Biking losing popularity?

I check in on a lot of green forums and web sites each day to get the latest happenings in the environmental world. Bikes aren’t something I write a great deal on, but on many other sites I visit there’s so much bicycle related info; I was feeling rather like an outcast – it’s another area of greening my life that’s definitely still on the todo list.

I haven’t ridden a bike since my 20’s – mainly because of all the idiot car drivers on the road. On the flip side, some of the lycra brigade don’t do much for the biking cause. Some of those riders are as bad as the car drivers.

With the amount of coverage that biking gets, I was certain that it must be a positively booming section of the green movement and transportation generally given the price of gas these days. It was really surprising reading this article on Environmental News Network to discover that it isn’t – in the USA anyway.

According to a survey quoted in the article, the number of people in the USA who bike frequently fell almost 10 percent in 2007 to 3.7 million people. Even the number of those who ride at least six times a year fell to 35.6 million in 2006, from 56.3 million in 1995. This was the lowest number in the 20+ years of the survey. If gas prices continue to rise, that might start to change and appears to be doing so in some cities; but these appear to be isolated cases.

The article also mentions the number of personal trips made by bike in the USA is less than 1 percent, compared with 27 percent in the Netherlands and 18 percent in Denmark.

And this is where the it becomes abundantly apparent the reason that places such as the Netherlands, or more recently in some US cities, have such a high incidence of bike usage – bike friendly infrastructure. In the case of Philadelphia, it likely has as much to do with the city putting more cash into bike lanes etc. as it does with the cost of gas.

On a trip in my mini-van today, I passed a bike rider on a particularly tight stretch of road and thought to myself – “better you than me”. Our cities just aren’t geared up well enough to encourage people like myself to pedal our way around.

It’s a great shame as I really enjoyed riding my “treadlie” as a kid. Even in my late teens I remember biking through parts of Melbourne to work and never really feeling threatened by vehicles. I wouldn’t even dream of making the same trip today given the congestion.

It’s a catch-22 – I’d like to bike more, but don’t because of traffic; so what do I do? Drive a vehicle and add to the problem; although I try to limit my trips to 1 or 2 a week – one of the benefits of working from home.

What about you? Do you ride a lot? How do you cope with the traffic?


Exercise for the environment