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Grasschopper 10-18-04 06:09 AM

Will America turn to the bicycle?
Well I don't really know if this is the right forum but here we go. Anyone think that America will start to turn to the bicycle now that our gas prices seem to be heading toward what europeans are paying?

Personally I just got back into cycling in the last 2 months. So far I have 550+ miles on my new roadie and I commute to work any day that the weather lets me, but now I am thinking of expanding that definition with the continued rise in gas prices. Luckly I am not vain and I drive a 4 cyl VW Golf rather than some gas sucking SUV or similar. Just got gas this morning on my way to work (36* was deemed too cold) and at $1.99 per gal I paid $25 for a full tank and got 35 MPG for that tank. Problem is that my wife drives a Nissan Maxima and she considers 26 MPG to be good, also we need something comfortable to take on trips so the Maxima seems ok but I would still like better fuel efficency. What sort of mid sized sedans or maybe SUVs are out there with >28 MPG highway numbers?

I guess I am going in 2 directions with this post: 1) will America find the bicycle? and 2) what larger cars get decent gas milage?

boyze 10-18-04 06:13 AM

I think your need to ask the 2nd question answered the 1st question ;)

Grasschopper 10-18-04 06:26 AM

Originally Posted by boyze
I think your need to ask the 2nd question answered the 1st question ;)

I think I get what you are saying but not sure. What I mean is we will need some car for trips and such. My family lives 2, 2, 4 and 13 hours from here depending on who I am visiting and my wife's family lives 4 and 13 hours depending on who we visit so these aren't going to be ridden. I would like to have something that is more comfortable than my Golf but gets better gas milage than the Maxima...but with similar comfort. As for local travel I will be biking whenever reasonably possible and I have planted the seed for my wife to commute on her bikewhich will be a HUGE step.

H23 10-18-04 06:38 AM

Its okay we'll just go to war, again, and next time the cause will be the "economic terrorism" of inflated oil prices ;)

ctyler 10-18-04 06:42 AM

I doubt that America will ever turn to the bicycle even if conditions for cycling are perfect. We've been fed the car culture from the time we were old enough to drive. You get a bike as a kid and as soon as you can drive, there goes the bike. Kids are into motor sports at early ages, from two wheels to ATVs. Solutions to traffic have always been to build more and more highways. People move further and further away from their jobs for afforadable housing. And it just keeps getting worse every year. And we're forced into needing mid-east oil. We had a chance back in 1973 during the OPEC oil embargo to do something about our dependence on mid-east oil, about our dependence on any oil, but did nothing. What does that tell you about the auto/oil lobby in this country?

Bikes are seen as toys in this country. At two years old you get a bike with training wheels. And a toy it remains for the majority of Americans. Use a bike to get to work? Run errands? Go to the grocery store? With a toy?

How many people drive to a fitness center to work out for exercise?

Bikes will never be used until we get rid of the car culture in this country.

HereNT 10-18-04 06:43 AM

Reasonably possible? You can bike in any weather. Trust me, I've done 30 below before wind chill. Bike everywhere, and you'll be happy. It was 37-38 deg when I rode home today, and it was fine. You can't do it very well in the 'bike specific' clothing, but you can put on layers and be fine. Check out the winter cycling forum here for more insight.

As far as what car to get, I have no idea - I don't even have a license. I would think a hybred might be a good choice, though...

boyze 10-18-04 06:51 AM

The car has become a huge part of our culture. Most everything has become suburbanized. There's very little core with respect to location. Families spread out. Homes are miles from the work place. Shopping is miles from the home. Transportation has been so cheap that it's been easy to improve life style by spreading out. Even today's gas prices are considerably lower in equivalent $ than the embargo days of late '70's and early 80's. There's virtually no public angst over the current prices and probably won't be until they double again. Heard much about the oil prices in the presidential mud slinging - nope :(

Until a huge shift in transportation costs take place I don't see any cultural changes away from the car. Even if gas prices soar, which they won't because political pressure will become unbearable for those in power, the auto and related businesses will find ways to keep us in cars. BTW the transportation and related business is huge - look at the fortune 500 companies and how many are based on transportation in one way or another :eek: Then look at the companies like Walmart with their huge suburban stores that count on folks to drive to their place to shop.

