Monday, June 03, 2019

It Could be Locality-Induced Myopia ...

... but I believe several things are coming together in ways that will fundamentally change the way Americans get around.

Three of those things are ride-sharing, self-driving cars, and electric bicycles.

When I was a kid in the government schools, I remember everyone laughing at a film of those backward Chinese using their bicycles as primary transportation. Almost every American family seemed to have at least one car, probably two.

These days, I see lots of people riding bicycles to work, and not just in town but from the countryside, ten or more miles out. As electric bikes get cheaper and bike lanes get more common, I expect that trend to continue.

Could that be locality-induced myopia on my part? Gainesville is an atypical locality. Big university, lots of students, lightly left-leaning especially vis a vis things like ecology, green space, etc. Weather and distance can be a limiting factor -- less so in Florida than, say, North Dakota.

On the other hand, when I say I see people using bikes as primary transportation from out of town, I'm talking about rural white working class types with lunch-boxes and tool belts in front baskets or on rear racks. A bike is cheaper to buy than a car. It's also cheaper to operate than a car (no gas, no insurance required, etc.). And a DUI might get your license to drive a car suspended, but you don't need a license to ride a bike. Throw in ever-cheapening electrical bikes and more people who aren't necessarily in great physical shape can opt in.

Of course, there are times when a car is either necessary or very desirable. But it's probably cheaper to use Uber several times a month than it is to take on a car payment, insurance premiums, and gas costs. Especially if you live within easy walk or bike distance of your work, your usual shopping haunts, etc. Self-driving vehicles are probably going to make ride-sharing cheaper over time, too.

Am I missing some factor that militates toward the post-WW2 "two cars in every garage" paradigm continuing to prevail?

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