Is there a breaking point with gas prices?

I was reading through some of our older articles recently and came across one from 2005 that mentioned gas prices “soaring past $2 a gallon”. Now, over three years later, two bucks a gallon sounds like a deal!

We’re quickly approaching $5 a gallon here in the states and there doesn’t seem to be a huge rush towards alternative means of travel. Sure, I’m seeing more people on bikes than ever before and there are plenty of news stories talking about people taking up commuting by bike, but we are still by and large the minority.

I’m starting to wonder if a breaking point exists.

On the pilot episode of the Bike to Work Podcast (subscribe for FREE in iTunes), we talked about prices of $11/gallon over in Europe.

Is that what it’s going to take around here? Or would even those prices make people change their mind about cars?

So what do you think?

Do you think there is breaking point with the gas prices?

If so, what’s that number?

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0 thoughts on “Is there a breaking point with gas prices?”

  1. Tony says:

    I think it’s a function of the car you drive and the money you make, sans those who ride for environmental and health reasons.

    If you make minimum wage in America and drive a 1977 Firebird, the bicycle is looking ever more inviting.

    If you’re a computer programmer and you drive a 2006 Prius the effect of gas prices isn’t so great, though you are probably wise enough to see the benefits of riding.

    Super Unleaded in Chico, CA = $4.69 this morning, down 10 cents from last week.

  2. Quinn says:

    For me, gas hit $2/gal., in 2005 just after I got out of auto mechanics trade school, Where I saw just how far from the the original motor vehicle, and how much America it going in the wrong direction with the motor vehicle, and decided then that a car was not the way to go, and now here I am with my own apt and 4 Bike-shop quality bikes, while many friends and co-workers are on the verge of financial ruin because they have soley relied on a car.

  3. matthew booth says:

    It’s hard for me to see gas prices as the reason for financial ruin. I’ll admit the prices are high and cause some pain when filling up, but as an example my wife fills up about every week to 1 1/2 weeks. It’s close to $70 to fill it up. At most our change in gas budget has been about $52/month (assuming an increase in $1/gallon for 4 fill ups a month vs. prices not too long ago).

    If that $52 extra a month is breaking my bank it’s probably because I’m not adjusting my lifestyle in other ways. Drive less, try doing a car commute, eat-out less, rent less movies, cancel a gym membership and take up free exercising.

    The problem is people are accustomed to certain lifestyles. As my wife and I are learning (we are still young) you change lifestyles to accommodate price increases in all areas i.e. food, gas, rent, etc…

    Maybe I’m just being a stick in the mud, but financial ruin from this increase in gas means someone is not making wise decisions elsewhere.

    Another thing I just thought of was the difference between young and old workers. Right now I’m not at my maximum earning potential so every year or so I make modest increase in yearly income whereas I can see someone older being at the peak of earning potential and needing to make larger adjustments to lifestyle from year to year.

  4. Justin says:

    This entire debate seems to forget who is being affected by gas prices. Folks living in the suburbs will get hurt, perhaps even enough to move closer to a city center, but rural folks are feeling this in an entirely different way.
    For many people in rural areas all goods and services require long car trips. There are no bike lanes in rural America. For years, people in rural areas have made ends meet by hunting down lower prices by spending time in their cars. When rural wages are dramatically different from urban ones, a change in fuel price makes a big dent for people with no other access to goods or even human contact.
    As hard as it is for suburban Americans to give up their insipid, unused golf-course lawns, imagine asking rural Americans to move and fundamentally change their way of life. That is what another $1 a gallon can do.

  5. Franklin says:

    I honestly think gas is going to have to hit about 6 or 7 dollars a gallon before people stop and think about other forms of commuting. For me my limit was $3.90 a gallon. As for the breaking point, I fully believe that gas could be 10-15 dollars a gallon, and there will still be people driving, they will be getting poor quick, but they will still be driving.

  6. matthew booth says:

    I see your point Justin, but at some point people make decisions to stay where they are at and not make decisions to move or change lifestyles. Hence the mass shift of people not switching to mass transit or bicycle for commuting.

    So if it costs more for someone in rural America to drive a good distance into town to hunt for lower prices, then get a group of neighbors and commute into town.

