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Transportation Technology

As Gas Prices Soar So Does City Biking 342

Hugh Pickens writes "As California's gas prices hit record highs, the millions of dollars spent in recent years on commuter bike lanes and public transportation projects in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other major cities are being seen in a new light by many drivers. Jason Dearen reports that San Francisco is seeing a 71-percent increase in cyclists in the past five years, and Los Angeles is reporting a 32 percent increase from 2009-2011. Both findings gibe with the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, which found a 63 percent increase in bicycle commuters from 2000 to 2010 in the nation's 70 largest cities. 'In some ways it's a perfect storm of events that is starting to take place,' says Claire Bowin, head of policy planning for Los Angeles' planning department. Getting people out of cars 'is a very daunting task, but on other hand we have largely benefited from a growing community here that is demanding these things.' Los Angeles is building almost 1,600 miles of bike infrastructure (PDF) over the next five years. Los Angeles County's Metrolink, which features open train cars for bike riders is seeing record ridership. Changing attitudes about cars — caused by climate change — are helping these efforts as people in their twenties and thirties have adopted biking in larger numbers than previous generations (PDF)."
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As Gas Prices Soar So Does City Biking

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  • by James McGuigan ( 852772 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @08:24AM (#41648539) Homepage

    Clinton said it... "Its the economy stupid!"

  • Biking is better (Score:5, Informative)

    by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @08:26AM (#41648549) Homepage
    It's healthier and it's more fun. The idea that the car equals freedom is pretty much dead these days if you live anywhere with a dense population. Cars are for the fat and lazy.
    • by shilly ( 142940 )

      Nah. Cars are just tools, as are bikes, except they have worse externalities (pollution, injuries, etc). Car clubs help when you need to transport several people plus bulky / heavy goods at once. Car club + bike + public transport + shank's pony + Hailo-ordered taxi = excellent transport for London, and I'm sure many other cities too.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @09:49AM (#41648989) Homepage

        Odd, my car club encourages us to not have any passengers and to drive as fast as possible without going anywhere. I spend a weekend driving the same route in a circle over and over and over again and trying to do it as fast as I possibly can.

        Car clubs in Great Britain are very different than what we have here.

        • by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @10:41AM (#41649291)

          Odd, my car club encourages us to not have any passengers and to drive as fast as possible without going anywhere. I spend a weekend driving the same route in a circle over and over and over again and trying to do it as fast as I possibly can.

          Car clubs in Great Britain are very different than what we have here.

          If you don't use apple maps you probably won't have this problem.

    • It's healthier and it's more fun

      It being fun is a matter of taste. Personally I enjoy driving a car much more.

  • gotta stay healthy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 14, 2012 @08:34AM (#41648585)

    For me, at least, biking to work us also about avoiding atrophy. Sitting in front of dual monitors for 8+ hours each day does nothing positive for my figure, so in addition to saving on gas, cycling is helping to save muscle mass.

    I suggest that you try it, too.

  • Just Think (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gonoff ( 88518 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @08:34AM (#41648587)

    If you had the same fuel prices as we do in the UK, your "obesity epidemic" would be over,
    ($8.50 to $9 per US gallon depending on where you live)

    • Re:Just Think (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 14, 2012 @08:36AM (#41648603)

      Yet I keep hearing about the obesity epidemic in the UK - taxation and scaremongering are NOT the ways to change behaviour.

      • The obesity rate for the United States is around 30% whereas it is 23% for the UK. http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_obe-health-obesity [nationmaster.com]. Other metrics tell a similar story. See e.g http://www.oecd.org/els/healthpoliciesanddata/theeconomicsofprevention.htm [oecd.org]. This puts Great Britain as one of the highest obesity rates of any country in the world but still not nearly as bad as the United States.
    • > I'll see your Constitution and raise you a Queen

      I'll see your Queen and raise you a KimJongIl

    • Re:Just Think (Score:4, Insightful)

      by garcia ( 6573 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @09:19AM (#41648837)

      It has nothing to do with gas for me. It has to do with other costs: car cost, maintenance, taxes, insurance. My $700 bike with free yearly tuneups for life saves me a ton. Gas for a drive 5.1 miles one way is really negligible compared to the other costs.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      It might help... but I'm sure it'd be far from over.
  • Tracking (Score:5, Funny)

    by BSAtHome ( 455370 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @08:35AM (#41648601)

    Tracking commuters has been on the increase with the use of license-plate scaners. When you get them to use a bicycle, that advantage is no longer an option.

