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The latest sign that times are changing

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 27th, 2008 at 2:17 pm

I've been getting emails all morning because a bicycle is the lead photograph on CNN.com today. Here's a screenshot...

A young woman and her bike for all the world to see.

Alexa ranks CNN.com as the 51st most popular website in the world so a prominent photo and story that shows biking as an alternative to cars is no small blip on the radar screen.

This headline -- and the many others coming out almost every day lately -- make it clear that driving is on a decline all over the country and for many people, going by bike is a natural alternative.

The best part of the CNN story is the accompanying "Quick Vote" that asks "Are you driving less because of rising gas prices?". So far, 82% of the 183,000 respondents say yes.

On a local note, it is precisely these types of changes in driving behaviors that some are using to question the wisdom of pouring $4.2 billion into a new highway and bridge project -- the Columbia River Crossing -- whose base assumptions were made way before high gas prices become such a major issue.

We're in for a very interesting summer.

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  • Todd Scott May 27, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    And on a related note, the FHWA reported a record drop in vehicle miles driven for March 2008 compared with March 2007.
    http://www.m-bike.org/blog/2008/05/27/us-driving-curbed-at-historic-rates

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  • Allison May 27, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    I\'m all for this and I hope it results in some structural changes such as an emphasis on bicycle infrastructure, but I worry that bicycles are not he most \"permanent\" changes in terms of commuting.

    It\'s pretty easy to leave the car in the drive way and take a bike only to reverse that trend when(if) gas prices go down.

    And they will if there\'s a significant number of people not filling up. It\'s its own latent demand.

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  • a.O May 27, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Gas prices will level off or go down a bit after the election, but that will be but a small blip on their inexorable march higher and higher.

    Unlike the last energy crisis, this one is entirely demand-driven. Supply cannot significantly increase any more, but demand keeps increasing. This is Peak Oil.

    So - in addition to not contributing to global warming, congestion, deadly air pollution, or road wear - you can add \"not further increasing gasoline demand\" to your list of things drivers should be thanking you for.

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  • Brad May 27, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    It is exciting that bikes are becoming an attractive alternative but look out for what will come with popularity: taxes, higher prices, and regulation.

    Taxes - governments will start to see bike licensing and road use taxes as a good revenue stream.

    Higher prices - Will bike shops become the car lots of the near future? As people roll in to buy bikes to replace cars the prices will increase (they already are due to manufacturing costs, transport, etc.) and sales may be harder to come by. Will we one day see some sales guy at BG or similar shop saying, \"That 56 cm is a beauty and I\'d love to give you 10% off but I\'ve got three other guys drooling over it and my manager won\'t go any lower than sticker.\" Will the locally owned shop get put out of business by new mega-chains (think a second or third Performance Bike Shop type operation) or \"dealerships\" like the Trek stores popping up around the country? Service rates and parts will go up also since most newbies won\'t know how to maintain their bikes.

    Regulation - A handful of accidents (car/bike, bike/bike, ped/bike) will lead the pols and bureaucrats to initiate bike operator licensing, mandatory helmets, and mandatory safety features (think 24/7 lights like motorcycles). You\'ll have to trudge down to the DMV for written tests and a bike handling test. Also, now that there are lots of human powered vehicles and less cars, the cops will have to ticket someone to offset the revenues. Since you have a bike license, you should have known that a full stop means no forward motion plus one foot down and that you must have a redundant brake on that fixie. Oh yeah, Officer Friendly also didn\'t see a proper hand signal prior to that left turn. Cha-ching! That\'ll be $242 and a real hit on your state required bike insurance. (Mandated after several high profile lawsuits involving bikes illegally riding on sidewalks seriously injuring pedestrians and damaging property.)

    More bikes and more bike riders will cause a certain loss of freedoms. We\'ll become just like the cars and drivers we seek to replace...just less polluting.

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  • Pete May 27, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Brad: don\'t forget mandatory insurance!

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  • Pete May 27, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    (D)Oh, I see you got it.

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  • Red Dawn May 27, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    is it ok to say Janaki Purushe is hot?

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  • Metal Cowboy May 27, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    CRC supporters of the 12 lane option, Rex, BTA, council members, metro four who didn\'t sign on to Liberty\'s options yet, take note. We need to reevaluate the wisdom of a 4 billion dollar project that supports a way of life that is going, going, gone - only the majority of people don\'t realize it yet or don\'t want to come to terms with it. Gas use in March of 2008 took it\'s biggest drop since records began being kept in 1942. And we want to build what? Even if Peak Oil wasn\'t here, carpooling, rail, bike mode increase and tolling make much more sense from fiscal, health never mind the environmental positives.