Bottom line: most folks have to drive whether they want to or not :mad:

H23 10-18-04 07:08 AM

I predict that the gas price beyond which people will take action is something approximately 4 times the current price (about US $8/gal). Such a price would mean that even hybrid-car driving folks will have to pay more for gas that the worst SUV offenders do today.

What does gas cost in Europe, anyway?

MsMittens 10-18-04 07:08 AM

Given a comment in another thread by someone wanting to buy a scooter for her daughter ("It's a mile to her school" or something to that effect) I doubt that American will wholeheartedly return to simpler methods of transportation. It's too convenient to drive to where ever someone wants to go and you can do it with relative privacy. You don't have to worry about the "freak" next to you (as my colleagues call people on Toronto's public transit system), you can sit for your ride and not be mashed (public transit being overused, underfunded often), don't have to worry about someone potentially hitting you (bicyclist not being seen or paid attention to) and you can drive right up to the door rather than having to walk 50-100+feet (when taking transit -- looking for safe lock up place when cycling).

*meh* excuses...

Grasschopper 10-18-04 07:19 AM

Originally Posted by H23
What does gas cost in Europe, anyway?

$4-$6 per gal I believe. I am going to have to make a major life change before gas prices get anywhere near $8 per gal. Just couldn't afford it.

Actually I am set up perfectly to not have to drive. I live 3.5 miles from my work and 6 miles from my wife's. It is 1 mile to my son's daycare and we have already picked him up on the trailer bike and in the jogger stroller rather than the car. it is 600 yds to the video store and supermarket and 1.2 miles to our town's shopping mall. This close to everything yet some how we are still "out of town".

So it can work for us here in central PA (well if we get snow like last year maybe not) but I see people in the major cities suffering.

JBehrmann 10-18-04 07:31 AM

If they do, I am going to invest heavily in extra wide tractor saddles.

jazzy_cyclist 10-18-04 07:44 AM

Interesting thought. Way in the back of my mind, it almost seems as though the exhaustion of fuel (or severe chronic shortages) are inevitable. Right now, my commute is 35 miles each way. Riding 70 miles/day (especially in winter) sounds pretty ambitious, but boy, would I be in great shape! It would be interesting indeed to see what adaptations would happen in that scenario.

Realistically, I suspect that prices will rise and stay high. If I recall correctly, oil has the highest elasticity (demand will continue to keep pace with supply relative to other commodities).


hubs 10-18-04 07:48 AM

Originally Posted by ctyler
How many people drive to a fitness center to work out for exercise?

This is starting to be one of my pet peeves. Just this morning I was out and saw a car in front of a house all racked up to carry sporting equipment ... looked like Kayak/skis on the roof and something on the back end too ... I was thinking "nice, active family" and then the lawn service pulls up to do the lawn with five gas-guzzling, loud untuned engined equipment. It just doesn't add up.

For lots of people exercise represents another consumer activity ... not one peice of a balanced, conservationist (of natural resources nor even conserving of their own personal resources) approach. I'm not sure that bike riders overall are necessarily more resource conscious. There is a huge market out their for buying the latest, greatest bike technology ... in both the road and mt. bike markets ... the latest bike every very few years, upgrades, clothes, expensive and indulgent tours/thrills, etc. People driving one place to get a good ride.

On the other hand, here in Chicago bike use is definately on the rise. Each of the last few years has seen more bikes on the road (and sidewalk to be perfectly honest) -- in various commuting incarnations. A lot of people with backpacks or racks & bags in sort of regular clothes, more bikes at stores (outside). It is nice to see. I think some other American cities must be seeing a rise in bicycle use. However a lot of this country is more rural and I can't imagine the bike taking hold for their needs.

In answer to grasschopper's other question ... I think the new Ford Escape hybrid is touting 30+ mpg hwy and mid 20s city ... which for the vehicle size in today's market are good numbers. Oh, how I wish, people had to show some reasonable usage need for the size vehicle they drive. I see so many people driving huge things outfitted for off-road use and not a bit of real dirt or gravel dust on them! And I do drive a minivan (but, I shlep kids frequently in it) and my husband a small Saturn.