    So, either we need a very fast computer system to track bicycles based on the images, or we need legislation to ensure every bike has a proper license plate that can be scanned and tracked. Also, a locked down holding container should be placed on each bicycle for the Feds to place their GPS equipment. Last but not least, a mandatory encircled cross on the rider's coat which would make a remote killshots easier. You never know when you need to set an example of environmentalists.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Tracking commuters has been on the increase with the use of license-plate scaners. When you get them to use a bicycle, that advantage is no longer an option

      Bicycles in Belgium used to have had a license plates:
      Some samples: http://s.houghi.org/y4jq5k [houghi.org]
      Each year there was a different shape and color.

      So don't be alarmed when (not if) they start doing this.

    • by SpzToid ( 869795 )

      You don't need a locked down container for holding the GPS gear as you infer. Just make it sticky, remove the seat-post, push it to the bottom, and replace the seat-post. Even cheap embedded RFIDs passing near to readers can be useful, for tolls and the like. In places where bike theft is high, police are even tagging bikes with RFIDs as I have described, so if the bikes are stolen, a police officer walking past with a reader might find them.

      Also facial-recognition is getting freakishly better all the time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 14, 2012 @08:36AM (#41648605)

    Here in central Europe, the city centers are tight, and so it's easy and quick to get everywhere, while with cars, you barely fit through the tight streets and it's a parking nightmare. So pretty much everyone I know uses a bicycle or public transport by default, and only takes the car if it's further away, there's something to transport, or there's another good reason.

    But your cities and roads are far more spread out. And the environment is rather hostile to bike riders, from what I've been told. (Partially because apparently, many bike riders are rather crazy themselves and because the bike lanes are badly designed. [We have that too, though.])

    So: How do you do it? Because that sounds a lot more frustrating than what we've got.
    (And if you add the weight problem... Although that would probably quickly improve for bike riders.)

    P.S.: Was there ever a time when people rode the bike to everywhere, like Marty McFly? Or are those just TV stories?

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      P.S.: Was there ever a time when people rode the bike to everywhere, like Marty McFly? Or are those just TV stories?

      Donno Marty McFly.. "yes" in the USA vaguely from 1895 to 1905. Even as a 5 digit /. UID that is somewhat before my time. You can easily play definition games to get a "no" answer.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ... But your cities and roads are far more spread out.

      It's very different in different parts of the USA. Here in the suburbs outside Buffalo, NY, the land is mostly flat. It's easy to cycle, but as you say things are more spread out. I've been making about half my local trips by bike for the last 30 years...when the weather is above freezing.

      On the plus side, starting about 20(?) years ago, New York State roads (major roads) have mostly been rebuilt with wide shoulders/edges (average about 1.5 meters, marked by a white line) which is quite good for cycling.

  • by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <(gterich) (at) (aol.com)> on Sunday October 14, 2012 @08:42AM (#41648637) Journal

    Ten years, and not because of gas prices, but because it's fun, and healthy.

    In 1999, I was 250lbs, had cholesterol over 300, moderate to severe hypertension, and was pre-diabetic. I was taking medications for all, and additional medications for other complications that were the result of my Americanized lifestyle.

    It started with walking to work, 3 miles each way. Then expanded into running 5Ks, and eventually cycling.

    Now, I'm 165lbs, and not on any medications, with normal vitals across the board. I ride my bike to work at least 3 days per week, usually going far enough out of my way to ride 30-40 miles every day - and 60-70/day on weekends.

    I think it's a travesty to sell cycling to work as a solution to a temporary problem, because people will quit the moment the problem goes away, or there is some other reason not to. Living an active lifestyle that includes daily exercise and human-powered commuting also helps solve America's obesity problem (and spiraling-out-of-control health costs) permanently. It's a shame more people won't pick it up, and that we can't bring ourselves to design towns and cities to allow for it.

