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  1. #1
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Has bicycling's "moment" passed?

    My observations are not at all quantitative, but here they are:

    I've noticed in the last several months that, while there are still quite a lot of bicyclists around town, their numbers have decreased a little. This may have much to do with the fact that fuel is a lot less expensive than it's been in a very long time, but there may be some cultural factors in play as well. There are still a lot of people who bicycle: poor college students, young parents with toddlers, Freds who use commutes as training rides, and odd, cheap, car-free types like myself who ride mostly because they think it's more practical than driving. The group that's been missing lately are the young, 20's-early 30's more fashion-conscious people who, a few years ago, adopted bicycling as part of an urban lifestyle. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of these people have moved on from bicycles to tiny cars or transit. (Maybe they've noticed that it's easier to look good if you haven't been riding up and down steep hills in the rain.) I haven't seen a fixie or a Dutch bike, or even a well-dressed cyclist, in months if not years. Is it just me, or has bicycling gone back to being something that only uncool people do? (Not that I mind...)
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I would expect the number of cyclists to go down "over the last few months" since that corresponds with the traditional slow season for cycling.

    That said, I continue to see other cyclists throughout what has been one of the coldest winters in history in my hometown of Lansing, Michigan. Ten or twelve years ago, I would have been virtually the only cyclist--even in a mild winter.

    BTW, the national average gas price has increased about 25 cents in less than two weeks. Those who bought SUVs or muscle cars during the short period of low gas prices will be kicking themselves.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  3. #3
    Pedalin' Erry Day lasauge's Avatar
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    Roody beat me to pointing out the importance of seasonal fluctuations, but yes, the trendy urban cycling/fixie fad has been over for a while now. The worst part about that fad ending, personally, is that it means the market on Craigslist for used bikes has shrunk.
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  4. #4
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    My observations are not at all quantitative, but here they are:

    I've noticed in the last several months that, while there are still quite a lot of bicyclists around town, their numbers have decreased a little.
    Have you been experiencing winter conditions where you are over the past several months?


    I don't have numbers, but where I am, it seems like cycling has increased over the past few months.

  5. #5
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    The group that's been missing lately are the young, 20's-early 30's more fashion-conscious people who, a few years ago, adopted bicycling as part of an urban lifestyle. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of these people have moved on from bicycles to tiny cars or transit. (Maybe they've noticed that it's easier to look good if you haven't been riding up and down steep hills in the rain.) I haven't seen a fixie or a Dutch bike, or even a well-dressed cyclist, in months if not years. Is it just me, or has bicycling gone back to being something that only uncool people do? (Not that I mind...)
    I believe that the "missing" fashion-conscious group that adapted bicycles as part of an urban lifestyle was miniscule at best at any time and only could be found in a few trendy urban neighborhoods of the largest metropolitan US cities. I believe they existed more as a state of mind projected in trendy media articles than real life in the U.S. Any decrease in their real numbers would result in their invisibility as you have noticed.

    Another possibility is that this bicycle riding fashion-conscious group ended up getting older, married, raising families and finding out their previous urban lifestyle is no longer as practical, useful, desirable or even as hip as previously thought.

  6. #6
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    One word: Winter

  7. #7
    alleged person Pobble.808's Avatar
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    As far as I can tell, the number of cyclists is increasing, slowly but steadily, here in Honolulu. Winter weather is obviously not an issue. SS/Fixies are still out there, maybe not in former numbers but by no means a rarity. Not sure what the identifying marks are for the fashion-conscious segment, but I've never noticed them as a conspicuous presence here. Little or no recent increase in tiny car sightings.

    What has increased perceptibly is folder/minivelo ridership. Almost zero as recently as two years ago, now I seem to see one or more of them just about every day.

    All of these observations are completely anecdotal / random of course.

  8. #8
    Senior Member intransit1217's Avatar
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    Is poetry dead? Rock and roll ? Just sayin'.

  9. #9
    Senior Member duckbill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Have you been experiencing winter conditions where you are over the past several months?

    Toronto ON, Detroit MI, Buffalo NY, Erie PA, and all of Maine are announcing the "Coldest February on Record". This bone chilling cold is keeping a lot of people indoors not venturing outside unless they have to.
    Then there are the poor easterners like in Boston where the snow fall has been really unfair. Climate change is causing extreme weather conditions everywhere and may curtail outdoor activities including cycling.