    The point is people sit back and complain and whine about things and expect the government to take away the pain without the individual exhausting their options or becoming more innovated in their thinking.

    Of course there will always be exceptions and true “victims” of the circumstances…

  7. matthew booth says:

    sorry I meant “hence the lack of a mass shift of people switching to…”

  8. Juan says:

    I noticed more people riding a bicycle the summer gas hit $2.00 a gallon, then I do now that it’s at $4.00. That first $2.00 summer was a shock, but It seems people are getting used to ever rising prices, and cutting expenses elsewhere in order to keep driving. I like the idea that gas is $4.00 now, and don’t mind seeing it climb a bit more. I think that’s the only way people in this country are going to start cutting back. I don’t think $5 or even $6 will do it though.

  9. luis says:

    there’s bit quite a few studies done on tipping points. the last one i remember was over the cost of tortillas in mexico. interesting study. the ministry of ag tracked the price of tortillas to see at what point folks changed their behavior. since the tortilla is such a staple the resistance to change was significant but it did change, rather quickly if i remember correctly. the same will probably happen with car use. the tipping point will probably be spread across just 50 cents or so and be at a psychological hurdle such as 4.99, 5.49 or 5.99.

    one thing that gas sellers could do to increase the tolerance is switch to $/liter, since us citizens are not accustomed to those prices points. in mexico reduced the number of tortillas in a package from 36/24/12 to 30/20/10. it helped keep people in the tasty rounds but not for long, eventually they switched to wheat based products or pressed for gov subsidies.

  10. jason (sd) says:

    I don’t think there is a breaking point number for our society. The price has gone up to slowly and people get use to the price. Then it goes up again and people get use to it. I bought a lot of gas at 85 cents a gallon. Now it is 4 dollars. That is 4.7 times what I use to pay. If gas suddenly jumped to $18, a 4.5 times increase, how many people would be looking for a way not to use so much gas? It has happened before it will happen again.
    So as long as the price goes up by small percentages, even as often as every week, there will be no breaking point for the masses. And the oil companies will make as much money as they want.

  11. Siouxgeonz says:

    The point about different people being affected differently is an important one.

    I think we may have hit a breaking point but it simply hasn’t “broken” yet. You don’t go broke the same week that you overspend; it takes time for the debt to pile up. It’s piling for lots of folks now; they’re living in arrears.

    Alas, most *do* expect the ‘solutions’ or consequences to come from external sources and don’t have a sense that they can do anything about it. Leadership could change that…

  12. SteveS says:

    There is no tipping point as long as the automobile is the only way many people can travel. Many rural areas have poorly maintained roads and no public transit system. Many suburban dwellers live 25-60 miles from their places of work (I’m thinking of you, California), and could not possibly use a bike. America is tied to the automobile, and will be for the foreseeable future, I’m afraid.

    I live in Nashville, TN, and the bus system isn’t the greatest. The buses are being heavily used whenever I’m on them (i.e. not commuting by bike), but there aren’t enough routes and not enough buses on the routes that do exist for people to adopt bus use very easily. The infrastructure needed to expand bus systems, commuter rail, etc. take years to plan and pay for. This gas price hike is rather sudden, if you look at it from a public transit perspective.

    Of course, for an individual, buying a bike eliminates many of the problems associated with expanding a public transportation system, but not many people I know are willing to even try to bike the 8-mile route I ride every day into work (too hot, too much traffic, not enough shoulder on the road, lots of hills, not in shape, etc.). Not yet at least. I really don’t think $6, $7, or even $8 will do it for them, though, either. They’ll just take fewer trips around town, fewer long-distance road trips, and save money in other budget categories.

  13. Siouxgeonz says:

    This is where I thnk a little leadership could help… by prying open folks’ minds to the genuine accessibility of an 8-mile commute.

    Alas, I’m afraid – in the pit of my stomach like a little knot – that people will be entirely too willing to make nasty long-term compromises in a fit of denial that things are changing.

  14. SteveW says:

    I’ve been noticing that many of the car-to-bike converts that I read about in the newspapers were previously driving their 3-4 miles to work.