I saw in an election coverage article that a Gallup poll showed the environment tied with energy for 15th place as an important issue. The article only indicated that terrorism was #1 ... it didn't say what numbered 2-14. I think we have a long way to go.

Let's go ride!

slvoid 10-18-04 07:56 AM

I'm gonna post the same reply I posted in another thread here:
What you have to really ask is, what are americans willing to sacrafice in their daily lives if it really came down to it? Because a car is a necessity. I meant to say, people seem to think a car is a necessity.
If you take everything that's not an absolute necessity, then sumed it up, divided it by the amount of gas one uses, that is the cost of gas that's necessary to cause the public to give up the automobile.
I'm willing to bet people would give up cable tv, go to generic everything, wear clothes with holes in them, buy single ply, skip a meal a day, before giving up their cars.

MsMittens 10-18-04 08:07 AM

What you have to really ask is, what are americans willing to sacrafice in their daily lives if it really came down to it? Because a car is a necessity.
I don't know if that's true. I wonder if we are being made to think it's a necessity to have a car. I don't have a car. Heck, I don't even have a license. It makes almost 0 sense to have one in the downtown core of Toronto (where I live). The cost of parking ranges from about $2/hr to $20/day. Insurance is extremely high. Additionally, when we moved into this area we checked out things that we would commonly use and what the distances were from them: within 10 blocks of 4 grocery stores (smaller local shops as well); public library within 6 blocks; major mall within 10 blocks; Farmer's Market within 10 blocks; public transit is 2 blocks for streetcars and 10 blocks for subway; train station is 20 blocks but easily accessed via subway; downtown airport is a short ferry ride away from the train station.

It's the big box stores that seem to drive the idea of smaller shops out of the "burbs". Everyone thinks they save but I wonder how much extra they spend on gas to get out to those stores? Add to that the idea that kids need to be doing things since they aren't biking/walking to school anymore (plus video games are far more fun). I personally believe there is a culture that suggests and encourages the idea of a car being a necessity.

Dahon.Steve 10-18-04 08:10 AM

Originally Posted by Grasschopper
Well I don't really know if this is the right forum but here we go. Anyone think that America will start to turn to the bicycle now that our gas prices seem to be heading toward what europeans are paying?

Didn't you hear? America already turned to bicycling years ago?

Millions in this country are car free every year and have easy access to buses, commuter rail, subways and light rail. This is not Europe I'm talking about but right here in the U.S.A.! In fact, billions will be spent to subsidize these transit systems thus cutting back overall transportation costs for the working family. Unfortunately, you were left out and it's starting to hurt financially. I know exactly where your at because the moment I struggled to pay for gasoline, I was just about bankrupt.

Here's something to think about. Millions of people live in communites that are close to where they work giving them the option of biking or walking. I'm not talking about America pre 1890 but today! People are biking and walking to work every day of the year. We are saving loads of money with the billions spent on public transportation which is left at our disposal and from time saved not having to fight traffic. People are doing exactly what you want to do but can't?? This country is just fine as it is but you'll find that it's more a battle of the mind than anything else. Are you strong enough to make the necessary changes needed to break auto dependancy?

All I know is the America that you want exists today.

jbhowat 10-18-04 08:15 AM

2) what larger cars get decent gas milage?
Larger than a Golf? Hrmm. (By the way I drive a V6 Golf, it makes your Maxima look like a hyrbid...). I wouldn't go with the Escape, you mentioned comfort for long trips and on the highway, hybrids do poorly with no place to use their high-torque electric to get moving (they do awesome in the city though,) but for example some magazine did a cross country test with a base model Civic and a similarly equipped Civic Hybrid (it cost a crap load more though). Over the entire trip across the USA, the Hybrid got something like <1mpg better. A large car with good gas milage? I know exactly what you need:

A Volkswagen Passat TDI. Base GL model starts at ~23,000. The Passat's a nice car...



(as long as you aren't in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York or California or you are not buying until after ULSD in 2006).

*however just as how many Golf TDI owners see 50+mpg, many owners are seeing 40+ on the highway and 30+ in the city. Diesel mpg numbers by the EPA tend to be pessimistic, hybrids tend to be optimistic.

