A recent study about the decline in the number of youth and young adults who drive cars in the U.K. caught my attention. It found that "sweeping changes to social-economic conditions and living circumstances are the main factors behind a marked drop in car ownership among young people over the past 25 years."
In the US, the numbers of licensed young people are also in decline (The Decline of the Driver's License – The Atlantic) with the number of miles driven total down significantly from the peak in 2006, as you can see in this chart (also from The Atlantic):
The researcher behind the statistics for the decline in the UK, Dr. Kiron Chatterjee (Associate Professor of Travel Behaviour at UWE Bristol) concluded in his publication, Young People’s Travel – What’s Changed and Why? that:
"It is therefore important that policies in transport and other sectors reflect the fall in the proportion of young people with a driving licence or access to a car. While the change in young people's travel behaviour is to be welcomed in that it aligns with aims to reduce the adverse impacts of transport use, such as air pollution and carbon emissions, it is important that young people have alternatives to the car for getting to education, employment and social destinations. Otherwise there could be damaging impacts on their life opportunities and wellbeing." (p.65)
This month I have been "on the road" traveling to Baltimore (twice) and DC (once) from Utah but aside from 24-hour period during more than 15 days of travel, I have not had a car to drive. As I write this, I'm currently flying 550 mph at 30,000 feet. Between all of this travel and having the flu, what I have not spent for anywhere near the time I want to is riding my bike.
In the UK, bike usage has been on a slight increase but is no where near where it was 65 years ago, with the most miles cycled by those in middle-age (charts from Cycling UK's Cycling Statistics):
The Netherlands is clearly a standout when it comes to cycling. They are known for being incredibly bike-friendly and have the highest percentages of regular cycling I have seen (36% of the people listing the bicycle as their most frequent mode of transport on a typical day, as opposed to the car by 45% and public transport by 11%). (As enumerated here,) a number of factors there definitely contribute to this, including:
- bike-friendly infrastructure;
- bike-friendly public policy, planning, and laws
- geography, built environment and weather
- practical bicycles and equipment
I love how directly and simply one report puts the underlying reason for why though, saying:
The arguments pro-cycling are overwhelming: it is sustainable, healthy, has zero emissions of everything, is silent and clean, cheap both in purchase as in providing infrastructure, is space and traffic efficient, enhances urban traffic circulation and provides more livability to residential areas. From this perspective, the harsh anti-cycle policy of some foreign towns (see section 1.2) even more regrettable. Despite all this evidence, none of these are the reason for the Dutch to cycle. They just enjoy it, find it relaxing. (Figure 11)
And I agree – the bottom line is that cycling is just enjoyable.
So how do you get from here to there?
And how much do you ENJOY it?
Or does it fill you with fear, anger, sadness, or aversion?