As gas prices rise, bike commuting is also on the up and up. Living on Earth went to a bike store in L.A. to check in on the booming business, and also flagged down some bike commuters in Boston during morning rush hour to ask about their rubber-to-the-road habits.
GELLERMAN: The spike in gas prices has an increasing number of people turning to spokes – spokes on bikes, that is. According to Merrill Lynch, bike sales are up five percent this year, while car sales are stalled – down at eleven percent. And even in bike-treacherous Los Angeles where the car is king and rules the road, sales of two-wheel people powered machines are brisk. LOE’s Ingrid Lobet sent us this audio postcard from a bike shop in LA.
[BIKE SHOP SOUNDS]
RANCIER: My name is Candace Rancier. I am the manager of Palms Cycle. My family has owned Palms Cycle since the 1960s. The store has been here since the 1930s. It's pretty much known as the oldest store in Los Angeles as …far as we know.
Since it's been getting hotter and the gas prices have been going up, we have a lot of repairs.
I basically can't keep anything in stock.
The biggest favorite lately is the grocery bag panniers, they attach to a rack on the back of your bike and they fit grocery bags in 'em perfectly.
The lights, the locks, helmets, stuff that people use pretty much every day to go to work.
We've been ordering a lot of bags and baskets too, because people have been using their bikes to go to work.
My repair department is booked almost two weeks out.
Doing probably about ten tune-ups a day, along with the walk-ins …and brand new bicycle builds that we have to put on the floor.
It's pretty much gotten to the point where bikes are, it's less expensive to buy a bike than it is to pay for gas for a month.
The big problem now for us as a business is because the gas prices are going up, so are the bicycles. Every week I get a new price list from my companies saying the price went up ten, to twenty percent. Because the tires and the grips and a lot of the materials that are on the bicycle are made of petroleum. All the bikes are made in China or Taiwan so they are shipped here, then they're shipped to the warehouse, then they have to be shipped to us.
If the gas prices keep going up this way …I think we are going to see a lot more bikes on the street, actually.
GELLERMAN: Living on Earth’s Ingrid Lobet rides her bike in Los Angeles – and produced our story. Living on Earth’s Ashley Ahearn rides her bike in Boston – and recently got an earful from some bicycling commuters during rush hour….
[CROSS WALK SOUNDS, TRAFFIC AMBIANCE]
AHEARN: Before the light changes here, what’s the best part about riding your bike to work?
WOMAN: Um, not being in a car.
MAN: Good exercise, you get some fresh air.
WOMAN: My commute on the T is usually an hour. Biking it’s a half hour.
MAN: It really wakes me up, it’s better than coffee I think.
WOMAN: You make commuting recreation instead of a chore.
AHEARN: And what’s the pits about riding your bike in the morning to work?
WOMAN: Yeah when I get to work I have to sink shower, which is kind of nasty.
WOMAN: The traffic, the potholes, the bike lanes, people opening their car doors, cutting in.
AHEARN: How ‘bout traffic, have you had an close calls?
WOMAN: In 26 years, I’ve had very few problems or times when I felt scared.
WOMAN: I’ve actually been hit. This woman ran right into me, totaled my bike, nearly crushed my foot but luckily I was able to get away from that.
MAN: Oh, I’ve been hit several times but it wasn’t any major thing and usually the cars just drive away.
AHEARN: Do you get bike rage?
MAN: Yeah, I get bike rage and it’s unfortunate so I try to stick out my tongue, instead of give the finger but it’s hard to resist.
WOMAN: Drivers are bad, but so are bikers and so are pedestrians. We’re all out for ourselves rather than like following the rules. [Laughs]
AHEARN: They do say Boston drivers are the worst. Are Boston bikers the worst?
WOMAN: Um, I think we all are about equal.
AHEARN: Thank you so much.
WOMAN: No problem.
AHEARN: Have a good commute.
WOMAN: You too.
[HORNS HONKING, CROSSWALK COUNTDOWN NOISE]
GELLERMAN: Gripes, groans and grinding gears on the mean streets of Boston collected by Living on Earth’s Ashley Ahearn.
[MUSIC: Melanie “Brand New Key” from ‘Gather Me’ (Two Story Records—1971)]
GELLERMAN: Coming up: Biodiversity – what’s in it for you - Stay tuned to Living on Earth!
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