Every holiday season, instead of receiving a bonus or gift from my employer, I get lots of days off;  three weeks to be exact. Of course, I don’t get paid for these days off, so in my case it’s not a time for joyous celebration. However, I do enjoy spending time with my family and catching up on extraneous projects. Yet, this holiday season, U.S. Ikea employees will be receiving a bicycle. Oh, how I love bicycles. Too bad I don’t work for Ikea.

Now, I’m a big proponent of bicycles; they are energy efficient in that it takes little exertion to move quite quickly. Bicycling is a great way to get in shape, or keep in shape, and you can save money on fuel. It’s also a fun activity for most.  However, as the residents of New York City are finding out through their expansion of their bicycle lanes, just because you “build it,” it doesn’t mean “they will come.”

So, with 12,400 bicycles on Ikea’s give-away list, does that mean that all of these employees will begin pedaling to work? The cynic in me is saying, probably not. But, “Why?”, is the more important question.

A few years ago, when gas prices skyrocketed to almost $5 a gallon, I began cycling to work myself. I couldn’t bear paying the price per gallon in fuel to drive only 10-miles round trip to work and back. I remember enjoying bicycle riding as a pre-car teenager and decided a bicycle would be a smart way to travel around town. I found a comfortable bike and began pedaling to and from Starbucks, work, and school. I really enjoyed riding, even in a city that lacks bicycle lanes and is entirely car-obsessed.

However, a few months later, gas prices started to sink back to more “normal” and reasonable levels. I still continued to ride my bike, but I found myself opting to drive for reasons such as, “It’s too windy,” or “I have too many errands today.” All of a sudden, I went from cycling 180 miles a month to a pitiful 50 miles if I was lucky.

At first, I blamed the lack of bicycle lanes on my decrease in riding. But I had found plenty of alternative streets to ride on that weren’t heavily trafficked, so I knew that wasn’t the real reason for my lack of riding. I then decided it was the weather that kept me off my bicycle. Yet, I live in sunny California where the whether is mild most of the year and a light-weight coat is all one needs to stay warm.

I knew the real reason, but it was hard to admit it. I was LAZY. Lazy because it was all too easy to hop in my car and drive to work. Lazy because it wasn’t costing an arm and a leg to fill up my tank. Lazy because there just aren’t many other bicyclists riding on the streets subconsciously encouraging me to ride my own bike.

Once I realized that I was the problem, I decided I wanted to fix it. I’ve begun riding my bike more often, but I still find myself making excuses for not riding as much as I could. So, what is the reason more people, like me, don’t ride their bikes? It’s not the lack of bicycle lanes and it’s not the weather; it’s the fact that it’s just too easy to drive. Cheap gas has created this problem, which has also created suburban sprawl (another topic all together). If our gas prices were double the amount, more people would have to figure out alternative modes of transportation, and the bicycle would be one option. An example where bicycle riding is more prevalent is in European cities where the cost of gas is much more expensive; it makes more sense to ride.

I’m not necessarily saying we need a huge increase in the cost of gas as there would be a trickle down effect that would increase the cost of practically everything. What I am saying, is that convenience and easy access to low cost fuel has made us, or at least me, lazy.

So will the 12,400 employees of Ikea begin riding their bikes to work? What do you think?

13 Comments

  1. Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog Reply

    This is such a tough question to answer, and people (traffic planners/engineers) get paid for this type of thing. If my commute was reasonable (it’s currently 50 miles) I would ride to work in a heartbeat, and I’d be happy with a bike as a christmas gift – It would help me get into better shape, and I always feel better after riding. Usually the weather wouldnt bother me (although admittedly I’d probably use it as a crutch occasionally) but I’d probably be so jazzed to ride a bike that nothing would get in my way.
    Also New belgium (brewer of fat tire) gives bikes to every one of its employees working in the main office (fort collins, co) after they work there for a certain number of years (I think its 5).

