Gas Prices And Your Commute?

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Due to the sweltering heat, when I needed to get from downtown to Hollywood today with my bike, I opted to take the Metro and save myself from a horrid sunburn. Now I’ve taken my bike on the train in the past and not including people who are traveling with me specifically, the most other bikes I’ve ever seen is probably 3. Today I saw 7. SEVEN. But it wasn’t just that, the folks with bikes were talking to each other and those around them about how the gas prices were so insane it wasn’t worth it for them to drive to work anymore and they suspected we’d all be seeing a lot more people on bikes in the near future.

I want to be clear here, these were not “LA bike culture” people, these weren’t Midnight Ridazz or fixed gear hipsters, they were just ordinary people who were looking for a cheaper way to get to and from work. One lady who was without a bike remarked that she’s ridden the train to and from work every day in the last 2 years and she’s never seen as many people on the trains, or as many bikes on the trains as she has in the last month and “every one of them is complaining about those damn gas prices.” Later on when I actually had to drive a car and I needed to put some gas in it I noticed a weird fellowship between the other people at the station filling up. One guy said “these prices are just insane, what are we doing” and another person responded “I dunno man, but if this keeps up I’m buying a bike.” I nodded and told them biking in LA is awesome and the first guy says “At this point I don’t care if it sucks, if it doesn’t cost me $80 to fill up once a week, I’m in.”

14 Replies to “Gas Prices And Your Commute?”

  1. In my east coast city, it’s the motor scooter business that’s taken off more so than bikes. Probably because of the humidity — you take that breeze where you can get it 8-)

  2. The cost of gas is certainly a (if not THE) catalyst for changing people’s perceptions and commute choices. I’ve been seeing crazy amounts of cyclists on the roads with me these last few weeks (in the 20s, 30s and 40s now as opposed to the teens at best prior to the skyrocketing prices). It’s good to see but it makes me wonder how long it’ll be before they’re back in their cars once (if?) gas prices level off and become just another fact of life in L.A.

    For me, it’s never been about the price per gallon near as much as it’s been about how much I just love riding a bike.

  3. I was thinking the same thing Will as I always loved riding my bike but was hesitant to ride in the city for years until I just did it and then realized how easy and amazing it was. In talking to the folks on the train one guy said something to the effect that he’s actually been enjoying his new bike ride, something he never would have done before, and how it’s so much easier than he expected. I think that’s the kind of thing that will stick with people and while some will certainly just jump in their cars again (if and when gas prices drop) they won’t as easily forget their biking experiences and that will hopefully stick in their heads going forward.

  4. I’ve been seeing a ton more Vespas (and other scooters) too. 75 mpg, baby! We’ve had one for about three years and it used to be I’d see one a day, but now I’m seeing one every mile or so. Awesome!

  5. Given that I’ve never driven to my current job (not even for the interview), I have very little concept of how much gasoline even costs. I hear it’s expensive though.

  6. I take the Orange Line/Red Line every day to work and I’ve noticed an increase in riders as well and overheard riders talking about gas prices as a reason.

    I agree with Sean that, while some people might go right back to cars IF gas prices drop, many will notice a giant increase in quality of life by taking the Metro or biking, etc. Most people don’t even THINK of the alternatives to driving, but gas prices are forcing many people to at least now consider them. And as they learn the benefits of not driving (saving money, not getting stuck in traffic, being able to do other things — like read, getting exercise without having to go to the gym, etc.) many will likely stick around.

  7. I started riding my bike to work a couple months ago (for exercise mostly) and now 4 of my coworkers started biking too after they saw me doing it. I don’t know if they’ll keep at it. And it is a little scary that one of them brushed off my advice on basic maintenance, PSI and bicycle road laws. There are more of these type of bicyclists on the road now….

    I hope that the number of bikes keep increasing. To the point where bike lanes and bicycle road laws becomes a much higher priority.

  8. I’ve seen both the increase in scooters and bicycles in my area.

    Will people go back to cars when prices stabilize is a good question. My hunch is for some it might, but the majority will keep doing it for a variety of reasons.

    The bigger issue we have to contend with is simply stabilizing the cost as it is wreaking havoc on the economy and fueling inflation simply by costing us more to get food and products into the market place.

    In the mean time I will enjoy my 20 foot commute where my biggest expense is tread wear on my tenny-runners if I even bother to put on shoes.

  9. Back in the 40’s after the war end the red cars had a tremendous increase in ridership due to the scarcity of fuel because of government imposed gas rationing. Once this was lifted people went back to riding their cars and thus the red line crumbled brought on by low ridership which made it unprofitable to operate. Going by the comments of the people on the metro I would gander to say that once prices fall or a cheap alternative is found/created we will go back to driving in our cars.

  10. If enough citizens continue the switch from personal vehicles to public transportation, motor scooters, and bicycles, you just watch how goddamn fast fuel prices will drop.

    And then everyone will foolishly jump back into their cars. “Yay! Cheap gas!” Humans are about as dumb as cattle and just as susceptible to herd mentality.

  11. I started riding to work a couple months ago for economic, health, and environmental reasons. The 6 mile ride each way seemed daunting at first, but now is the norm. Somedays the hills are tough and I have to walk the peaks, but I always feel mentally and physically accomplished at the end of the ride. I wish I could perform a full carectomy, but there are times that I need ti drive. It is much nicer only having to fill up every 2 weeks or so.
    I have even convinced a coworker who lives a street away to bikepool to work when we have coinciding schedules.

    Regardless of if the prices go down, I am hooked on riding nd public transport now that I know it works. Now to lead by example for others.

  12. Last time I took the Metro I was stunned at how many people poured out of the train at Union Station. It was NY Deja Vu all over again.

    I’ve started commuting down the stairs to our factory in my CROCS!

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