, neither of which I find as enjoyable or as fulfilling as riding my bicycle. I don’t ride really for sport, but I get a huge charge out of hauling in the recycling or wrestling the bike home loaded with groceries. Who needs a car?

    Maybe a change in the economy would spur more local producers to sell locally, directly to the consumer. Farmers markets and the like become something regular here, not a novelty. Maybe less driving the 30 miles to the closest “mega-low-mart” I can’t speak for those in metropolitan areas, but maybe; here in this area. It could bring about some much needed change.

  10. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    Most people are deaf and blind, but the writing is on the wall.

    -Peak oil – the US hit it in 1970

    -Global warming – but people have to get out of their boxes to notice.

    -Never ending wars in the oil regions- but they want to be able to support their addiction cheaply.

    -Obesity – I honestly think door mirrors are a thing of the past.

    -Congestion – parkway – the name finally makes since

    -Price of gas – went up 400% in one decade – see never ending wars

    -Changing weather patterns – ask farms about lack of rain in many places.

    For me it didn’t take seeing to many of these for me to wake up…. Still I get bullied by so many lawless motorists as it seems to be an escape for a moment to know there metal box gives them power….

    In Minneapolis they have lots of non-motor trials, but they are not for transportation as they often have fences block access to streets unless they are main roads that are only for cars. Still you can ride for miles and not access a grocery store on many of them… More proof that the bicycle is a useless toy… So, I have to ride to work and stores on roads where motorist do everything they can to support the government, at least I get a good laugh…

  11. Geo says:

    There’s been a big upturn in bike business with every shop owner I’ve been able to talk to so far this Spring. We’re seeing it, and a lot of others are.

    I don’t think it’s all due to the economy, the slight upswing in it seems to be helping. Bikes seem to be BIG this year though, and it’s fantastic to see!

  12. Jim Nariel says:

    Yes I agree that the hike in prices will not break the economy in the long term and of course should benefit bicycling – good article

  13. Ringer says:

    I recently moved from New Hampshire to Tennessee, and I’ve noticed a BIG drop off in the number of cyclists here. Despite the fact that TN has better weather for cycling year round, it’s a much more car-centric culture than small town NH. There are no shoulders. I’ve been honked at, buzzed, and nearly squeezed off the road more times than I care to remember. (NH drivers are WAY nicer than TN ones!)

    My favorite was right after I moved here: I was on a road that has a middle turning lane and so has plenty of room for cars to get around me. As a car passed me, though, I heard someone yell–in a thick Southern accent–”Get on the sidewalk, dumbass!”

    So, while I hope that bicycling as a mode of transportation continues to catch on, in many parts of the country the biggest obstacles remain these: car-centric attitudes and lack of infrastructure.

    I know that not everywhere in TN or the South is like where I live–cities like Chattanooga are promoting bike commuting. It’s just quite shocking to move from progressive, environmentally-conscious NH to regressive, I-love-my-truck-and-guns TN.

  14. jdc says:

    Here’s something interesting. Our shop is located in Ontario, Canada. We usually get plenty of snow. This year the gods smiled and we had a mild winter (I rode 23c tires this year). We saw no slowdown this winter and are having a banner year thus far. We’re seeing plenty of people who “used to really be into riding” coming in to buy new bikes and get into the post-1995 technology.

    Anyhow…we had heard that the economy was expected to slow down last year. To guard against this, we skipped the multi-thousand dollar bikes and stocked our floor with plenty of entry level commuter-priced bikes. When the dust settled at the end of the year, we were left with a floor full of entry to mid level bikes….and all of our bikes priced from $650 to $1000 (Canadian, don’t forget) were completely sold out. Local department stores remained overstocked all year. The reason for this might be that we saw plenty of people who decided that if they were going to invest in a bicycle for daily use, they were willing to spend more than normal. This also applied to people we sold to who would normally go to Walmart. We are already seeing the same spending trend again this year. There is very little interest in a sub- $500 adult bike thus far.

  15. Jeff Totman says:

    I just started riding about 2 months ago here in Mesa, Arizona. I believe the reason that you are seeing more people interested in biking is that the baby boomers are finding out that running is hard on the knees and biking is a low impact exercise that can be done at all ages. As for the gas prices, I don’t think that this is causing much of an impact. With Dr. Oz on the television with a large following, he is getting across to the people that exercise will help you live longer. He is not the first, but the baby boomers are finally listening.

  16. Andrew says:

    Hello, my name is Andrew, I’m 17 years old, and live in a suburb in Texas. Biking to work or biking in general is unheard of in my suburb. The only biking that occurs is children riding their tricycles on the driveway of their character-less houses. Humongous SUV’s block the streets. Whenever I ask people what is the benefit of suburban style housing, they tell me that children can play freely on the streets and in the neighborhood. Yeah well… how can they play in the street when their are cars blocking the whole area, not the mention there are barely any trees.

    Suburban style development is inhospitable to bike commutes in general.. We need to work on new urbanist style developments in the U.S.

    I’m one year away from going to college, and I hope to move to a more urban city and get involved in the biking and new urbanist movements. New urbanism seems to be getting much new interest in the country.

    Even my friends at school tell me that they would love to live in an urban environment like in the movies they see. I feel so disconnected in the suburbs, everything is characterless, you have to drive to get anyway. Roads are disgusting looking… there are tons of cracks and tar to cover up cracks because there isn’t enough money or effort to fix the roads. There are way too many roads to maintain… which is way suburbanism is illogical

  17. Yes its very true that now a days people likes to ride on bikes more then cars.Bike riding is one of the simplest ways to have fun in a variety of settings.he right seat position help keep your joints healthy, give you better endurance and more comfort when riding.

  18. foo says:

    Um, you’ve heard of peak oil right? Once people start admitting its happening what do you think its effect will be on oil prices? Questions worth considering.

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