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    I'm in the Boston area, and my impression is that cycling has still been on a steady increase over the last few years. And actually even during this fairly ridiculous winter, I've seen other cyclists out riding around even on the worst days, where I used to almost never see anyone else. Our various transportation woes this winter actually have me wondering whether more people kept riding in the winter than usual (or even tried it for the first time) because they turned out not to be able to get around any other way at all.
    The young fashion-conscious crowd seems to favor different kinds of bikes now, but they're still out there. And I'm seeing a lot more shops making a point of carrying cargo bikes, kid trailers, even bakfietsen - the things that those now-30-somethings need to ferry their kids around, when they used to be able to get by with a stripped-down fixie.
    I'm also seeing more "grownups" wearing regular "grownup work" clothes (well, right now it's hard to tell because everyone's wearing so many layers). More competition for bike rack space at grocery stores. Bike facilities are being added at a steady rate. Bike paths get plowed in the winter when they didn't used to.
    The moment isn't over where I live.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by intransit1217 View Post
    Is poetry dead? Rock and roll ? Just sayin'.
    yeah, kinda

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coluber42 View Post
    I'm in the Boston area, and my impression is that cycling has still been on a steady increase over the last few years. And actually even during this fairly ridiculous winter, I've seen other cyclists out riding around even on the worst days, where I used to almost never see anyone else.
    The moment isn't over where I live.
    I live in Middlebury, VT (near Burlington) and I agree with this obervation.

  13. #13
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Our winter ridership is a tenth of our summer ridership which is quite an improvement over a decade ago when many of us thought we were the only winter cyclists... we have yet to see the effect of lower fuel prices on our summer ridership rates as this came about in the fall.

    We had a winter cycling event at our co-op last weekend and had an author come and speak of a book he wrote called "Frostbike"... the place was packed to capacity and it would seem we are getting the word out that cycling in winter is not an extreme sport and can be a lot of fun.

    I have never seen more winter cyclists on the roads here... more than fuel costs it is the fact that a bicycle is often still more efficient than a car, even when it is colder and there is snow and ice on the ground.

  14. #14
    Senior Member intransit1217's Avatar
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    Until you crash on the ice and become paralyzed to the point of no longer being able to work. And then the money runs out.

    There. Now cycling is dead.

  15. #15
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by duckbill View Post
    Toronto ON, Detroit MI, Buffalo NY, Erie PA, and all of Maine are announcing the "Coldest February on Record". This bone chilling cold is keeping a lot of people indoors not venturing outside unless they have to.
    Then there are the poor easterners like in Boston where the snow fall has been really unfair. Climate change is causing extreme weather conditions everywhere and may curtail outdoor activities including cycling.
    The OP is in Seattle. Perhaps they have been experiencing their usual rainy winter?

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    I was thinking about that just today. I switched jobs in December and no longer commute via bicycle but I've still noticed a fair amount of cyclists out and about on even Chicago's coldest days. In the last year, in my neighborhood, I've actually seen a shift in cycling demographics. It used to be 20s/early 30s on non-comfort bikes (nothing against those bikes), but I see a lot more younger kids cycling. I'm hoping that they aren't discouraged by this old man when they see me ride by. I think that in cities that support cycling through infrastructure, it'll remain beyond short lived trends. I got into it only 8 years ago simply because it was too time consuming to get around the city on public transit or by car. Everyday that I drive I try to think of ways to get back to riding to work.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by matt tennessen View Post
    I think that in cities that support cycling through infrastructure, it'll remain beyond short lived trends.
    Yes, that's the key! Fads will come and go, but if the infrastructure is good you'll get people who start cycling at an early age and keep up with it. I'm glad to see Chicago has built some segregated bike lanes. That's definitely the way to go. It's certainly working over here (although I don't believe we're in the same league as Amsterdam):

    Pedal faster, Amsterdam: Is Seville now Europe's greatest cycling city? - CNN.com

  18. #18
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    I also see a HUGE increase in number of cyclists on the roads AND the number of cars with bike carriers. These were very rare on Michigan's roads just 2-3 years ago.
    I just wish that fat Michigan government made new bicycle lanes/routes when redoing any new road. It's sad to see brand new roads without any shoulders or bike lanes...Some poor countries have better cycling infrastructure than Michigan.
    Oh, sorry....forgot. I'm talking about Michigan/Detroit...Fat Car Capital aka Motor City I guess I should be happy they let us ride on a sidewalks...THANK YOU!