    My question is, Why weren’t you riding sooner? Personally, I wish I only lived 3-4 miles from work; then it wouldn’t even be a question in the morning! I’m slightly offended that a physically fit person would choose to drive that distance, gas prices through the roof or not.

    Back on topic, I think it’ll take a lot to break America of it’s habits. As stated before, short of living in large urban areas, this country is simply not built on an infrastructure that can easily support alternative modes of transportation. The ironic thing is that those persons who live in rural areas will, demographically speaking, be least equipped to ride the rising tide of the current economy. I doubt any of the people reading this exist in the lowest income brackets of this nation (you probably wouldn’t own a computer if you did); how will those persons who work 50 miles from work for nearly minimum wages weather this storm?

  15. AC says:

    RE: luis and jason (sd)

    So true! I’m sure there is a lot of psychology that goes into raising the price of gas. In Southern California gas was stuck at high $3.90s for weeks before it broke the $4.00 mark and I’m sure it was to prevent a huge psychological blow of going over $4. Now regular has been floating just below $4.50 for weeks and it has actually dropped a bit in the last couple weeks. I’m guessing it’s going to start climbing once we get numb to the $4.50 mark.

  16. DDK says:

    There is a DEFINITE global breaking point. With a fine balance between supply and demand, a pullback in oil use drops prices through the floor — which is how things got so cheap in the 80’s and 90’s, after the oil shocks. Doesn’t even need bicycles — the death of the SUV could be enough. But us cyclists sure speed it up. 🙂

    Of course, with the growth in China and India, oversupply would be temporary. All to say: expect big price swings for the next few years/decades.

  17. James Slemboski says:

    I bet $5.00/gal. will break the bank for most people.

  18. kaz kougar says:

    Breaking point? I doubt it.
    The corporations have us where they want us, eating out of their hands. They continue to push products to make us fatter, lazier and unhealthy making the common man less of a threat, mentally and physically, not to mention financially thus they continue to raise prices on necessities and are met with little to no resistance. In addition, some of the the largest and wealthiest corporations of all, the pharmaceutical companies, benefit even more as with our now self-inflicted health issues we require more medication or are lead to believe that we do.
    If we haven’t reached a breaking point yet, I don’t believe that we will.
    People have become way too selfish to sacrifice small conveniences. I can’t say that I firmly believe that everyone should ditch their car and buy a bike but I do feel that people should reconsider how they go about their business. Is their something that you can do to decrease your consumption of fossil fuels? If convenience is that much of an issue then maybe you should think about how much money you could possibly save on gas, money that you could then spend on fast food or more plastic junk at the Wal-Mart.

  19. ryan arnold says:

    For me 4 dollars was the point where I stopped “toying” with the idea of bike commuting and put a serious plan in motion. I signed up for my company’s transit vouchers and started taking the bus to work and riding my bike home (no showers here, so I have to take the bus to avoid the funk factor).

    Over all I’ve gone from paying 250 a month on gas to paying 35 bucks a month on a bus pass (which I can then use any other time I need to ride the subway etc).

  20. Chad says:

    Mine was at $2.50 a gallon. I kindly gave my employer an ultimatum and was allowed to work from home. More recently this has allowed us to become a one car/multi-bike family. It is an adjustment because I do live in the burbs of an already rural area.

    The cost of gas can also be overcome by changes in lifestyle. Grow your own, buy local, reduce spending, etc. It is easy to find things to trim and hard work to do it but it makes a huge difference.

    I think for most people it is going to be $8/$10 a gallon.

  21. luis says:

    there is a tipping point for everything regardless of conditions. i’m sure it’s somewhere under $20/gal given the current conditions but the question is where. at what point will it become so painful to buy gas that folks will have to look for other solutions for or greatly reduce petroleum transport — think carpools, mass transit, walking, bike, changing jobs. a lower paying job locally is better than a higher with hidden costs. i’m betting the magic number is $7.50/gal ($2/liter) for a 20 gal tank that’s $150.

  22. Mark Evans says:

    There will always people who will have to drive or insist on driving regardless of the price of gas. Sadly, it’s an inherent part of living in North American for many people, especially those living in suburbia.

  23. Tony says:

    It’s interesting to see the varied responses and the progression of thought these comments have taken.

