Friday, May 16, 2008

Why more bikes?

MassBike Big Cheese David Watson observes that there are more bikers out there this year — an observation that NS&S unscientifically confirms — and attributes it, in part, to rising gas prices.

I think the arguments that it's good for your health and it's good for the environment and it's fun have always been true. I think what has really gotten people off the fence is the increasing gas prices[.]

The effect of gas prices on human behavior is not entirely rational. For instance, the recent rise in gas prices has had an effect on truck/SUV sales that it outsized to the increase in annual fuel costs. A 12 MPG truck driven 12,000 miles a year consumes 1,000 gallons of petrol. At $2.50 per gallon, that's $2,500 a year. At $4.00, it's $4,000. Are the prospective owners of $50,000 trucks really deterred by an extra $1,500 per year? I doubt it. (Although behavioral economists would tell you that people are — irrationally — disproportionately sensitive to changes in the price of gas.)

I think it's more subtle than people wanting to save gas money. I think that the rise in gas prices — along with concerns about global warming, traffic, health, &c. — is another signal to folks to consider alternatives to private automobile transportation.

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