    It costs far less to add 3 feet of bike lane to a road than it does to treat 1000 cases of advanced diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, and other life-ending diseases. The government and the taxpayer have a vested interest in policies that facilitate people being healthy when they reach Medicare age - not to mention the people themselves who still have to pay a heavy price for their lack of health.

  • Winter Biking? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Sunday October 14, 2012 @08:53AM (#41648699) Homepage

    I live in the Helsinki area in Finland, and while for the most part Bike access is OK it seems the winters are almost impossible to solve. I used to bike all year round, and while it's quite enjoyable with the right equipment I kept running into the problem that the roads were plowed first and the bike lanes much later in the day, or sometimes not at all.

    Does anyone live in a city where the winter biking thing actually works? (One with snowfall, that is.) Just curious, really.

    • Not personally, but I know people who do. They use Nokian tyres.

    • Oh, stop complaining and come see how things are outside major cities: you'll be lucky if the lanes are plowed once a week!

    • Re:Winter Biking? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MtHuurne ( 602934 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @09:25AM (#41648885) Homepage

      It works here, in the south of the Netherlands. In my city, bus routes and bike lanes are the first places where snow is removed, often within a few hours after it fell. Also because a lot of people continue biking, even if the snow hasn't been removed, there will be tracks where the people who cycled before you have crushed the snow to the point where it melts. However, our winter day temperatures don't often stay below zero for more than a few days at a time, so a snow period seldom lasts for more than a week. I once visited the middle of Finland at the end of the winter and I think the snow that falls there during the winter doesn't melt until spring; I don't know if that is the case for the Helsinki area as well.

      • there will be tracks where the people who cycled before you have crushed the snow to the point where it melts

        Compressing the snow will only make it melt if the roads were salted just before the snow fell - which is usually the case here in Netherlands on main cycling routes when freezing temperatures with precipitation are expected. I have cycled plenty of distance over unsalted snowy roads; it's quite doable (even at 20 km/h or 12 mph) as long as you brake well in advance of sharp turns and you don't use k

    • by Tseax ( 193552 )

      What works for me in Canada is the so-called Fat Bike. I ride a model called a "Moonlander" which can be fitted with studs for the icier city riding.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Karljohan ( 807381 )

      Norrköping, Sweden, biking during the winter usually woks fine. The bike lanes use to be plowed quite quickly, but you need winter tires.

    • Works here reasonably well because our roads are less traveled... http://www.fcgov.com/streets/snow-additional.php [fcgov.com] Fort Collins does a good job, and Minneapolis has a large year-round cycling commuting community (evidence here: http://tcstreetsforpeople.org/node/1348 [tcstreetsforpeople.org] ) , as well as Chicago, Illinois per http://bikewinter.org/ [bikewinter.org]
    • Re:Winter Biking? (Score:5, Informative)

      by neBelcnU ( 663059 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @09:46AM (#41648979) Journal

      Minneapolis/St. Paul: It's becoming more common to see folks using incredibly fat-tired mountain bikes in all weathers, but regular bikes (even road bikes) are now seen every winter, even below 0F. Credit to determined riders and cities that make an effort. Bike trails are plowed by specialized equipment, although at a delay like you mentioned, riders still venture out on the streets. Thanks to all for using bike lights, even during the day.

    • by Zumbs ( 1241138 )

      Does anyone live in a city where the winter biking thing actually works? (One with snowfall, that is.) Just curious, really.

      It works reasonably well in Copenhagen. Usually they start clearing the roads and bike lanes early in the morning. If it is snowing heavily at that time, however, it can get pretty difficult to traverse the lane.

    • Bicycling Magazine ranked Minneapolis the #1 US city for biking. I've never been there, but I've heard they get the occasional bit of snow.

        http://www.bicycling.com/news/featured-stories/1-bike-city-minneapolis [bicycling.com]

      Google for some articles and videos and you'll see how they do it.

