News / USA

US Urban Cycling 'Here to Stay'

Bike Commuters in Washington Double, Changing US Capitali
X
December 18, 2013 7:43 PM
The number of people in Washington who commute to work on bicycles has doubled since 2007 - a trend which is also taking place in other U.S. cities. And as VOA's Diana Logreira tells us, the U.S. capital is making some changes to encourage even more people to ride their bikes. Pam Dockins narrates her report.
“The cat is out of the bag!” says Greg Billing from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) when asked if urban cycling is in the U.S. to stay.

Billing is part of a group of two-wheel enthusiasts who are working towards smoothing the path for a new American mode of transportation - the bicycle.

Cities such as Washington, Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle and New York are experiencing this change, mainly among 20 and 30-year-olds. “They now own fewer cars and drive fewer miles than their parents’ and their grandparents’ generations at the same age,” says Ralph Buehler, an associate professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech, and the author of a book about urban biking.

Money matters

For Marissa Smith, a recent college graduate working in Washington, biking is one of the cheapest and most equitable modes of transportation. "Almost anyone can afford a bike,” she said.

And as Greg Billing points out, “The money that people have in their wallets today is a lot different than what people had thirty or fifty years ago."

"There is less spending money; people are looking into ways to stay in the city,” he adds.

The fashion industry has not been left behind by this new trend. The wave of bike commuters has inspired a high-end clothing market that aims to combine safety with style.  Sarah Canner, owner of Vespertine, a New York-based boutique specialized in clothing for city riders, said in a VOA interview that she studies how people allocate their money.

“You might spend $60 to fill your gas tank but you might say, ‘Ohh, 60 dollars is too much for a safety vest,’ she said.  "But a safety vest can save your life and you can wear it for many years, while gas would only last for a week or two."

The challenge

However, the bike does not have it easy.  For decades, the automobile has been the symbol of freedom, the icon of the American Way, progress and industrialization.  After World War II, the auto assembly line drove America out of the post-war recession and helped establish the middle class.

At the beginning of the 20th century there were fewer than 8,000 cars in the United States.  Today, there are more than 192 million light duty vehicles registered, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

'Cool' mobility

Today the car is "losing its status symbol, and it’s becoming a mobility tool,” says Professor Buehler. The bike is no longer something you use in the park or ride for a workout, but is “something that gets you from A to B.”

A few years ago, the U.S. Census Bureau started asking Americans how they get to work, and since 2000 the number of bike commuters has doubled.

For many, pedaling to work is the only opportunity to connect with their local environment.

“People like the idea that they are supporting jobs in their community. So if it’s produced locally, that means that somebody is making it locally and they are being paid locally and the money goes back to the community and enriches the community,” said Sarah Canner.

Judging from the numbers, the new “cool” in the U.S. could be transitioning from fast, oil-powered and global-oriented transport to healthy, self-powered, locally-oriented transport.

But Professor Buehler says it's too early to tell whether the trend toward bicycling will last as the current bike generation  gets older.  “We don’t know what happens when they get to 35-40 years-old-will they then adapt to the lifestyle of their parents? Or will they remain different? Only the future can tell.”

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid