Abroad, a lot of people conceptualize America as a “car-culture”. And they are, in large part, correct. It’s estimated that as many as 1 of every 6 jobs in the US is either directly or indirectly related to the auto industry. America’s rise to global economic stardom can be tied to the auto industry as well, along with the fossil fuel, agricultural, and arms industries. It’s hard to say for certain which came first, Americans’ propensity towards ultra-individualism, or the car, but they definitely are a marriage made in heaven.
Something that doesn’t get a lot of press internationally is the growing number of people in the USA who don’t own cars at all. Especially in larger cities, where public transportation is available, the combination of higher gas prices, parking fees, maintenance fees, inevitable parking tickets, road rage, and environmental impact are making it more and more attractive to explore non-auto options for transportation. As of 2009 35 million people in the USA took public transportation of some kind every weekday, not including people who walk or bicycle. Bicycle commuters in the USA are becoming a larger and larger demographic. In fact, in Portland Oregon, over 5% of commuter trips are taken on a bicycle. In the city of Chicago, where I reside, the number is much lower (1.15%) but that’s a 129% increase between 2000 and 2009, and all indications are that the number keeps going up.