We don't want to underestimate Americans' ability to buy things they don't use, but bike sales were up 9 percent this quarter. There was an even bigger jump — 29 percent — in sales of road bikes, implying that people are using their new vehicles to commute. Gas-powered scooter sales went up even more — those are still gas-powered, duh, but a hell of a lot more environmentally friendly than a car.
Is this because of $4-a-gallon gas? It's too early to tell, but it seems reasonable. Then again, it could be because of increased bike-friendliness. The federal government has invested $2 billion in bike lanes over the last two years, and several cities have instituted bike share programs or expanded bike lane networks (New York City added more than 50 miles). It may be that fewer obstacles to biking means more people bike — or it may be that more obstacles to driving without having to walk around barefoot wearing a barrel make people seek alternatives. Either way, we'll take it.