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  • Dag May 27, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Brad, I will welcome the changes that will surely come with increased bicycle use. In particular, I will be glad if bicycles and service become more expensive: it will provide a boost to the local bicycle economy. I doubt that bicycle licensing will ever come to pass, but it is of concern that so much of our transportation infrastructure money comes from the gas tax.

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  • Bill Stites May 27, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    I have to agree with the bulk of the comments so far. This is the \'Golden Age of Cycling\' with glorious freedom and minimal regulations for riding our bikes.

    This will change based on many factors, not the least of which is poor judgment on the part of freedom-loving bikers of today. Meaning that all the running of red lights and other less-than-prudent behaviors we\'re getting away with now will gradually become less tolerated.
    It will be a public safety issue, and I tend to agree. The \'only-putting myself-in-danger\' argument will not hold up over time ... \'cause it simply isn\'t true.

    The moral of the story? Enjoy it now!

    Oh, and please do speak up about the CRC bridge debacle - there\'s a Metro hearing with public input June 5th, if you can make it. While the bridge won\'t be built for some time, now is the time we are about to make some serious and binding long-term commitments.

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  • Jason P. May 27, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    It\'s rolled off their front page but the article is still available

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/05/27/lifestyle.change.irpt/index.html?iref=24hours

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  • david4130 May 27, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    The experts say gas will never be $3.00 a gallon again. As for the demand going down, I can\'t see it happening any time soon. Even if people in America use less oil, there still is the ever increasing number of people that are switching from bikes to motor vehicles in China.

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  • tonyt May 27, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    If anyone is interested in a really good oil blog, http://theoildrum.com fits the bill. It\'s pretty technical/not an easy read. But it\'ll make you smarter.

    I was thinking about this CNN post and the bridge discussion as I crossed the Bryant Street bridge this afternoon. Bumper to bumper BOTH ways.

    I heard talk last year about an option that made a lot of sense to me. The idea is that we\'d turn I-5 into a local freeway and divert the main North/South interstate traffic to 205.

    Someone posted a map and even had information about that option and why it made sense. Anyone out there remember that?

    One of the cool thing is that it diverts all of that traffic out of the heart of Portland and would allow some of I-5 to be turned into a local highway, and other parts to be mothballed entirely.

    Heck, if we\'re going to talk about $4.2 (at the very least) billion dollars on a bridge, shouldn\'t all options be on the table?

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  • Jon May 27, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    I second Red Dawn\'s remark.

    We all know that adage about sex and selling things. There was also an article about obesity rates in children, are they biking more too? Are bikes are just a few glossy cover stories away from mainstream?

    The shoes seem a little impractical, love the shorts...

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  • 2GOAT May 27, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    #2 The current gas prices are being driven by supply and demand but unlike the gas lines and rationing of the 70’s, the demand domain includes US and Europe, other developing countries and the massive population of China all bidding for barrels of oil.
    As bicycling becomes a mainstream mode of transportation the dilemma of regulation and licensing will be a legislative Pandora’s Box. The educational and testing diversity alone of cyclist will be daunting, since eligible bike riders differ not only language, as in motor vehicle licensure but also in age and development.
    To the commenter’s on this and other blogs or even at office water-cooler conferences that complain about “those crazy bicyclists that never follow the rules! They need to be off the roads or get a license”. Consider this, those crazy drivers that lose their motor vehicle licenses because they were drunk or speeding and/or couldn’t follow the rules of the road while driving their car have to get around somehow so guess what, they are probably riding a bike. I am not trying to justify their behavior but what would be the repercussions of these individuals cycling without a license. Put them in our overcrowded jails? Take away their bikes? How do they get to work? Via our piece meal public transit? Maybe they shouldn’t work? More unemployed…more homeless…more hunger…more crime…more...more…MORE…MORE....

    Hmmm does it sound like the CRC?

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  • Todd B May 27, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Yes Ms. Purushe has a nice mixte.

    Perhaps the WABA (BTA of DC) can send her a free membership and help her make her bike a vehicle (rack, lights, and fenders). This wil keep her biking into the fall and winter.

    http://www.waba.org/

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  • Joel May 28, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Yes, cycling does the body good.

    What I really dig is that she saw an opportunity when starting her professional life to live sustainably and make biking a major part of her existence. A few more like her (us) and we\'ll start to make a dent in oil consumption and obesity. And we\'ll all have better legs.

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  • Ken Wetherell May 28, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Bring on the billboards with hotties on bikes! At least in this case of using sex for promotion we would have integrity in advertising.

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  • Opus the Poet May 29, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Not just CNN but Dallas\' only daily newspaper had this above the fold on the front page: http://i53.photobucket.com/albums/g73/flyinglazboy/DMN_PB_1-1.jpg

    That\'s my buddy and fellow RBENT member Paul Brown on the Stratus XP.

    Opus

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