Monday, March 7, 2011

Saving the economy by ditching your car

That's the premise of a post by Elly Blue on Grist entitled How bicycling will save the economy (if we let it) (thanks to WashCyle for the link). As gas approaches $4/gallon, the cost of owning a car continues to rise. Most of that money leaves our local economy and goes to oil and gas, insurance, and car companies. What if that money were spent on bikes and local products?
In the many North American cities where two-wheeled transportation is taking off, a new bicycle economy is emerging. It's amazing how much money can stay in your community when it isn't being pumped into the gas tank, big insurance, and the auto market.
What will this new bicycle economy look like?
We don't have to guess. It's already emerging along urban, low-traffic bikeway networks nationwide. One thing is guaranteed: it includes a lot of new bike shops like this one on a bikeway in Baltimore -- one of five new bike shops to have opened in the last two years in that city. A 2008 study in Portland clocked bicycle-related industry alone as contributing $90 million to the local economy every year. Bicycle tourism is another huge boon to regions that can attract it -- in 2010, Wisconsin bragged of a yearly $1.5 billion bike economy [PDF].

Less obvious synergies abound as well. People who ride, just like people who drive, buy groceries, visit the doctor, need a new shirt sometimes, and enjoy dinner and a movie. They work. Their kids attend school. Despite the media attention given to mega-mileage supercommuters, for most people who depend on bikes for transportation, life works best with all these necessities in reasonable biking distance -- say, less than five miles -- from their home. Preferably along routes that don't include riding on highways or having to zip anxiously across them.
The rest of the article is a worth spending a few minutes to read.

While it's much more difficult for us here in Fairfax to ditch the car, many of our trips are short and could easily be taken by car. With better bike facilities many others would be much more likely to reduce their car use by using bikes for these shorter trips. Multiple car families might have the option of getting rid of a car and saving thousands of dollars each year.

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