I’ve been reading several posts lately about the expected rise in gas prices in 2012 and the potentially positive influence it might have on the cycling population. I think there maybe some influence but I definitely don’t think there’s much causation.
When people get excited and eager for gas price increases, I think they are exhibiting a lot of misplaced optimism. Maybe they live within walking distance of their office, grocery stores, and great restaurants. Perhaps, they live in temperate climes and in flat regions and don’t have to ride through ice and snow, searing heat, up hill riding a Huffy. No offense to Huffy, of course.
But I would suggest that the average commute for most people isn’t in the 3-5 miles range and may actually be closer to 29-50 miles. I tried to find a national average but was unable to find a definitive number. And because of those distances, I think that the burden of rising fuel costs will be felt disproportionately by the people least likely able to afford it.
I think about this conundrum- the effectiveness of offering alternative forms of transportation – every time I go out to Denver International Airport. It’s about an hour long drive from where I live. But I imagine that for the people that work there making minimum wage their commute can’t be much less. Why do I think that? Because Pena Blvd is 13 miles of prairie, uninhabitable waste land. Yes, there are a few condos out there, but no where to buy groceries, go to school, or out for an evening. In other words, the barista serving you coffee probably drove in from places quite a distance away and just had to spend approximately two hours of their working day just paying for the gas to do it. And it’s not like commuting by bike is an option. Yes, I’ve seen the commuter bus, which drops off and picks up airport employees to take them to DIA, and it’s somewhere out in the middle of cow pasture-ville, which in order to get to they had to drive. There the ones that get hurt, when the price of gas spikes.
Yes, I believe commuting and other forms of transportation are important but let’s be honest that without investment in other ways to get around, rising gas prices just means many are stuck paying higher fuel prices. That’s it. Rising gas prices doesn’t immediately translate into a cycling-friendly utopia, with everyone riding Dutch bicycles. It more likely means less alternative and more creative ways to get around.