The weekend news reports were filled with the headlines about record gas prices at the pumps with an expectation that prices would go even higher this summer. With the prospect of $4.00/gallon gas, are we ready to start bicycle commuting yet? Hmmm?
I'm betting that just about anybody that is a "bicycle enthusiast" will at least give it a go, but you would expect that of them. It is the much larger body of people out there that don't ride bicycles that is important here. To see any significant change in gas prices downward or to see any kind of a boost for the cycling industry, it is these non-cycling people that will have to come in and make a difference.
My gut feeling is that it won't happen. Not even with $4.00 per gallon gas or higher. Here's why:
This weekend I rode my bike to church and back. I play in the church band and since we have two services on Sunday and a rehearsal before hand I have to get there pretty early in the morning. I don't know what the temperature was, maybe around 20 degrees, but I got some comments from some of the band about how "hardcore" I was for riding that morning. However; it was another comment made by a young man that really got my attention. He is of college age, strong, fit and healthy. He said to me, "I'll never get into riding a bike, because I'll admit it, I'm just to lazy to sit there and turn the pedals around. That's too much work for me." Wow!
So, I guess that whatever the price, it's "easier" to drive an internal combustion vehicle. To my mind, this guy wouldn't ride a bike unless the other option- driving a car- was taken away. I don't think high priced gasoline is going to do that.
Since that is the case with this fellow, I would bet that the majority of folks out there that are non-cyclists would tend to fall into that camp. That means that while I expect a boost in commuting this summer, it won't be as big as it should be. Not this time.
Cars are kind of like cigarettes in one regard. The price of cigarettes is mostly tax, yet the folks addicted to them just keep on paying the price. Have you seen what a carton of cigs sells for? It's rediculous! High gas prices making more bicycle commuters? Nope, it will just get more rediculous, just like cigarette prices and the folks addicted to that product. Until the option to drive is limited or taken away in some respect bicycles will never become a major form of transportation in the U.S.A., and that is really too bad.
Oh well, I'll be riding to work today on my bicycle. I hope you will consider doing that too.