New Data Shows Commutes Are Down, Short Trips Way Up
A devoted road and gravel cyclist and all-around gearhead, Josh has been riding and writing about electric scooters for the past five years. He’s generally happier on two wheels than two legs. When Josh isn’t writing or wrenching, he’s usually out on the road….
Commutes Fall Post-Pandemic, as E Bikes Rise
Since the pandemic, Americans have changed the way we work, and our increasing work-from-home rates have changed the way we commute. As e bikes have spread in popularity, car trips, at least car trips to and from work, have declined.
More people than ever leave their cars parked while they work from a home office some, most or all of the week. Brookings reports that three years of data gathered from 109 metro areas in the country show consistently falling travel for work.
Decreasing commutes and commute times come not only from the pandemic, but are attributable to more flexible work schedules, rising fuel prices, environmental concerns, and more use of “trip chaining,” or “stringing together multiple trips of different purposes and destinations in a single excursion from home or work.”
The net effect of these changes to American work and home life shows a decrease of trips to and from work – from 16% of all trips in 2019 to 12% in 2022. Over this three-year span, American households traveled 25% fewer miles for work on average.
This phenomenon did not consistently appear in every metro area studied, but the numbers are likely to keep falling given overall current trends.
“Commute Less, Errand More” is Trending
Commuting may be down, but other kinds of trips, like excursions for socializing, recreation, working and dining out, shopping, or running errands, have increased.
Shorter, non-work trips from home now account for a significantly larger percentage of travel, corresponding to what Brookings calls a “general pattern of ‘commute less, errand more,’” that “holds in all of the country’s 109 largest metro areas.”
We can explain the rise in short trips by the fact that the errands we run on the way to and from work – like picking up groceries, dry-cleaning, kids, etc. – still must be run when we work from home.
But we’re also getting out more in general, without our cars, for short trips that we might not otherwise take.
Americans are getting outside more for recreation and socializing, and we’re getting out on electric bikes and scooters, which have seen major increases in sales and rental in the post-pandemic years.
E Bikes Pick Up the Slack
The explosion of the bike (and the sudden stress on bike shops and mechanics) became another big story of the pandemic, and while bikes are no longer front-page news, their use has still soared since 2019, with electric bikes contributing to huge cuts in transportation costs even as trips increase overall.
A few months back, Business Insider wrote that the “incredible, Earth-saving electric bike is having a moment.” Maybe “Earth-saving” is a bit of hyperbole, but given that a year earlier, e-bikes outpaced electric cars in U.S. sales, it seems warranted.
Electric bikes still outsell every other electric vehicle in 2023, a year that also saw the largest number of shared electric bikes and e scooters in cities around the country to date.
Electric kick scooters aren’t (yet) having the same kind of moment, perhaps because they aren’t as familiar to American consumers as bikes and will take more time for people to adopt as vehicles they want to own, rather than rent.
Micromobility Cuts Costs and Travel Time
We think scooters can be just as good or better than electric bikes for short trips, whether those trips are commutes to work, errands you run from the home office, or the short adventures you can add to your day because micromobility makes them so convenient and easy.
Whether you decide to ride an electric bike or some other personal electric vehicle, you’ll probably find that errands which once took an hour now take 30 minutes, since you’re not stuck sitting in traffic or looking for a space or gas station.
An e bike can give you as much, or as little, exercise as you want on the way to the grocery store or coffee shop, while a scooter will just get you there, fast and hassle-free, without any need to worry about parking or fuel costs.
As work habits change, commutes shrink, and more Americans transition away from fossil fuels, we’ll see even more adoption of electric bikes, scooters, motorcycles, etc. in cities around the country.
Rider Guide will be there to cover these shifts. See our review of the F2, a GOTRAX electric bike that we think makes a perfect first e bike for beginners.
And see our lists of Best Electric Scooters 2023, Fastest Electric Scooters, Best Electric Scooters for Heavy Riders, and Best Cheap Electric Scooters for all the e scooter for adult options you could ask for.