    • @Jeff – Don’t get me wrong, I think the bike as a Christmas gift is a great idea. But I think there are so many obstacles for getting a large group of people inspired enough to ride (and making it feasible, obviously) it’s hard to predict that the majority of these employees will begin riding their brand new bikes. I didn’t touch upon it in this post, but suburban sprawl is a huge problem; not living near where you work is another. Inexpensive gas has allowed us to make these terrible choices. Maybe someday you’ll live close enough to work to ride!

  2. @Retire by Forty – I think I agree with you – raising the gas tax might encourage people who can to use alternate modes of transport, so maybe you should be in charge. 😉

  3. I enjoy bicyling much more now that I’m not *required* to use it to get to work. I could, but that’s one heck of a commute… over a long bridge and then through downtown. In the summer sometimes it’s fun, though, and I’ll sometimes go to the grocery store or something like that by bike.
    .-= Invest It Wisely´s last blog ..5 Responsible Ways to Use Credit Cards =-.

    • @Invest it Wisely – I have to agree that biking is fun. I always feel much happier when I ride versus drive. I have a question, though. In what way were you “required” to ride your bike to work? I’m just curious.

  4. That’s my problem, I now what I need to do, but I take the path of least resistence too often… Kudos to you from breaking the downward spiral, and going back to biking your regular amount!
    .-= Money Reasons´s last blog ..Frugally Fight Higher Gas Prices =-.

  5. It is so funny to think about bike riding when there is all this snow on the ground where I live!

    It is great that you reflected on it. Driving more is just human nature though. We all cut back when prices get high.

    I am excited for when I can ride my bike again. Let us know if you stick to your plan.
    .-= Everyday Tips´s last blog ..Sometimes Saving Money Isn’t Worth It – Items I Refuse To Buy Generic =-.

  6. @JohnG Home Loans – Cheap gas compared to the prices from 3 years ago. The gas prices in my area 3 years ago were about $5.00 a gallon, now they’re back down to $3.19 per gallon. Though not “cheap” compared to other cities or even 20 years ago, it’s still quite reasonable compared to other countries. Good luck on riding to work soon!

  7. Little House :
    @Invest it Wisely – I have to agree that biking is fun. I always feel much happier when I ride versus drive. I have a question, though. In what way were you “required” to ride your bike to work? I’m just curious.

    I didn’t have a car, and the bus was too slow and overcrowded. 😉
    .-= Invest It Wisely´s last blog ..Importance of Financial Literacy Education – Get Some Here with Ramit Sethi’s Book- I Will Teach You To Be Rich =-.

  8. It is hard to switch from bike mode to car mode. I live in the Northeast and the winters are long and BITTER cold. That being said, I had a guy who bought studded tires and biked to work all year long. He lived less than a mile from work and refused to get a second car when his wife quit her job to stay home with the kids. I

    He’s like me and won’t buy anything unless he has the cash for it.
    Money savings is a real motivator that’s for sure.
    .-= First Gen American´s last blog ..Getting through Christmas frugally =-.

  9. youngandthrifty Reply

    I’m so guilty of this! I have a bike and tell myself that if it isn’t snowing or raining, then I should use it especially for little trips to save on parking and gas.

    This week, I drove instead of biking because there was just a teensy bit of frost on the ground.

    Sheer laziness!

    I didn’t hear that Ikea employees were all getting a bike- what a sweet company perk! I wonder what kind of bike they get?

  10. youngandthrifty Reply

    hehe, okay clicked on the link. It’s a nice bike! I would love one for christmas. If I didn’t use it I could always sell it on craigslist lol.

  11. @Kellen – The whole dressing thing is a big problem for some people. However, in the past I’ve taken an extra shirt and small hand towel to neaten up when I get to work. I also installed baskets on the back sides of my back tire to hold bags and it works quite well. The traffic, on the other hand, might be the biggest obstacle if there aren’t any lighter-trafficked alternative routes.

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