    I didn’t give a breaking point amount for gas in my first comment as I thought it was so far off base, but after reading other comments, maybe not.

    So, I believe the breaking point is when a given driver is spending $1 to move him and his crap 1 mile. And if you drive a Ford F350, you maybe getting very close to that. It’s actually more like $1 to move an F350 2 miles.

  24. idbob says:


  25. The tipping point is not gas prices but alternative transportation accommodations. Though gas prices are on the rise, they are still ridiculously cheap compared to many other countries, plus our huge rise in inflation means that $4/gallon really isn’t seen as expensive anymore. $4-$5 to drive 20-30 miles is still a great deal for many people.

    Personally, gas prices were not the reason I bought a bicycle. One day driving home from the office I saw a pack of cyclists pedal up and over the Neponset Bridge connecting Dorchester to Quincy (Massachusetts) and was simply shocked at how quick they were going and that they were easily passing every car on the bridge. It seemed they were also having a blast even though it’s a steep incline onto the bridge. I almost immediately felt that I was imprisoned in my box on four wheels and decided to make the switch.

    Now, I’m in my four month of cycling everywhere and refuse to go back. When I’m on my saddle I truly feel free, I can go anywhere, park anywhere and am not reliant on fuel (besides food) nor the public transport schedule.

    When the bike trails are fully built going up and down both coasts and across the country connecting cities, people will be much more apt to giving the bike a try. Simply put, many, many people refuse to ride a bicycle in the street with traffic and I understand why. For those people to get on a bicycle we’re going to need a lot more lanes built specifically for bicycles.

    Though, our government won’t do this on its own as it’s currently under the oil company’s control. If gas goes up to $10-$11-$12 people will still drive. If streets start getting shut down to car traffic and converted into pedestrian-bicycle-etc paths and lanes, we’ll start seeing a more massive shift to bicycles.

    Personally, I’m going to try to run for Mayor of Boston and part of my platform will be turning some of the major streets here into non car lanes and attempting to ban non emergency cars from the core of the city. There are many, many people who are fiscally irresponsible and high gas prices will simply not affect them. Bush was right, we’re addicted to oil and addicts don’t look at price.

  26. Adriel says:

    Let us not forget, sales of SUV’s have declined, sales of suburban homes are in decline, and scooters are flying off the shelf like crazy.

    Also fuel efficient vehicles like the smart car are selling out as soon as they can make them.

    People are already changing habits, and I think right now would be the perfect time to hit the market with an electric “commuter car”

    In America, the car is here to stay, at least for the forseeable future, we can just hope that they will start running renewable energy sources. And that cities will invest more in keeping cycling safe. (And I do not mean a 4′ bike lane in the door zone, I mean REAL safety). I think the tipping point for the car will not be fuel related but traffic related. The more congested traffic gets the less people will want to drive, we just need to protect those who choose not to drive. I think if pedestrian and Bicycle travel was safer (IN TRAFFIC not separated from it), then more people would naturally choose to use it.

  27. CJ says:

    I really like what Adriel has to say here. Ford reported SUV sales to be down 28% this year. I can’t remember what source I read that stat, but I believe that it was our local newspaper who got the stat from the associated press.

    GM is not doing well with their SUV’s and big trucks either. People will just swallow their pride and switch to smaller cars. The funny thing is that most of these 50-100mi per day car commuters drive all alone in a vehicle that gets 15-20mi/gal hwy miles. That is some funny **** IMHO.

    OTOH, I know many people who have decided not eat out anymore, vacation closer to home, and run their home A/C at a higher temperature all so that they can still drive the huge family Suburban or Ford Expedition. Basically, it is more important to show off your new SUV to the neighbors then go on a nice vacation with the family. And then there are those who can simply weather the storm just because they are making north of 100K per year. If your take home is 3 times what most people gross, then what do you care if gas is 5.00/gal.

    Public transportation needs to be improved. That is for sure. But how about a little community unity here. How many neighbors drive to work all alone and work only a few miles or even blocks from each other. By simply car pooling a lot of urban people could save a ton of money. And it would help to keep the maintanence on local roads down.

