Do high gasoline prices really push more people to commute by bike?
Do high gasoline prices really push more people to commute by bike?
Well, let's see. Okay, yes.
I think that gas prices are certainly a factor for many people. However, it is not a factor for others including me. I enjoy a commute to get out in the nice weather. I have no intention of giving up my cars or air conditioning or heating. I can afford gasoline at virtually any possible price that would not collapse the world economic system and intend to keep on pumping gasoline into my Jeep as long as I can find a pump to dispense it.
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Yes, price is just one more excuse to ride my bike to work. My jeep gets about 14mph and that is amazingly it is about that far to work. So I save a gallon of gas each way.
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I wouldn't want to ride more than an hour one way and once you figure in traffic lights that gets you to about a 15 mile commute. Assuming a car that gets only 15 miles per gallon (I get 17 the way I drive) that's two gallons round trip. An extra buck a gallon is $2 a day, two dollars more $4, three dollars more (double) $6 which is in line with a latte.
yes, for some people at least
For people who are already on the edge, just waiting for that one little push, sure; but, for most people no. Most people will cut back in other areas; or, cut back in discretionary driving before they will start to bike commute.
There are always exceptions, I am speaking of the bulk of the people. Like I have mentioned, my father rode his bike to work until he retired in the 80's. However, most people will not ride until they are shown that it is possible and popular.
For showing it is possible, I worked with a guy (in fact, my direct supervisor) who started riding is bike to work. He told us that it was because he was trying to get fit for hunting season. In reality he had lost his license for a DUI. He learned that it was possible to live without a car and even after he got his license back, he continued to bike commute.
(In reality, it was easy for him because we had company cars; so, if he needed to go somewhere that was not easily bike-able he would just ask one of us to drive him. I even towed his boat to a lake, on the clock, one Friday.)
Others want to see that it is popular and safe. The safe I reefer to is not physical safety, I mean job safety. My daughter, who is in college, lost a job last summer because she was riding a bike to work. She was told that they needed people who were serious about working, not using it as an excuse to play around on a bike.
The other is just plain popularity, most people do not want to differ from the norm. We are social animals and conformism is a part of that.
So no, gas prices alone will not push most people to bike commuting. However, they will nudge many who are on the edge and that will help make it seem to be normal behavior and being normal will draw more to the edge. . . ad infinitum.
Some will, depending on distance, weather, and access.
The real loser of high gas prices, however, will be the economy. As the price of gas goes up, people will chose to cut off any unnecessary spending. People have gotten fed up these past few years. It's already started as a matter of fact. And earlier than it normally starts other years. Consumer spending is going to suck this year.
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It seems to us like a logical conclusion but without any actual data to back it up I wouldn't be so sure and frankly I'm too lazy to look for it.
Certainly winter riding numbers around here are probably not affected but come spring it might inspire a few, and I would also expect a slight uptick in public transit ridership. I think that unless the prices changes are massive and rapid people just find ways to shift their budgets and absorb it even if it hurts. That's certainly a hell of a lot easier than riding a bike
As an aside, the guys at my local Scooter store (Scooterville Minneapolis) told me that spikes in gas prices have a direct and immediate affect on their business. The higher gas goes, the more they sell. Those guys are probably gonna have a good spring.
I'd say yes, maybe not by a huge number, but with our local regular gasoline currently at $4.50 a gallon, there's has been an uptick in the number of local commuter cyclists.
A few years ago, before the Great Recession really took hold, when gas was over $4 and looked like it was heading for $5, the number of bike commuters on my local commuter rail line more than doubled, then tapered back down as the recession deepened.
I've been seeing a few new bike commuters lately, but not many -- of course, not many people will start bike commuting in the middle of a wet Seattle winter. Many of those who start in spring or summer will continue through the next winter, but few will take the leap for the first time when it's in the mid-30s, dark, and raining.
Yes. In fact, gas price was a good motivation today. My car tank was empty and was going to fill it up but gas price went up sharply this morning. I used that as an "excuse" to bike to work even though it was a little cold. I can afford the higher price and but not giving "them" money is one reason among others.
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Yes, it does. Back in 2008 when gas prices went above $4, we had a lot of people come into the shop looking for bikes to commute. While a lot of businesses were having trouble, we were having record breaking months. When prices went down, we didn't get nearly as many people coming in looking for a bike and accessories to commute to work or shopping.
For some people, absolutely. Others will never commute by bike no matter how outrageous gas prices get. For example, I know some women who will carpool, buy an electric car, take the bus, move closer to work and basically explore every option under the sun before even considering getting 'all sweaty' on a bike. To their minds bikes are simply not an acceptable option. We have a lot of women like that in the larger cities.
Your suspicions are absoultely correct! For the past decade now, it would appear that bicycle sales increased right along with the spikes in gasoline prices.
Apparently, gas price hikes make a heck of a lot of difference!
Last edited by SlimRider; 02-29-12 at 06:05 AM.
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I was drenched in sweat when I arrived at work, and when I got home. I hope your workplace has showers.
I'm sure high gas prices can spur people in certain areas into commuting by bike. If I lived a couple of miles from work, could just hop on my cruiser, and ride to work at a slow pace in my regular clothes, I'd never own a car. But lots of areas of rural America place people 20 miles or more from their workplaces.
Last edited by Schwinnrider; 02-29-12 at 06:45 AM.
"When I'm on a bike, it's like I'm 14 again, racing off to the arcade with a pocket full of quarters."
I'm sure some people will give it a try. Most will just complain loudly and continue to drive 75/80 mph on the highway in their SUV's and trophy pick-up trucks.
(those who need a pick-up for work are not included in the above commentary)
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For most people, the decision to bike commute has nothing to do with the price of gasoline -- and that includes cyclists. High gas prices might encourage a few people to carpool, take public transit or limit their driving, but very few people would use that as a reason to bike commute. I work in a place that is very environmentally conscious, and even here we have few bike commuters, carpoolers or even transit riders. Most Americans are simply in love with their cars and don't even consider alternatives.
I honestly feel that it won't increase cycling commutes on the big scale. They may take a bicycle for very small things, but that would be a surprise. I believe that if anything, they will not make needless trips and think about routes. Some will even go and trade in their 2-5 year old vehicle, take a hit on the trade in and purchase a more fuel efficient car. Then they will brag about how it gets 15 miles better gas mileage and how they are saving money, yet totally oblivious to the fact that they just gained a 4-5 year loan at $300+ a month (and that it would have been better to just keep the almost paid off vehicle).
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RE: Commuting and fuel prices
I think people THINK they want/need to commute by bicycle due to prices. Then reality of time, effort, sweat, fat a$$e$, etc. come into play. Also, unless you ride a Fred bike like mine (free) there is the expense of buying the bike and accessories. A lot of folks freak out in the LBS when they see the cost of a "simple" "English Racer" 3-spd internal hub commuter marketed bike.
But, LONG TERM, yeah, we'll see some learn from the cost spike and become hard core commuters. The % may not be huge but some will stick with it due to health benefits, costs, and the endorphin rush!!
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in austria we pay around 1,8 USD for 1 liter of diesel. so definately YES.