Both automobile and bicycle purchases fell overall in the first quarter of 2009, but in a surprising twist, bike sales trumped car sales (2.6 million bicycles vs. 2.5 million cars). And while bike sales are down 30% overall from the first quarter of 2008, it’s a slower drop than car sales, which are down over 35%. Granted, bikes are much cheaper than cars–many college students can afford a brand new bike but would be hard-pressed to purchase a car. Still, Dennis Markatos, founder of Sustainable Energy Transition, thinks it is also an indicator of a growing bike culture in the U.S.
Markatos may be right (and just in time for national bike month). With increasing gas prices and decreasing spending money, bikes seem like a reasonable choice for many city-goers who don’t want to brave the public transportation system. New roadways and bike lanes are being built for bikers every day. The East Coast Greenway Alliance plans to connect paths from Key West, Florida, to Calais, Maine, on a 3,000-mile-long paved trail, and New York City is planning to install 33 miles of new bike lanes in the coming year. And with hybrid bikes becoming increasingly common, there’s no reason for even lazy commuters to shun the bicycle lifestyle.
Cars won’t go away, of course, but increased bike sales may mean less-crowded public transportation, cleaner air, and city streets with minimal traffic. More importantly, a swell in the amount of bikers on the road could mean that car drivers will be forced to give bicycle enthusiasts the one thing they truly covet: Respect.