    Lastly, I am hoping that increased gas prices will help rural business by keeping local small town residents buying in town instead of driving 50-100mi to the “city” to do all the grocery shopping at “Wal-mart”. Paying a few more bucks for groceries all of sudden is not so bad when it will cost you 30.00 bucks in fuel traveling to the city and back. Locally imported and made products are often handled much better because the locals who make or import those products have a stake in the community and hence they try to provide the best product and or customer service possible. Try getting good customer service at Wally-world.

    Oh well, I could go on forever, but I don’t want to bore you all.

    Peace out

  28. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    My tipping point started back in late 03. BY summer of 05 I was car-lite. I had a 1 mile, down hill, ride to work and 3 miles over a hill if I worked at area stores. March 06 is the last time I drove my car, with less than 50 miles for the 4 months of 06.
    From all of the people I have talked to, America is screwed. I have be terrorized by a pot-belly police chief and have had motorist say they were going to kill me if I got in their way one more time, sometimes in front of the law. The question I have asked my self many times, am I stuiped or are they. In the last three years most people I talk to say they support war for oil. Hello Iran. and screw the enviroment. can we live on a dead planet?… So, I say the tipping point for the most part of the good old stupid USA, when they die.

  29. SteveS says:

    I think most Americans are in denial about rising gas prices. They complain about it non-stop, but I have a few friends who still don’t think twice about taking a trip in the car to where ever they need to go, even if they don’t really have a purpose for going. Sure they’re paying more each month in gas, but they’re not feeling the pinch yet because they’re probably not paying that much attention to how much it’s costing. Commuting cyclists are hypersensitive to these things because we’ve already recognized the monetary costs, and have made a commitment to doing something about it. We’re a small minority, however.

  30. Adriel says:

    Paul, I feel you I really do. I try to be more zen about the injustice in the world, but it doesn’t always work out.

    My tipping point was during a 50 mile club cycling ride, when I was thinking… Why am I riding 50 miles for fun, and paying to drive 100 miles a day? That was the beginning of my change.

    Now I hardly ever get in a club ride, and I stopped wearing the superhero outfit (I heard someone call it that and I think it is funny).

    I get about 100-150 miles a week in by bike, and my driving is down to 80-120 miles a week in the van. I am saving about $200/mo from my previous gas consumption.

    You need to find a good bike lawyer and sue the local law. Take it as high as it goes, and present it for what it is, prejudice. If you have a good case, maybe the LAB will get involved, especially if you ever get a ticket for riding in the middle of the vehicle lane.

    I have a cycling site I started at that has some of my rants and ideas, etc. Check it out. It also has at least one link to some lawyers.

    If those of us who are oppressed do not stand up for our rights, we do not deserve to have them. I am not saying die for the cause, but we can complain and sic some lawyers on people. We need to make as much or more noise than the motorists do when they complain about cyclists in the street.

  31. redcliffs says:

    I think there has to be a fiscal tipping point to this and all other environmentally-related issues for most people — it’s clear that lowering one’s impact on the world is not enough for most people to change their lifestyle. I think the actual dollar amount of that tipping point will depend on where you live — it will come sooner for people in cities than for those in rural areas, for the reasons that many have already mentioned. SUV sales are down sharply, and the prices for small used cars are actually rising.

    I agree with what some have said — the government has to start meeting the driver half-way by improving public transportation so that giving up the car is even feasible. And I don’t mean making public transport faster, though that would be great, I mean increasing the number of places PT goes, making room for more bicycles on the buses and trains, etc.

    I guess, in fact, that I’m not sure there is a “tipping point” — a price at which behavior changes — but rather a “tipping slope,” if you will. As prices rise, we see behavior change and that will continue — those who are choosing alternatives will choose more and more often, and the holdouts will move in the direction of alternatives.

  32. enrique says:

    The breaking point will be when motorists refuse to drive their cars. I’m at that point, now. I’m preparing to move closer to work, within bicycling distance of the office.

    I’d love to see if anyone is tracking ridership statistics for public transportation. No doubt it has surged some, but over the long haul I’d like to see numbers.

  33. Elaine says:

    “I’d love to see if anyone is tracking ridership statistics for public transportation.”