Grasschopper 10-18-04 08:24 AM

Originally Posted by jbhowat
A Volkswagen Passat TDI. Base GL model starts at ~23,000. The Passat's a nice car...

You know we owned a 1999 Passat GLS a couple of years ago and yea they are nice does VW suck in terms of reliability. Now I am a VW lover, I am a member of VWVortex and have owned 5 VWs over the years and every one of them has had issues. That is one thing I can say for the Maxima, change the oil and put gas in it and no issues at all. My 99 WE Golf has trim falling off the doors, power window regulators breaking, power locks breaking. It is a 2.slo so I don't have the coil pack issue of the 1.8t but man you would think VW could get it right one of these days. :rolleyes: I wonder if I could get my wife to go back to the Passat and get a TDI..... :)

catatonic 10-18-04 08:33 AM

america wont lose theier car culture for some time with the attitudes we are seeing in this thread.

just keep doing what you are doing...when people ask you why you do it, explain the health, economic, and personal reasons (dont get super-political though). make them question themselves. a culture cannot just has to be torn down, person by person. and the thing is, awareness is somewhat viral in nature...i know i get enough questions when i buy stuff at frys and bring it home, 9 mile away on bike. a subwoofer bungied to your rack always starts conversations :)

Nightshade 10-18-04 08:35 AM

Grasschopper, Your question hints at, but, doesn't ask for
the CAUSE for the lack or cycling which ,in this case,is
more important than the solution.

Many here will point to the cost of gas as the main reason to
return to biking only to find that the return will be blocked
by the distance between points that America has put itself in.

This thread is an ongoing dicussion that may shed some light
on the why of more cars and fewer bicycles.

MsMittens 10-18-04 08:43 AM

it has to be torn down, person by person. and the thing is, awareness is somewhat viral in nature
How very true. It's interesting that Bicycling Magazine has taken on to continue it's little project known as Bike Town USA. 50 bikes to a town was the first inception of it. I think this year they are doing 4-6 towns. Give the bikes to residents and see if they use it. I think it was rather surprising to see the results that did happen: most of the recipients actually used it and saw benefits of it, and will continue to use them.

catatonic 10-18-04 09:58 AM

knowing the cause of anyhting is 10 times more exerting than the fix. really all we should be sweating is letting those around us know the virtues of cycling.

Buying large amounts of groceries is no problem if you have a weell equipped touring bike, even an old one with four grocery bag panniers can hold plenty of food. I jsut use some cheap zip up panniers and can easily hold a week of food for just myself...and I eat like a freaking hog. Buying stereo gear isnt too hard, buying clothes no problem...heck I go to walmart fairly regularly on my bike to get stuff like sheets, towels, etc.

It's just about thinking differently. thinking outside the box hurts a bit, at least until that area outside the box has became your new box, if you know what i mean ;)

I found some people are just too vain to let their hair get screwed up....that's just sad. To me if you worry too much about lookks, you'll just end up being a puppet to your own nix that. Some think it's hard first it is, your going to spend the first 6 to 8 months working your ass off to become strong enough to do this everyday. Rain? wear a parka. Snow? Studded tires (yes, they exist). Wind? That's why roadbikes have drop bars :) . Got a date....bah just use a taxi...shows you got money when you can drop $60 for a 12mi round trip.

progre-ss 10-18-04 10:22 AM

No matter how high gas prices go, people are always going to pay them. Don't get me wrong...they'll complain and ***** and moan about it but they will pay. Most people feel it is there inalienable right to drive. Environment? Who gives a damn as long as Joe Bob can drive to the corner store to get his cigs and beer, it's all good, no matter how close the corner store is. Do you really think he'll give up driving his behemoth of a truck with A/C, power everything, 20 disc CD changer, 27" LCD TV screen on every headrest, and 8 MPGs for a bicycle?

I'm not saying I'm Mr. Environmentally-Friendly as I do drive, but I can't see people giving up their luxury items for what most, if not all, people consider a child's toy.

ad6mj 10-18-04 10:31 AM

Americans drive cars. Bicycles will never be anything more than a recreational activity to most Americans.

-CM- 10-18-04 11:03 AM

Originally Posted by ad6mj
Americans drive cars. Bicycles will never be anything more than a recreational activity to most Americans.

That's it in a nutshell.

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