Freakonomics on Bicycle Prices

Bicycle Inflation in Paradise?

Portland, Oregon, the current darling of America’s food and environmental writers, is arguably the county’s most bicycle-obsessed city. Bike use was up 28 percent in Portland between 2007 and 2008, and on the Hawthorne Bridge, a main thoroughfare, bikes now make up 20 percent of all vehicles. The New York Times estimated in 2007 that there were 125 bike-related businesses in Portland employing 600 to 800 people. There’s even a store in the city that sells only tricycles.

Still, what’s up with this bike micro-inflation? Why does there seem to be no market in Portland for used bikes that are actually cheap? Portland is otherwise a pretty cheap city. Beer is cheap. Used clothing is cheap. By major urban standards, housing is cheap too, unless you compare it to the strip-mall-type cities. And certainly there are plenty of people in town who can’t afford to spend $475 — never mind $1,000 — on a bike.

In Toronto, when I was first looking at used bikes on Craigslist in 2007, the price was around $100 for a 20+ year old beater bike 10-speed. In 2008 I didn’t notice much of a price jump. This year, prices have certainly jumped. However, the quality of bikes for sale has also increased as Craigslist Toronto has transformed from an online yard sale to a trusted way of selling high-end used (or new) items.

Have you noticed inflation in bike prices with the growing popularity of cycling in Toronto? Share your thoughts in the Biking Toronto Forum.

Quote from the Freakonomics Blog

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