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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 12-05-13, 09:06 PM   #1
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Peak Cars

Driving is going out of style according to Slate Magazine. Passenger miles driven keep falling.
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Old 12-06-13, 12:13 AM   #2
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Driving is going out of style according to Slate Magazine. Passenger miles driven keep falling.
Driving is not going out of style, as much as I hate to say it. People in China and India are jumping to cars as fast as they possibly can, and there are a lot of them. Meanwhile, here in the West, most of the people who are ever going to abandon cars voluntarily have already done so. As our economy continues to shift to a zero-sum game, more people may actually give up their cars because of math, but in their hearts, for a variety of reasons that have little to do with reason, most humans, east or west, would prefer driving SUVs over riding a bike every single time. It may be that bikes will become more common, but bicycling will never, ever, be as fashionable (i.e. desirable) as driving for the majority of humans.
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Old 12-06-13, 12:45 AM   #3
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Driving is not going out of style, as much as I hate to say it. People in China and India are jumping to cars as fast as they possibly can, and there are a lot of them. Meanwhile, here in the West, most of the people who are ever going to abandon cars voluntarily have already done so. As our economy continues to shift to a zero-sum game, more people may actually give up their cars because of math, but in their hearts, for a variety of reasons that have little to do with reason, most humans, east or west, would prefer driving SUVs over riding a bike every single time. It may be that bikes will become more common, but bicycling will never, ever, be as fashionable (i.e. desirable) as driving for the majority of humans.
I disagree, at least to some extent. The data do show declines in car usage that are not explained by the economy alone. The reasons aren't fully understood, but probably include demographic changes such as an aging population and more people moving to denser urban areas, where cars are less practical. Younger people are also clearly driving less for a number of reasons.

As for India and China, there are clear limits on continuing escalation of car usage. Foremost, the majority of people in both countries cannot afford cars, and it's going to be a long time before they can, especially as economic growth rates are slowing down. Neither country has highway systems that are adequate for universal car usage. India basically has one expressway for more than a billion people. Several major Chinese cities have already exceeded car traffic capacity, and traffic jams can last for several days at a number of important choke points. Also, in the last couple years, China has been shifting investment from highways to very high speed rail, indicating that they have real doubts about the practicality of the automobile in a modern society.

I haven't read it yet, but I ran across these academic articles and round table discussions about future trends in automobile usage:

http://www.internationaltransportfor...nds/index.html
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Old 12-06-13, 01:03 AM   #4
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Driving is not going out of style, as much as I hate to say it. People in China and India are jumping to cars as fast as they possibly can, and there are a lot of them. Meanwhile, here in the West, most of the people who are ever going to abandon cars voluntarily have already done so. As our economy continues to shift to a zero-sum game, more people may actually give up their cars because of math, but in their hearts, for a variety of reasons that have little to do with reason, most humans, east or west, would prefer driving SUVs over riding a bike every single time. It may be that bikes will become more common, but bicycling will never, ever, be as fashionable (i.e. desirable) as driving for the majority of humans.
That sounds rather similar to some historical editorials I recall about how obvious it was that cars would not be generally accepted or be at all useful to the general population. After all, who in their right mind would want a smelly, noisy contraption when there were trolleys, trains, bikes and the occasional carriage to use for transportation.

Things change. Old people are often slow to react, but watch what the under-thirty crowd is doing to see the future. Right now, that future gives every indication of having fewer cars on the road than the present has.

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Old 12-06-13, 12:30 PM   #5
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Younger people are also clearly driving less for a number of reasons.
This baffles me.

Especially when you read that the prominence of social media and smart mobile devices are a factor. For some reason, younger people will choose the latest, greatest smart phone over a 4 wheel vehicle.

At least, a growing segment of the youth population seem headed in this direction.
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Old 12-06-13, 04:11 PM   #6
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I disagree, at least to some extent. The data do show declines in car usage that are not explained by the economy alone.
Here's an article in The Atlantic on which U.S. cities are leading the decline in driving.



