Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bike Lanes As Economic Stimulus


Do you, like Freddy Mercury of Queen, want to ride your bicycle?

Alas, where are you going to ride?

Well, you may not have too many choices for safe cycling right now, but evidence suggests the transportation tide is turning away from America's obsession with the car, toward that masterpiece of design and function, the bicycle.

Bike dealers across the country say sales are up, and getting better as more bike lanes become available.

To put it simply, more bike lanes=more $ for US bike makers=better economy + cleaner air + healthier populace.

Bike sales are one of the few bright spots on an otherwise bleak economic horizon, according to WNYC radio. And we're not just talking about a blip on the sales radar for hipster bike shops in Brooklyn, NY or Oakland, CA, although, according to the National Association of Bicycle Dealers, business is up for those type establishments as well.

US Bike makers say a big chunk of bikes being sold are being bought for use in cities where bike lanes are proliferating; where ridership is up.

Curt Davis, a product manager for urban and commuting bikes at Cannondale, tells WNYC radio that business, if anything, has increased during the recession, and he adds that business is getting better with more cities going "green".

"When that (financial) meltdown happened, it was right when we were introducing our Quick line of bikes," says Davis of the bikes, which can cost up to $700 a piece.

Cannondale workers wondered if they were going to be hit hard as everyone else in that fall of 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed and AIG asked for bailout money.

But...look what happened:

"We had to double our forecast, we had to immediately reorder twice as many bikes as we thought," the bike seller says of the rising economic tide currently lifting bicycle manufacturers and related industries

What's more, new evidence from the NY City Department of Transportation reveals that the more bike lanes a city builds, the more money people spend in bike shops.

Davis tells WNYC that as the Cannondale Quick line continues to sell, he's noticed that sales are being driven by consumers in bike-friendly cities like New York, Minneapolis and Portland.

This makes sense, because as bike lanes multiply, the more popular they become. According to the NYC Dept of Transportation, commuter cycling went up 26% in 2009, on the heels of an unprecedented 35% increase in commuter cycling in 2008.! All of this cycling Nirvana coming after the city decided to let common sense prevail and actually stripe 200 miles of new bike lanes throughout the five boroughs. All togther, that means ridership is up 66% since the addition of the new miles of bike lanes.

What would happen if bike lanes starting mysteriously proliferating in cities like Dallas or Oklahoma City? Would the US bike industry prosper? Would more people have jobs? Would public visibility of a rich artisanal trade such as bike-making be heightened? Would more people be in better shape? Would kids be able to ride their bikes to school without being suspended?

What a scary, threatening place a bike-friendly US would be!

read more here