    I thought I saw an article in the NYT about huge growth in public transit ridership not too long ago. Of course it’s still a tiny fraction of overall commuting, but definitely noticeable.

    Where’s the tipping point? I’m just starting to see a change in attitude at my office; I’ve been hearing about more carpooling in particular.

    It takes time for these kinds of changes — let’s face it, what we’re talking about is re-engineering our lives so that cars are less necessary. It’s expensive to move closer to work, especially if you own your home. Areas with density are keeping their value while the rest of the market is falling.

    And if money is tight, it is/seems unfeasible to just pick up and move. (It’s either a “sunk costs” problem or a “chicken & egg” problem, depending.) A new bike is a single lump sum that can look daunting, but isn’t so much that you’d get a loan for it.

    Add to that the safety anxieties: moving to the city brings the concern of crime (justified or not); riding a bike can look really scary (or impossible) depending on the roads.

    The place where the costs get people isn’t just with the actual gas, but that money overall is tight because food & heating/AC are more expensive. You don’t skip going to work, so you turn down the heat instead.

    I say this not to apologize for folks, necessarily, but to say that it’s slower and more complex than a single tipping point number.

    (Personally? I didn’t learn how to drive until I was 26, have taken the bus everywhere since I was 14, and finally learned how to ride a bike at 29, 4 years ago. (long story) I don’t drive on the freeway, so when I had a 30 mile commute I did part bike or bus and part vanpool. Then I got a job only 5 miles from home. So far, it’s been bus in winter, bike in summer, and driving maybe once or twice a month. I don’t necessarily have the same tipping point as most people.)

  34. anakcu says:

    I don’t know what is worse–concluding that most people are whiners and are really not that affected by gas prices, or that they are incredibly stupid in how their driving behavior affects their fuel economy. There are just as many people now who accelerate up to stop signs and then hit the brakes as in 2005. Just as many tailgaters who alternate between hitting the gas and hitting the brakes as in 2005. My favorite–people who rev thier engines to express displeasure. If people are not smart enough to alter their driving habits, saving them at least 25% at the pump, then why should we think they are smart enough to transform their lives by empowering themselves on two wheels?

  35. Ghost Rider says:

    Our European counterparts can tell you all about high gasoline prices…and yet, despite the mainstream acceptance of bicycles as transportation in many European countries, there’s still a LOT of vehicle driving and gasoline use over there.

    I agree with many of the posters above who indicate that folks will continue to bitch about gas prices, but will just get used to these incremental rises and won’t entertain thoughts of finding a less-expensive alternative to driving their cars. The unofficial American motto, after all, is “Give me convenience or give me death” (thanks, Jello Biafra!).

  36. siouxgeonz says:

    I don’t know which is worse, concluding that people are stupid whiners or concluding that there are just as many people accelerating, etc.
    How do you know?

  37. This looks to me like one of those Default Alternative things. Until the bicycle is seen as a logical mode of transport for most trips rather than a recreational sports toy (though bikes are great fun in this mode . . .) they won’t become mainstream – even if fuel prices doubled again, people are so well trained into using their cars to get from A to B that they’d continue to do so – even if it meant having to cut back on other items.

  38. JiMCi says:

    It won’t be the price per gallon that will tip the scale, it will the cost of a tankful. When filling up will cost over a hundred dollars, many people will just stare in disbelief at the pump…

    Personnally, I do not really care about the price of gas, in the sense that it is a very small part of my budget. Of course, all goods are going up because of transportation costs, but I try in as much as possible to buy local.

    I don’t commute by bike to save on gas, I do it because I love it. No car will ever give the feelings I get when riding, even a car that could go 200 miles on a gallon of gas.

    BTW, aren’t fossil fuels for dinosaurs? 😉

  39. Adriel says:

    Jimci, amen on the reason to commute by bike, I believe many people feel this way and the only obstacle to more commuting is making the roads safer. To some this means bike lanes, but to me it means motorists respecting our right to the road, and being more careful. (However we can accomplish this).

    If you want more bikes on the road, I think the only thing you have to do is make the roads safer.

    Those who would drive cars anyway will not be swayed, but there are many who already would love to commute by bike, let’s do everything in our power to make the roads safer for us, and for them.

