Where have all the bicycles gone?

Commuter bikes are selling like hotcakes in New York City. And train ridership is up in California. Hmm, what could be the connection?

Published June 2, 2008 1:47PM (EDT)

How the World Works is delighted: The New York Sun is reporting bike shortages in Queens!

With gas costing nearly $4 a gallon ... commuters are switching to bikes, leaving some stores short on fashionable brands and preferred colors.

The owner of Dixon's Bicycle Shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn, David Dixon, said that over Memorial Day weekend, his store sold all 25 of its Jamis hybrid bikes — a cross between a racing bike and a mountain bike that sells for between $285 and $335 and is favored among commuters. Early this week, Mr. Dixon called Jamis to order about 50 more bikes and was told that a shipment wouldn't arrive until the end of the week. "They're all gone. It's wicked," Mr. Dixon said. "This isn't usual at all. The price of gas is affecting everyone."

Mix in a front-page story in Monday's San Francisco Chronicle reporting vastly increased ridership on California passenger trains, and we see yet again how fundamentally gas prices are changing how Americans get around.

Too bad the U.S. doesn't have a better train transportation system, or cities designed to be more friendly to bicycle traffic. But that would require long-term thinking by government, instead of short-term pocketbook-induced consumer behavior modification.

How the World Works had some thoughts to share on gas prices in Saturday's edition of NPR's "All Things Considered." You can find the podcast here.

(P.S. Thanks to Felix Salmon for the New York Sun link.)

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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