Gas price hike
By Scott Nicholson
High gas prices may have frustrated motorists, but it’s proving a boon to those who are peddling pedal power.
Alan Watts, one of the founders of the Boone Bicycle Initiative, said interest in the public bike-loaning program had swelled over the last couple of months.
“In April, we had about five applications and now we have more applications than we can handle,” Watts said.
“It’s probably a combination of gas prices and people wanting to get out for the summer.”
The initiative has a questionnaire to determine people’s primary reasons for biking and Watts said the program is saving energy while offering recreation and exercise.
“I know we had some riders at over 400 miles,” he said. “I’d say we’re over a thousand miles now.”
There are 25 bikes on the road through the program. More bikes are currently being rebuilt and volunteer help and donated bikes are needed.
Watts said many of the volunteers were Appalachian State University students who left for the summer break, so people with mechanical ability are especially needed.
The bikes are loaned out through refundable deposits, with either new or refurbished bikes available. Each comes with a helmet and a lock, and bikes are fitted with an odometer so the environmental savings can be calculated. The bikes are loaned out from periods ranging between two weeks and two months.
The shop is located in the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts on West King Street in Boone, on the lowest floor in the rear of the building. It also has a Boone Bikeability map on its Web site, bikeboone.org, to help local pedalers get around.
Mike Clement, a bike mechanic at Magic Cycles in Boone, said it’s been a busy summer for repairs as people are dragging their bikes out of storage.
“I’ve never seen so many repairs this time of year so I think people are definitely getting out more,” Clement said, adding most repair customers mention high gas prices as the reason for hitting the road on two wheels again.
“That’s all they talk about in the shop,” he said, though sales of new bikes have remained about the same. “Gas prices are hitting everybody pretty hard.”
Boone Bike & Touring is seeing increased sales because of rising pump prices.
“We are selling a lot more commuter bikes and people are getting bikes out of their garages,” said Noah Niwinska of Boone Bike & Touring. “They have bikes but they never ride them. Now they need to use them so they’re getting them fixed up.”
Niwinska said the business has been brisk for hybrids, which are a combination of off-road and street bikes. They are designed to be more comfortable for commuting, suggesting that recreational bikers are also working rides into their daily transportation routines.
National gas prices average $3.99 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, according to the American Automobile Association’s Fuel Gauge Report. That’s an increase of 86 cents over the same time last year.
North Carolina’s average unleaded price is $3.92 per gallon for regular, while prices in the Boone area range around $3.87 per gallon.