An Update on Cheap Oil and Biking

High oil prices prompted Americans use their bike more than their car.  Last month we wrote about the falling price of oil and how people were still biking more.

Since then the prices of oil has dropped even more.

Still, the October driving numbers are down according to the Federal Highway Administration:

Americans drove more than 100 billion fewer miles between November 2007 and October 2008 than the same period a year earlier, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters, making it the largest continuous decline in American driving in history.

The Secretary noted that Americans drove 3.5 percent less, or 8.9 billion fewer vehicle miles traveled (VMT), in October 2008 than October 2007, making it the sharpest decline of any October since 1971.

Of course during this downturn, bike commuting and public transit ridership have increased.

And, these changes are not just due to high oil prices.  According to an Associated Press report in the Detroit News:

It’s likely the economic crisis is an important factor in the driving decline, said David Goldberg, a spokesman for Transportation for America, a coalition of groups pressing for more alternatives to driving.

If it’s the economy then one might expect Michigan’s driving decline would lead the nation.  It’s not.

In Michigan, September’s vehicle miles traveled numbers dropped 4.3% while the national average was 4.7%.

October dropped 3.3% compared with the national average of 3.5%.

One possible explanation is there are fewer alternatives for Michigan drivers.  Unlike other states, we haven’t invested much in bike transportation infrastructure and public transit. Oregon, which has made those investments, saw driving decreases well above the national average.

And many places in Metro Detroit are low-density, auto-centric, and sprawling.  Those places don’t lend themselves to alternative transportation.  One could expect real estate value in these areas to suffer as people chose to drive less — and to live in places that allow that opportunity.

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