Bicycle production has skyrocketed in recent years, with output increasing each of the last six years and nearly quadrupling since 1970. Yet, while overall bicycle usage has increased in many parts of the world, bicycle usage in the United States has decreased overall, and bicycle usage for transportation remains dismal, with just 0.4% of commute trips taken by bike. Even so, the Earth Policy Institute sees reason for optimism due to increasing advocacy and investment in cycling infrastructure nationwide.
Bicycles Pedaling Into the Spotlight
The world produced an estimated 130 million bicycles in 2007—more than twice the 52 million cars produced. Bicycle and car production tracked each other closely in the mid-to-late 1960s, but bike output separated sharply from that of cars in 1970, beginning its steep climb to 105 million in 1988. Following a slowdown between 1989 and 2001, bike production has regained steam, increasing in each of the last six years. Much of the recent growth has been driven by the rise in electric, or “e-bike” production, which has doubled since 2004 to 21 million units in 2007. Overall, since 1970, bicycle output has nearly quadrupled, while car production has roughly doubled.
While biking remains popular for recreation in the United States, it is woefully underused for transportation. Total cycling participation has declined nationally since 1960, dropping 32 percent since the early 1990s, and now accounts for just 0.9 percent of all trips. Cycling to work is even less frequent, at 0.4 percent of trips.
Despite these unimpressive statistics, encouraging signs can be seen for the future of cycling in the United States. Aided by $900 million a year in federal funding for promotion of biking and walking for 2005 to 2009, the installation of bicycle facilities—including parking, bike-friendly roads, and designated lanes—is proceeding at a record pace. Indeed, plans in the 50 largest U.S. cities would, on average, double their bicycle and pedestrian routes; New York City alone will quadruple its bike network to 2,900 kilometers by 2030.
Bicycle advocacy in the United States continues to grow as well. The League of American Bicyclists now honors 84 U.S. towns and cities as Bicycle Friendly Communities, compared with 52 in 2005. Cycling advocacy groups operate in 49 states and Washington, D.C. Perhaps most exciting, a Complete Streets movement has blossomed in recent years, in which a broad coalition of citizen and environmental groups is calling for safer, pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly roads designed for everyone, not just cars. Six states and more than 50 cities, counties, and metro regions have now enacted some form of Complete Streets legislation. For example, the Illinois General Assembly voted last October to require all new state transportation construction projects in and around urban areas to include bicycle and pedestrian ways.
Read the full story here.