During the first quarter of 2009, more bicycles were sold in the US than cars and trucks. While the Great Recession is hurting bike sales, they didn’t fall as fast as automobiles. Over 2.55 million bicycle purchases were made, compared to less than 2.4 million cars and trucks that left our nation’s lots.
Bicycle Sales Still Hurt by Recession
I don’t mean to say that bicycle sales are unfazed by the recession. Their proxy for data, imports (imports make up more than 90% of the US market), are actually down more than 30% from the first quarter of 2008. But that percentage drop is slower than the 35+% drop in sales for cars and trucks. Since nationwide gasoline prices are now rising above $2.40 per gallon at the pump, we may see another wave of US residents shifting to bicycles for their everyday trips. The large savings from riding a bike over short distances rather than driving can help consumer confidence and support economic recovery.
Even Long Trips Can be by Bike
Visionary activists are creating opportunities for cyclists to safely travel longer distances as well. For instance, the East Coast Greenway Alliance aims to connect greenways from Key West, FL, to Calais, ME, on a 3,000-mile long paved trail. For me, it’s an exciting potential to visit family and friends in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island (or even the longer trip to my native state of North Carolina!) via bicycle. So far, many corridors of the East Coast Greenway (ECG) are built. But gaps in the trail exist that we all can chip-in to connect. One important current opportunity is for us to show our elected leaders that we support the completion of the ECG and other trails throughout our country as part of the federal transportation bill to be deliberated this summer.
Climate Benefits of Bicycling
Not only are there cost savings from such local and intercity rides, but there are environmental benefits too — especially in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. While an average solo car trip or airplane ride emits more than 1 pound of CO2 per mile, bicycling or walking emits close to zero. If we need to travel hundreds of miles, there are great low-carbon strategies for travel that include mass transit and carpooling, keeping our average emissions less than 1/2 a pound of CO2 per mile.
Infrastructure Development Crucial
For Americans to put these millions of new bicycles to use, government leaders from the federal to the local level need to give more support to the construction and maintenance of safe bike lanes and greenways. Such work can be a much-needed source of job growth. From neighborhood paths to an urban counterpart of the Appalachian Trail, bicycling has great growth potential.
Let’s make it happen!