Some places like Oklahoma City and Houston little affected these trends. New Orleans seems to be bucking the trend.
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Old 12-06-13, 04:28 PM   #7
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recent report says car sales are on the rebound
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Old 12-06-13, 04:40 PM   #8
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Yes, car sales are always strongest after a recession, due to pent up demand. But car usage remains down--passenger miles driven and number of trips. Evidently, many people still want to own cars but drive them less. Also, bike and transit use both continue to trend upward. So far these trends have been holding even as the economy improves.
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Old 12-06-13, 05:36 PM   #9
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This baffles me[...] For some reason, younger people will choose the latest, greatest smart phone over a 4 wheel vehicle.
I think this is why: a latest, greatest smart phone is a status symbol that costs less than 5% of what even the cheapest new car does (and a car that's visibly a 'status symbol' is many times more expensive still), and on top of that, replacing your phone every year can be justified as a practical investment towards a more capable device while it's much harder to justify replacing an automobile every year (or even more frequently).
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Old 12-07-13, 01:01 AM   #10
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Here's an article in The Atlantic on which U.S. cities are leading the decline in driving.



Some places like Oklahoma City and Houston little affected these trends. New Orleans seems to be bucking the trend.
This is a pretty persuasive graphic; it's clear that car use is trending slightly downward in virtually every large urban area in the US. But car ownership isn't decreasing at all, so I think it's reasonable to conclude that people are using cars less often, but still committed to cars. I'm left to wonder if the decreased car use is due to people having discovered other, better ways to transport themselves, or because they just can't afford to drive as much as they used to.

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Old 12-07-13, 01:14 AM   #11
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This is a pretty persuasive graphic; it's clear that car use is trending slightly downward in virtually every large urban area in the US. But car ownership isn't decreasing at all, so I think it's reasonable to conclude that people are putting in fewer miles, but still committed to cars. I'm left to wonder if the decreased car use is due to people having discovered other, better ways to transport themselves, or because they just can't afford to drive as much as they used to.
A couple other factoids: a) Car use has declined as much or more in cities with higher employment rates and incomes-- compare Detroit and San Antonio, for example). b) Transit, walking, and bike use are up in most of the cities where car use is down.

Putting these figures together, it suggests to me that some well off people in larger cities are still buying cars, but are using them less. IOW, they are becoming what we call carlight.
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Old 12-07-13, 01:16 AM   #12
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This is a pretty persuasive graphic; it's clear that car use is trending slightly downward in virtually every large urban area in the US. But car ownership isn't decreasing at all, so I think it's reasonable to conclude that people are putting in fewer miles, but still committed to cars. I'm left to wonder if the decreased car use is due to people having discovered other, better ways to transport themselves, or because they just can't afford to drive as much as they used to.
It's probably no simple answer. When I took the bus on the way to my last job, there was one fellow who owned a Cadillac but took the bus to work. The Cadillac was much more expensive to operate, but he had it for his leisure time, and when he wanted to show off. On the milk run that was his job, he got to relax and socialize a bit., he didn't have to deal with traffic or parking at his job.

And, this is just my own observation, I haven't seen any studies on what people are driving, but it seems to me at a gut level that folks are driving SUVs less and going for more sedans and micro cars like Aveos etc. Turn over like this could also be boosting sales as well as reducing peoples investment in cars.
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Old 12-07-13, 01:55 AM   #13
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Maybe this is what is happening to the SUVs.

Cargo bikes the new minivan for cycling families
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Old 12-07-13, 07:46 AM   #14
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Maybe this is what is happening to the SUVs.

Cargo bikes the new minivan for cycling families
Fantastic article. Except they keep calling cargo bikes SUVs or minivans. A more fitting analogy would be pickup truck or delivery van.

