Cars and Bikes– Searching for a Green Economy

As Congress begins to debate a potential $250 billion bailout of the U.S. auto industry which may or may not include efforts to link the bailout to the production of more fuel efficient cars, it might be worth looking at another type of green economy opportunity – the revival and expansion of a U.S.-based bike manufacturing sector.

The numbers are revealing and discouraging. Although bike manufacturing in the U.S. has never achieved a significant share of the global market (in 1995, the U.S. produced only 8.8% of all bikes manufactured) that limited manufacturing base has all but disappeared, reduced to an infinitesimal 0.3% of all global production. Compare that to China where bike production has been changed dramatically – although not for domestic consumption but for export! In 1995, China accounted for 41% of global bike production – primarily for its huge domestic market. But by 2007, even as the number of bikes produced domestically declined due in part to rapidly growing car use, its share of the global market for bike production increased to 87%. (See Earth Policy Institute) That means those bikes sold at Wal-Mart are likely made in China.

With bike use increasing, the bike retail numbers still strong even in a depressed economy, and some of our most storied U.S. companies like Schwinn relying on made in China, it would be a very modest investment, undoubtedly less than 0.1% of that proposed for a greenhouse gas generating automobile industry, to truly invest in a green transportation sector to help revive a disappeared sector. Anyone for a bike actually made in the U.S.A.?
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Bob is Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute. He is the author and co-author of twelve books and numerous other publications, including Food Justice with Anupama Joshi (MIT Press, 2010), Reinventing Los Angeles: Nature and Community in the Global City (MIT Press, 2007), The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City with Mark Vallianatos, Regina Freer and Peter Dreier (UC Press 2006); Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement (Island Press, 1993); A Life of its Own: The Politics and Power of Water (HBJ 1989), and Environmentalism Unbound: Exploring New Pathways for Change (MIT Press, 2001). He is also the editor of two MIT Press series, “Urban and Industrial Environments” and “Food, Health, and Environment.” A long time environmental and social justice activist, Bob Gottlieb has been engaged in researching and participating in social movements for more than 50 years.

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2 comments on “Cars and Bikes– Searching for a Green Economy
  1. Allen Taylor says:

    Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

  2. If made in America bicycles cost the same price as bikes made in China, it would be silly to import bikes from China. The only way this would happen is if a high protectionist tariff was placed on imported bikes because the disparity in labor costs is huge. So the real question here is whether US consumers would be willing to pay at least 3 times more than what they’re paying now so they can buy bikes made in the USA. If that wouldn’t work in the best of economic times, I doubt that would fly now…

4 Pings/Trackbacks for "Cars and Bikes– Searching for a Green Economy"
  1. [...] Cars and Bikes– Searching for a Green Economy [...]

  2. [...] There are calls for accountability and a shift in planning to incorporate green economy goals. But, as I argued earlier, stimulating new bike production as part of an overall green transportation economy approach could [...]

  3. [...] In addition to his work on signature projects such as Arroyo Fest and the upcoming Bike Summit Gottlieb has joined the ranks of bloggers.  At UEPI’s blog you can read his thoughts and research on the history of bikes in the pre-automobile era and the role of bikes in creating a green economy. [...]

  4. [...] our demand for goods coming on ships from across the ocean (see Bob Gottlieb’s previous blog, Cars and Bikes-Searching for a Green Economy). With an American-made bike, I could ride more carefree. Possibly related posts: (automatically [...]

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