  40. JiMCi says:

    I should have googled the idea before posting earlier today. I would have found this New York Times article: “At $100 for Tank of Gas, Some Choke on -Fill It'”

    A few quotes:
    “Thirty members of the fan club’s Arizona chapter used to attend off-roading and other events three times a month. But now that Avalanche owners pay more than $100 per tank, the club is lucky to attract 10 members once every two months, said Eric Tolliver, a chapter leader. “Everybody’s trying to save money on gas, so now we mostly chat online instead of driving,” Mr. Tolliver said. ”

    “Hummer clubs are hurting, too. In Nebraska, Ric Hines of the Omaha Hummer Owner Group – known as Omahog – stopped doing off-road trips this summer and started riding his recumbent bicycle instead.” (Welcome to the club, Ric!)

    “Steve Burtch bought a Dodge Ram truck last year, when gas cost $3.75, because he thought gas prices had peaked and would start coming down. Instead, he pumped his first $100 tank in June. “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to keep this up,” said Mr. Burtch”

    “Usually I don’t let it get real empty so that I don’t have to see that $100 on the pump,” said Bob Hammond, 61, of Chesterland, Ohio, who drives an Avalanche. “It’s a mental thing.”

    “The bill was $104.98, which was a real shock,” said Mr. Chamberlain, 71, of Marion, Ohio. “I never thought I’d see the day.”


    Adriel, roads are getting friendlier, at least here in Montreal. As more and more people turn to cycling, drivers are more aware of bicycles and tend to be more cautious; politicians know that adding more bike lanes and trails is good for their image. Of course, not everybody will be blessed like I am to commute on a scenic road, with bike lanes and 20mph posted limits…

  41. Cafn8 says:

    The “tipping point” in addition to being a geographic matter, an economic matter and everything else stated so far is also a very personal matter. I don’t even remember what the price of gas was the first time I rode my bicycle to work. I did it because lifestyle changes had forced me to all but quit mountain biking. My weight and blood pressure were up, my energy level was down and I really missed riding. One day my sister-in-law told me that she bought a bike and was riding to work. The paradigm shift from Bike=Recreation to Bike=Transportation took someone else to plant a seed in my head. It “took” because I already loved to ride. To take this one step further, the mind of a person who has never gone anywhere except in a private vehicle since the age of 16, doesn’t like to sweat, and is overweight from inactivity and/or overeating is a much less fertile place for the seed to fall. Sadly, this demographic seems quite large in the US.

  42. Cafn8 says:

    Oops, I meant “Breaking Point.”

  43. Stuart M. says:

    I hate to say this, but I think history is repeating itself. I love biking and am happy people are biking again, but I think the current interest in biking is similar to the first wave of interest in bikes in the late 1800’s. Bicycles back then ended up being just a transition from horses to the later invented automobile.
    Once again, bicycles (and in Europe, electric bicycles) are being touted as a transportation solution, when what they really are is just a transition from gasoline-powered cars to electric or plug-in hybrids. Once electric cars or plug-in hybrids come onto the market in a big way, people will again forget the bicycle. They will again get fat and stressed out in their old-fashioned traffic jams just like in the by-gone gasoline era. Sad, but likely.

  44. r. says:

    I lived without a car for almost ten years. I now own a Corolla and it gets pretty good gas mileage (28 in the city, 32 on the highway). i’ve always thought it was wasteful to drive 4 miles to my friend’s house so i bike. we then carpool to the movies out east, about 6 miles away.

    I don’t care if gas goes up to 19 dollars a gallon, secretly it’d make me happy. It only costs me $30 a month to drive to and from work. other than that, my car stays parked. I just got a trailer for my mountain bike and do my chores by bike. I also have a assortment of messenger bags and panniers, so being a utilitarian cyclist is easy.

    I would love to bike to work again. I miss it immensely, but as long as i stay in Memphis it won’t happen. I’ve been applying for jobs in the Portland, OR area with my company, but I haven’t heard back on anything so far.

    I agree that gas is part of the bygone era, but some of do not have access to safe cycling facilities. They are definitely lacking in Memphis, TN and the city is proposing unacceptable infrastructure that should be in place by 2035!!

