Today fifty-seven percent of American families own two or more vehicles. A recent projection suggests that that figure will fall dramatically over the next two decades to 43% .
Reasons cited include increased popularity of ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft and car sharing services like Zipcar, the delay in purchasing a first car and increased migration to urban areas where driving is hard and getting around by other means is easier.
Cars are expensive. The average new car costs $31,000 and depreciates by 11% the moment you drive it off the lot and average annual costs to own and maintain a car are about $8,200. So combine those costs with the increasing student debt burden and less robust job prospects for new college graduates and you can see the attractiveness of going without at least one car.
Then there’s demographics. With 77 million Baby Boomers nearing retirement they will want or need to drive less. At the other end of the spectrum younger Americans don’t seem to regard driving as the same rite of passage that my generation did. When I was 19 only 8% of my fellow teenagers didn’t have their drivers license. Today that figure is three times as high.
The bike is likely to be part of the answer for a lot of families. One study suggests that it costs about $300 a year to own a bike. That might be about right or maybe even a little high. This year I figure I spent about $500 on my fleet of five bikes and that includes a new pair of tires for one bike, new break shoes, a new pair of biking shoes and shorts, a reflective windbreaker and a Saris rack. (Of course, this doesn’t count the new single speed I just had to have last spring, but that’s not maintenance or a bike need; it was an insane moment of bike lust.)
With so many economic pressures on young families it seems like the bike will be a smart answer. All the more reason for local and state governments to keep investing in safe cycling infrastructure.