  19. #19
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Are there a lot of these in Chitown?


    Kinzie-Street-Bike-Lane-1-e1344953051304.jpg

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    the numbers for cycling increase says it is mostly old people 50+. this in the winter, so they won't be out riding.

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    I'm going to agree with the OP, which may mean that the trend down is currently confined to either our heads or to the west coast. However, we've been experiencing measurable, at least by the US Census American Community Survey, downward trends in cycling locally for the past five years.

    Just looking around, the college and high school kids aren't hitting the road on fixies (or any other bikes) any more. We've had car share companies come in and apparently successfully target our young folks to the point that I see more of them in those tiny Cars 2 Go than on bikes. When my twenty-something son has friends over, they invariably arrive by car lately; in years past they all came by foot or bike.

    It's not weather related. Sure, we have sharply reduced ridership when it rains, but this has been the mildest, driest winter in many years and the trend is obvious in the dry season as well.

    I like seeing people ride. I'm concerned that fewer people seem to be doing so for more reasons than the pleasure I get from seeing them, however. The young folks in the current crop have almost all been deprived of independent transportation from day one as mommy and daddy drove them everywhere. If they can't find a way out of it when they reach high school or college, that disturbs me. Sure, it may just be that their vision of the future is markedly different than mine or that of their immediate predecessors, but when I see their projects for their city planning classes they all seem to have accepted that the era of the car is coming to an end.

    Hopefully this is just a slight downward blip that feels worse because it comes after a large rise that was driven by the Great Recession.

  22. #22
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone View Post
    the numbers for cycling increase says it is mostly old people 50+. this in the winter, so they won't be out riding.
    Ha, ha, ha. Good one. I'm 61 and I've already ridden 1,200+ miles since January 1, often with a group of my codger friends.

  23. #23
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    Despite our brutal winter weather, I've been noticing more tire tracks this winter along my commuting routes then any other winter, and that tells me that there has been a very slight increase in bicycle usage during winter. Few years back I've never seen any other tire tracks during winter except my own...I don't think "the bicycling moment" has passed, I think it's just the beginning.

  24. #24
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    I see a huge increase in cyclists here.
    He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts...for support rather than illumination. I do like my beer, so sometimes I do end up leaning on the lamp-post...

  25. #25
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    I'm going to agree with the OP, which may mean that the trend down is currently confined to either our heads or to the west coast. However, we've been experiencing measurable, at least by the US Census American Community Survey, downward trends in cycling locally for the past five years.

    Just looking around, the college and high school kids aren't hitting the road on fixies (or any other bikes) any more. We've had car share companies come in and apparently successfully target our young folks to the point that I see more of them in those tiny Cars 2 Go than on bikes. When my twenty-something son has friends over, they invariably arrive by car lately; in years past they all came by foot or bike.

    It's not weather related. Sure, we have sharply reduced ridership when it rains, but this has been the mildest, driest winter in many years and the trend is obvious in the dry season as well.

    I like seeing people ride. I'm concerned that fewer people seem to be doing so for more reasons than the pleasure I get from seeing them, however. The young folks in the current crop have almost all been deprived of independent transportation from day one as mommy and daddy drove them everywhere. If they can't find a way out of it when they reach high school or college, that disturbs me. Sure, it may just be that their vision of the future is markedly different than mine or that of their immediate predecessors, but when I see their projects for their city planning classes they all seem to have accepted that the era of the car is coming to an end.

    Hopefully this is just a slight downward blip that feels worse because it comes after a large rise that was driven by the Great Recession.
    Just a guess, but I think the Northwest was the main region to see a faddish increase in cycling. Fads die sooner or later. That could explain a decrease in cycling in that one region. I would guess that in the Northwest, there are now more riders than there were 15 years ago, but fewer than there were 5 years ago.

    In other parts of the country and the world, there has been more of a slow trend rather than a quick fad. Around here, SS/FG riders in wool knickers and little caps were never very common. Since we didn't have the rapid fad, we don't have the rapid decrease either.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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