I don't know what kind of bikes would be analogous to an SUV or minivan.
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Old 12-07-13, 11:10 AM   #15
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I don't know what kind of bikes would be analogous to an SUV or minivan.
Mountain bikes that never leave urban and suburban streets would be the equivalent to SUV's that never go off road. Both are sold with features/styling meant for show rather than go.

Of course the whole idea that cargo bikes will ever be anything but an infinitesimally small slice of the U.S. market is wishful thinking. Outside of Portland, it is unlikely that many people have ever seen one being ridden, and even less people actually seriously thought of buying one.
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Old 12-07-13, 11:32 AM   #16
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This is what I call my SUV.



Though admittedly, I take off the trailer for the sports part.
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Old 12-07-13, 12:17 PM   #17
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For some reason, younger people will choose the latest, greatest smart phone over a 4 wheel vehicle.
Both of these items are a status symbol and a lot of people own both a smartphone and a 4wd.
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Old 12-07-13, 10:00 PM   #18
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****, I wish I could afford both. Or even just one. I don't understand how some people I know do it; I make just as much if not more than they do, and I have fewer vices.

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Old 12-07-13, 10:56 PM   #19
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Mountain bikes that never leave urban and suburban streets would be the equivalent to SUV's that never go off road. Both are sold with features/styling meant for show rather than go.

Of course the whole idea that cargo bikes will ever be anything but an infinitesimally small slice of the U.S. market is wishful thinking. Outside of Portland, it is unlikely that many people have ever seen one being ridden, and even less people actually seriously thought of buying one.
As usual, you need to get out more. I have seen cargo bikes being used over the past three decades in Eugene, OR, San Francisco, CA, Davis, CA, Anchorage AK, Sacramento, CA, Seattle, WA, Bend, OR, and Arcata, CA. These things aren't rocket surgery; I have seen several that are homemade and one business that manufactures and uses them locally.

I'm sure I would have seen them in many other cities if I had gotten out more, but I enjoy living and traveling on the Best Coast too much to spend my time elsewhere.
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Old 12-08-13, 12:14 AM   #20
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As usual, you need to get out more. I have seen cargo bikes being used over the past three decades in Eugene, OR, San Francisco, CA, Davis, CA, Anchorage AK, Sacramento, CA, Seattle, WA, Bend, OR, and Arcata, CA. These things aren't rocket surgery; I have seen several that are homemade and one business that manufactures and uses them locally.
I am sure counting up to ten or so isn't rocket science either so I imagine you could also add up all of those cargo bikes too.
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Old 12-08-13, 06:56 AM   #21
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Mountain bikes that never leave urban and suburban streets would be the equivalent to SUV's that never go off road. Both are sold with features/styling meant for show rather than go.

Of course the whole idea that cargo bikes will ever be anything but an infinitesimally small slice of the U.S. market is wishful thinking. Outside of Portland, it is unlikely that many people have ever seen one being ridden, and even less people actually seriously thought of buying one.
Been seeing quite a few in the Boston area too. Last time I was up there in the Cambridge/Sommerville area I saw 9 distinctly different cargo bikes (baksfiet style). One was a CETMA, 5 looked to be WorkCycles from the NL, one was a definite custom, the others I couldn't tell for sure. I have also seen a couple in the JP area. The ones I saw in JP were both being used to haul children. The ones in Cambridge/S'ville were being used for cargo and children. Very small sample, but I suspect there are quite a few more in use around Boston. Five years ago I don't recall every seeing one.

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Old 12-08-13, 01:02 PM   #22
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I am sure counting up to ten or so isn't rocket science either so I imagine you could also add up all of those cargo bikes too.
I do see a few of the Yuba-style bikes around. One guy on my daily commute is often packing his kid on the back... I guess to take him to school. They aren't very friendly folks and have a few SUVs in the driveway...

What I see more of are recreational bikes repurposed as commuters... commandeered by folks of all ages who obviously don't have any kids.

I think the growth in child-free people on bicycles is a lot more than soccer moms turned to Yubas.

