America Is Riding Bikes Again

America is getting back on the bike. That’s what recent statistics suggest at least. In the last five years, the number of bicyclists in America has jumped from about 50 million to about 66 million. That’s an increase of about a third in just five years. What’s brought about this change?

There are likely a number of factors that have contributed to the increase in bicycling.

First, there is an economic incentive. Cities are becoming increasingly expensive to live in, and while the economy is improving, wages are not increasing at a comparable rate. One way to make ends meet in a city would be to ride a bike.

And that option has become easier in recent years because more cities are making big efforts to make their streets bicycle friendly. With more bike lanes, more pathways through parks, and more places to rent and store bikes, the biking option has become much more attractive.

Cities are going this route because bicycles are great for their streets and their air. More bikes mean fewer cars, which keeps the air cleaner and reduces traffic.

A final potential reason could be increasing awareness of global warming and a desire in some areas to make some reduction in pollution, both on an individual and city level. While much of the country continues to debate the issue of global warming, cities tend to be unequivocally in favor of doing more to stop warming effects. This, obviously, transfers to the beliefs of the citizens. Biking is an easy way to get a “win” on this issue for all involved.

While much in the culture has changed to increase the use of bikes, it will be interesting to see whether the trend continues.

For instance, will people continue to bike if wages begin to rise faster or (less likely) rent begins to go down in big cities?

Or, will cities develop even more infrastructure for bikes (such as indoor lanes during inclement weather) to further increase the use of the vehicles, particularly in winter.

It will also be interesting to see whether there is an increase in the number of bicycle accidents that compares with the number of riders. Theoretically, there should be about an equal growth in accidents, but with better infrastructure in place, the statistics may not show this.

A further point, it is not clear whether this will be a fad, or whether the newer technology will change this dynamic. As cars become more energy efficient, for instance, there may be less of a pull on the climate issue. Should the electric car become more affordable, will as many people choose to bike?

With so little data, there are still many questions to answer. For now, though, the one thing that is clear is that America is riding bikes again, and for the most part, that seems to be a positive on many levels. 

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