Gas Prices and Marion Nelson

26 Mar

I love Marion Nelson!  Okay, I don’t know Marion personally, but I love the photo and story in yesterday’s Times-Dispatch that show her riding her bicycle from the Fan to VCU (she’s a professor there) as a way to save on gas. Many people think that riding a bike to get around is only for college students and people who like to wear lycra.  Statistically men are much more likely to bike than women.  Marion is a perfect refutation of these assumptions and trends.

So the upside of the financial pain that comes with higher gas prices is that it could get a bunch more people into the habit of biking to get around. That means more people starting to ride or going back to it, which in turn calls for reminders on safe and comfortable cycling. Amy George at Ride Richmond recently reviewed cyclist extraordinaire Ken Kifer’s top 7 tips for safe and comfortable cycling. Many unfortunate cycling habits make it either more strenuous or uncomfortable than it needs to be, or unnecessarily put riders or others in danger. Check out Amy’s take on these, and get some nice equipment recommendations too.

Driving and Biking

So much of driving is habitual: we think of getting somewhere, we automatically think of jumping in the car, while the bike comes out only for recreation. At the risk of once again preaching to the choir, I thought I’d highlight some of the statistics that speak for biking as transportation. Here are a few numbers that might add to your motivation or help you convince someone to try it:

40 percent of daily trips in the U.S. are 2 miles or less, according to the National Household Travel Survey.  That’s a very bikable distance!  Even biking at a leisurely 10 mph would allow you to cover that distance in less than 15 minutes, and you save the time and expense of parking too.  Unless you’re traveling from one end of the city to another, you can get most places in Richmond in 30 minutes or less by bike.

Cars are used for 60 percent of trips of one mile or less.  Could you walk or bike a few blocks down to the drug store, coffee house, playground, or school?  You might also get there faster than by car, especially if it means you don’t have to deal with parking.  And although individually those short trips by car don’t seem to cost that much (you don’t really see the gas gauge move), taken together all of those short trips are actually expensive, especially since driving in town and starting and stopping all make for lousy gas mileage.

Why pay to exercise?  Biking helps you feel better and live longer.  If you bike and/or walk regularly to get around, you could cancel that gym membership and avoid the car trip to get there. Biking burns about 500 calories an hour!

So, if you bike already you have additional reasons to do so.  If you know someone who might consider it, maybe these numbers will help nudge them.

For more on the National Household Travel Survey, see this and associated links at the League of American Bicyclists.


3 Responses to “Gas Prices and Marion Nelson”

  1. bikeablerichmond March 27, 2012 at 1:28 AM #

    I fully agree with the “indicator species” issue and planned to do a more extensive post on that in the future. I suppose a more precise statement about Marion is that I hope she represents a trend that counters the general assumptions and statistics.

    Hope you’ll continue to read the blog even if I do refer to “biking” now and again, Stuart!

  2. Stuart March 27, 2012 at 1:14 AM #

    Also using “bike” as a verb is a pet peve of mine. I like to think that cyclists “ride” a few blocks to school (not “bikers” either, they ride Harleys.) Motorists don’t “car” to the drug store, and pedestrians don’t “shoe” to the coffee shop. Sorry, I know this is a prickish comment and it’s probably perfectly acceptable, but it still bugs me for some reason!!

  3. Stuart March 26, 2012 at 9:52 PM #

    “Statistically men are much more likely to bike than women. Marion is a perfect refutation of these assumptions and trends.”
    Well one cyclist isn’t going to disprove that statistic but one city could if its cyclists were predominantly women and men were a minority of cyclists. Research has shown that women cyclists are an “indicator species” for the state of cycling in a given place. The safer and more accepted it is in a given place, the more women comprise the overall number of cyclists. True fact. So when you travel to a place and the only cyclists you see are a handful of hardcore messenger/lycra dudes you know it’s no cycling city.

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