US Car Fleet Shrinks for First Time in Decades

by Dennis Markatos-Soriano

The Earth Policy Institute recently reported that the US car fleet decreased for the first time in decades. Around 14 million cars were scrapped, compared to the purchase of ~10 million vehicles, bringing the fleet total to 246 million from 250 million.

Time will tell whether this is the beginning of a trend to fewer cars. If we go the way of Japan since 1990, our fleet could fall by 20% to 200 million vehicles over the next 20 years. But the US is less densely populated, so such a rapid transformation could be difficult.

And the question I’m most interested in is whether people are trading in their cars for bicycles and an occasional rental. My wife and I don’t have a vehicle here in New York City as we take advantage of the convenient, fast subway throughout Manhattan along with our bicycles. Rural areas and spread out metropolitan areas will continue some dependence on the automobile, but here’s hoping we can set up bicycling/pedestrian corridors for tens of millions of Americans so that they have a choice of multiple modes of transportation for their trips to school, work, and play.

China overtook the US as the biggest car market in 2009, at over 13 million vehicles. But they haven’t abandoned two-wheel transportation as the sales of electric-bikes continues to be strong at ~20 million in 2009, similar to the amount sold in 2007 and 2008. This is an extremely efficient form of transportation and can help keep greenhouse gas emissions and oil expenditures per household from climbing too much further in the years ahead.

Have any of you switched from a car to a bicycle as my wife and I did in 2008? If not, what is the biggest deterrent to such a switch where you live?

We in the East Coast Greenway Alliance want to help provide a model corridor for cyclists and pedestrians from Maine to Florida that can inspire a green transportation revolution across our country in the years ahead.

Onwards to progress-

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