Car Ownership Is On the Decline: What Does That Mean for Bikes?

Use Spotify?  Prefer AirBnB to the Marriot Club?  Get around with Uber or Zipcar?  Then you get it.  Consumer, particularly younger ones, are making a dramatic shift away from an economy based on big, depreciating expensive assets (like cars), and towards assets that cost less, offer more freedom and flexibility, and fit better into their increasingly urban lifestyles (like bikes).
Mary Meeker, a partner at VC firm Kleiner Perkins, recently posted a very worthwhile presentation on “the state of the web.” While we generally aren’t in the habit of looking to the big VC’s as thought leaders on where the cycling world is headed, we have to admit there were some profound bits in her report. Skip down to p. 65 (!) where she begins unpacking what it’s like to be a 25 year old in 2013, and introduces the concept of “the asset-light generation.”

For the first time since the invention of the automobile, car ownership (again, among youth in particular) is on the decline.  Here is a great summary of that trend – here’s another.  This is no temporary trend driven by fickle gas prices.  Profound changes in demographics and behaviors are making cars – gas-powered, hybrid, electric, or otherwise – increasingly poorly aligned with the lifestyles of the rising number of people choosing to live in dense urban areas.  A younger generation is disillusioned with the prospect of a home in the suburbs and a 30 mile commute to work, which is why 77% of Americans under 30 plan to live in an urban core.  Who can blame them?  Many studies have shown that the typical American commute not only makes us exceptionally unhappy, it’s actually terrible for our health.
The great news is that cities and companies across America are taking note.  Civic and business leaders in Minneapolis and Portland, along with many others, are investing in bicycling infrastructure not for sentimental environmental reasons, but because it’s great business.  Providing a safe, bike-friendly environment in our cities and offices is an imperative to hiring the asset-light young professionals who are the economic engines of our cities. Those investments in better infrastructure will literally pave the wave for many, many new urban cyclists in the years to come.
We say, ride on!  Here at Faraday we’ll continue to make lovely bikes that let our riders go further, faster, with ease.  We’re not happy until your morning commute is the happiest 30 minutes of your day.