I can only imagine what that means for population growth in the future.
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Old 12-08-13, 04:14 PM   #23
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I am sure counting up to ten or so isn't rocket science either so I imagine you could also add up all of those cargo bikes too.
I could, but I'd have to borrow some digits since I have seen more cargo bikes than I have fingers and toes.
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Old 12-08-13, 07:28 PM   #24
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I've been reading a lot of new studies on car usage lately, and I think the biggest thing is that there is no one big thing. It's a bunch of things that add up to a major shift. Reasons I've seen, and all seem to make sense, but I'm sure most people would argue at least one of them.

The economy (although the downtick in driving started before the economy tanked)
Gas prices
Technology rather than car focused millennials (licensure rates are crazy low)
Retiring baby boomers
Technology is enabling mass transit. You can see where your bus is, look up schedules of multiple systems and nodes with singular apps/tools while on the go.
Technology is also enabling car sharing.
Telecommuting
The ability to order anything you could possibly imagine and have it delivered to your door, while price checking that item against the entire country
Average driving speed in America has been slowing
Genuine concern for the environment
The number of protected bike lanes doubled in 2012 and are supposed to have doubled again in 2013.

Urbanization (or gentrification) caused by:
20 somethings waiting to start families
Since the housing bubble boom, lots of people don't feel comfortable buying homes. They've heard all the horror stories of being upside down on a huge loan, so they're renting.

One of the most interesting theories I saw about why it was impossible to match the rapid gains in vehicle miles seen over the last 50 years is that women entering the job market has been saturated. Since the 60's more and more women have been entering the work force until we reached a point where if a woman wants to work, culturally there's no problem with that. This wouldn't decrease miles driven, but it would slow down the rapid increase in miles driven that we've seen historically.

I don't think the downfall of cars will be cars, I think it will be the roads themselves and paying for them. We've been building so many roads so quickly for so long that the repair bill makes building more roads arguably cost prohibitive. And if more roads aren't built, then there will be a further decrease in travel speed and another decrease in automobile usage. A minor shift or hiccough could seize the vmt->roads->vmt engine. But if we aren't willing to pay the repair bill of 1.5 trillion miles of roads + constant road expansion, we certainly won't want to see the bill for 1.7 or 2 trillion miles of roads + constant road expansion, especially if vmt is unstable.
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Old 12-08-13, 08:16 PM   #25
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As usual, you need to get out more. I have seen cargo bikes being used over the past three decades in Eugene, OR, San Francisco, CA, Davis, CA, Anchorage AK, Sacramento, CA, Seattle, WA, Bend, OR, and Arcata, CA. These things aren't rocket surgery; I have seen several that are homemade and one business that manufactures and uses them locally.

I'm sure I would have seen them in many other cities if I had gotten out more, but I enjoy living and traveling on the Best Coast too much to spend my time elsewhere.
I'm on the fence with this part of the discussion.

In nearby Phila, PA, I have seen a number of cargo bikes being ridden or locked up downtown, but they represent a very small percentage of the bikes seen. (FWIW, Haley Trikes, formerly of Savannah, GA, is HQ'd in Phila nowadays.) It seems that the Wald Giant Delivery Basket is becoming very popular among many Phila cyclists, but I don't think strapping one of those to your handlebars will turn your bike into a Cargo bike. Still, in Phila, I've seen some longtails, and a couple of cycletrucks or similar...

However, here in my native SJ, I have never seen a cargo bike outside of a retail shop***. (REI was selling a Kona Ute a few years back... so, it barely counts.)The only one I see regularly is my own personal LGB, which is (sadly) in pieces in my basement, awaiting powdercoat and a full rebuild. So, yeah, to SJ ppl a cargo bike is a rare/exotic site to behold.

***I might be lying. A local dirtmall, the Berlin Mart, has a fleamarket on weekends, and there's a business that uses Worksman Front Loader trikes to sell ice cream and Italian water ice throughout the flea market. But I've never seen them leave the parking lot.
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