    • I have a friend who was living in Eindhoven. She's now in Belgium but she still bikes to work every day, rain or shine, snow, sleet or hail. She's very fit and just uses special bike tires in the winter.
    • by jeti ( 105266 )

      If the bike lanes are not usable due to snow or ice, you're allowed to use the road in Germany.

    • Re:Winter Biking? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Hazelfield ( 1557317 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @12:21PM (#41649901)
      It works reasonably well in Stockholm. Maybe just because I seldom start off towards work until 8 am and by then the plowing is usually done even on the bike lanes. Over the last two winters with really heavy snowfall I was only forced to use some other transportation once or twice due to snow. (I chose not to take the bike on many more occasions but that's a different story.) I use studded tyres during the winter of course.
  • L.A, like many cities, are paying dearly for getting rid of their tram systems. I'd imagine that not all work places have a shower either.
  • by dangle ( 1381879 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @09:35AM (#41648929)

    It took me a while to make the decision to bike to work. In retrospect, my whole life was colored by car culture. They're beautiful machines, and my friends and I spent large amounts of time talking about them and using them.

    I also finally realized that our understandable desire to make our lives more comfortable and effortless is ultimately unhealthy.

    All my notions and excuses left me, and I've been biking to work every day, unless snow and ice preclude it.

    It's such an amazing way to start and end the day, even though it's not glamorized on TV.

    On business a few years ago, a nice young man who was shuttling me into downtown Copenhagen in a company car described to me his intense interest in buying his own car, despite the tax disincentives to do so. And China is abandoning their bike culture, making single occupancy vehicle trips a sign of progress. And as an American I've found myself thinking: "It's not obligatory to copy every mistake we've made, feel free to learn from our bad examples."

    • by pnot ( 96038 )

      It's such an amazing way to start and end the day, even though it's not glamorized on TV.

      Amen. On a bike I can see, hear, feel, and smell the world around me. I feel as though I'm part of the world. If I see something interesting, I can stop and check it out without worying about traffic flow or parking. In a car I'm in my own little coccoon, cut off from the world. The mental-health aspect of biking is probably at least as important as the physical-health aspect.

      Unfortunately it's an experience which is intrinsically hard to glamourize, and there's little financial incentive for anyone to do s

  • by Kr1ll1n ( 579971 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @10:12AM (#41649107)

    Just because they built bike lanes, and see more cyclists, does not quantify, as well as verify, that it is because of gas prices.

    Many people will pay the high gas prices, but cycle for exercise.
    Many people will pay the high gas prices, but cycle out of reduced traffic time.

    They can just as easily quantify any of that as NOT being the reason, as they could quantify gas prices as being the cause.

  • Over the past 40+ years, in a slow and ongoing process, your fiscal and monetary policies have been destroying our buying power, your crony capitalism has bailed out the too-big-to-fail corporations and allowed the Big Industries/Corporations (finance, food, education, health, military, etc.) to influence the competitive landscape in their favor, your ever-increasing laws and regulations make it more and more expensive for companies to hire workers and raise their salaries/wages, and your social policies ar

  • by dr_leviathan ( 653441 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @10:39AM (#41649275)

    I'm a Californian who just bought an electric bicycle conversion kit: 350W hub motor, 36V + 12Ah lithium battery. I'm hoping I can use it for my commute which is 40 km each way. This bike's range should be about 50 km, but I'll be able to recharge it at work.

    I already have one electric bicycle but it is not a good solution for a long commute. It has a big motor (1.9kW) and 48V of lead acid batteries --> It can go plenty fast (60 km/hr) but it is rather heavy (45 kg) and doesn't have the range (25 km).

  • If you live and work in a close arrangement, a person has more time to engage in one's life!

    The article should have had some questions on that in the survey. I know people who spend 2-3 hours a day (assuming no traffic tie ups) on the road getting to and from work. That is over 10% of one's waking life.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @11:42AM (#41649649) Homepage

    are fundamental lack of training. we all get a license to drive, but any moron can hop on a schwinn and decide he wants to ride to work. West Hollywood and santa monica in particular are littered with assholes who weave unsafely back and forth across their lane, never check over their shoulder for traffic, stare down at the road instead of up, and frequently blow through stop signs, red lights and no turn lanes. They unpredictably merge from the road to the sidewalk in order to evade traffic control devices they might find tedious as well. My problem is that there are no repercussions for this stupidity other than the death of a cyclist because police often just dont care.