    So, i guess it comes down to lifestyle choice. As long as Americans choose to eat fast food they will be fat, and as long as they decide to continue to drive they’ll be whining about expensive gas. it’s an individual choice to not be a mass consumer. i know it’s mean of me to say that, but our culture has been nothing but mass consumption for the past 30 years.

    I think it’s good that we’re now getting hit with some reality. I hope it continues. Maybe cutting back on things will teach us to consume
    less which is always environmentally friendly.

  45. Stuart M. says:

    Dear r., I know where you’re coming from. I have been disgusted with consumerim, too. It’s part of the capitalist economic model that is dependent on never-ending growth. Rather than concentrate on providing real needs, like affordable housing, secure jobs with a living wage, or identifying an environmentally sustainable level of economic activity, we are force-fed an endless list of “must-haves,” usually ones which are far in excess of what we need (pickups and SUV’s, giant flat-screen TV’s, extreme sports/travel, etc.). Well, the debt bubble that has built up as Americans lived way beyond their means has finally burst. High gasoline prices are just the tip of the iceberg, other vital things like fertilizers, plastics, and agricultural mechanization are also heavily dependent on petroleum products.

    I sometimes remember the aftermath of the 9/11 attack. America was stunned and the whole world felt sorry for us. That might have been a moment when a real leader could have led us in a life-affirming direction, like adjusting the American economy to less wasteful dependence on petroleum products, on creating a more sustainable life-style. Projects like mass transit, renewable energy come to mind. But no, we didn’t have Al Gore in office at that time. Estimates of the total cost of the Iraq War (including all future costs like rehabiliating soldiers, etc.) range up to $3 trillion. Imagine what could have been done with $3 trillion dollars to make America a better country? It’s enough to make me cry.

  46. The breaking point won’t have anything to do with price. It’ll be availability.

  47. Hugh Rection says:

    Lets face it, there are a lot of people in this country who make good money. Families with 2 people working each with a good salary, are probably not really affected by current gas prices, even though the media will have you believe otherwise. I know I haven’t really been affected yet, and I’m by no means a wealthy person. I still have plenty of disposable income after filling up my car a couple times a month and I have a feeling that a lot of people are the same way.

    And then you have the wealthy people who could probably care less and will continue to drive their Escalades and Lexus SUV’s.

    I think only the poor people are currently being affected.

  48. Paul says:

    In Stockholm the gas price is close to $9 / gallon and the government is planning new freeways. People are complaining about prices, but they still love their cars.
    You Americans have a long way to the breaking point.

  49. ohio biker says:

    If gas went up to $20 a gallon this week, I don’t think
    you would find everyone riding a bike next week.

    There is likely no single neatly defined “breaking point”.

    Some people will react to spikes in price, while many
    others will only react after some time. Of course, the
    longer the price lingers above any given level, the more
    people who are ever going to react at that level, will.

    For any given price, some will react to it, while others
    will not. As the price increases, the number of people
    who will react increases.

    For any given price/time combination, there is a percentage
    of drivers who will begin to seek alternatives to burning gas.

    I suppose you could plot a three dimensional surface ….
    with time and price being two dimensions (like x and y)
    and height (z) being percentage of drivers who will seek
    alternatives. Clearly as price and time increase, the percentage
    increases as well. Apart from stating this obvious fact, the
    actual shape of the surface can be quite interesting.

    For as many people as are drivers, there is a good fraction
    of that many different price/time points at which they will react.

    If we consider prices up to $100 in $.1 intervals, we have 1000
    levels. Then if we consider times from 1-day to 1000 days, we
    wind up with a million different points, each of which has some
    percentage between 0 and 100 of drivers adapting alternatives.

    If you were to ask, at what prices/times 50% of drivers might
    seek alternatives, there could easily be a number of points
    where the 50% height intersects our surface. If you ask, at
    what prices/times 30% of drivers will react, you wind up with
    a different set of points.

    So there is not one magic ‘breaking point’.

  50. Paul says:

    After more than a year of being blockaded by the Isreali government gas prices in the Gaza strip is up to $50 / gallon. Since it’s also one of the poorest places on earth people are finding other solutions. I’m sure bikes are getting more popular, but I guess import of bikes are also blockaded.

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