  • by Whatsmynickname ( 557867 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @04:17PM (#41651487)

    I know I'm going to get modded down by the hard core cycling nerds here, but having the ability to afford gas at reasonable prices means I can go places that I would normally NOT be able to go by bicycle or mass transportation. Locally that means many hiking places and recently a drive to the Sierra Nevada for hiking and fall leaves.

    I know exactly how it feels to not be able to drive, and your whole world you can access shrinks rather tremendously. In some areas, you may not miss much, but in California and southwest in general there are whole worlds to see out there with easy access by car. Yeah yeah you MAY be able to swing it with a bicycle + train, but the logistics would be MUCH harder to do. And there are many places out west which don't accommodate mass transit very well.

    Hey, and this is coming from a cycling nerd to move to California BECAUSE OF cycling and the weather to do so! And I've done a LOT of commuting by bicycle BEFORE it became fashionable or hip. All I'm saying is there's a balance and a place for cars as well as a place for bicycles.

  • by An Ominous Cow Erred ( 28892 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @04:37PM (#41651633)

    Part of the problem with biking culture in the US it is an evolution of racing/track/BMX bikes. These are designed for weight reduction and aerodynamics rather than comfort. Exposed chains are almost universal, necessitating having your leg cuff rolled up or rubber banded, if you try to wear normal clothes.

    Meanwhile in places like The Netherlands and Denmark, bikes are built to be practical for normal people in normal clothes to ride in a comfortable position. Step-through bikes are the norm and are not considered "women's" bikes.

    The first image on this page is a Dutch-style bike. The lower pics are the closest thing America has to offer. http://clevercycles.com/blog/2007/06/26/dutchness/ [clevercycles.com]

    Notice on the Dutch bike:

    1) UPRIGHT POSTURE -- for comfort rather than aerodynamics
    2) FULL CHAIN CASE -- So you can wear *regular clothes* without getting grease all over them or having them get caught in the gears.
    3) COAT GUARD OVER REAR WHEEL -- If you wear loose, long clothes like coats, jackets, or skirts (or a tux), it will not get caught in the rear spokes.
    4) LARGE FENDERS -- Also to keep your clothes clean if the ground is wet or dirty!

    These things add weight to the bike or add wind resistance. Sports bikes in the US shun all these things. Unfortunately, sports bike design has affected even "city" bikes in the US, which means that people barely remember what a full chain case or coat guard are anymore.

    In the Netherlands, people go out clubbing on their bikes wearing their sexy outfits. Members of parliament bike to work wearing their suit and tie.

    If we want people to switch to bikes in the US, we need features like these so people don't have the inconvenience of having to change clothes or roll up their pant leg (and still risk grease or nicks on their calves). These are all obvious solutions that are just not as obvious to American bicyclists because they never see them now.

    • by xlsior ( 524145 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @05:57PM (#41652225) Homepage
      Step-through bikes are the norm and are not considered "women's" bikes.

      That one isn't true -- In the Netherlands step-through bikes are still considered a female model (originally made that way to accommodate wearing a skirt/dress), Men's bikes pretty much all have a horizontal bar closing the gap to increase structural integrity. That said, it's not that rare for men to ride a women's bike and vice-versa

      While a Dutch bike is comfortable to ride on flat surfaces, they are less suited for hilly terrain -- which is a non-issue in the Netherlands since the whole place is about a flat as can be. They suck to have to climb a hill or bridge on a windy day, though.
  • by raahul_da_man ( 469058 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @12:32AM (#41654527)

    I've also recently bought a hybrid bicycle. Why should I pay $100 a week for a gym membership just to get my cardio up? Riding a bike gets me to work, gets me fit, gets my heart rate up and is good for the environmnet. Good for my wallet, good for my health!

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."