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Research Recap, March 14: Electric Vehicle Readiness, Better Bike Infrastructure, Gas Pump Prices
Health study indicates heart risks for cyclists and need for improved bike infrastructure, such as the pictured Portland cycletrack.  Photo by Paul Krueger.

A new health study indicates heart risks for cyclists and the need for improved bike infrastructure, such as this cycletrack in Portland, Ore. Photo by Paul Krueger.

Welcome to “Research Recap,” our series highlighting recent reports, studies and other findings in sustainable transportation policy and practice, in case you missed it.

Roadblocks for Electric Vehicle Adoption

Deloitte, the international accounting and consulting firm, recently published a study finding that most people aren’t ready to adopt electric vehicles, yet, according to a poll of 10,000 consumers in Europe, North America and Asia. Among the 4,760 polled European consumers, only 16 percent see themselves as ready to buy or lease an electronic vehicle, 53 percent feel they might be willing to consider it, and 31 percent find they are not likely to consider any purchasing or leasing options. Though with electric vehicles steadily gaining steam, as exhibited by the Chevy Volt’s recent award of 2011 North American Car of the Year, the automotive industry is likely to continue their pursuit of the technology and not be discouraged by these numbers.

“There is no doubt that electric vehicles are the future of the automotive industry,” reports Dave Raistrick, head of manufacturing at Deloitte UK. “However, while interest in electric vehicles is growing, with 69% of respondents willing to consider an EV today, current market offerings generally fall far short of consumers’ expectations for driving range, charging time, and purchase price.” As Raistrick continues, “I believe there is potential for green vehicles to represent 10% of the new car market within 10 years.”

Cycling Away from Heart Attacks

A new meta-study published in The Lancet reports cycling in heavy traffic as being the largest population trigger of heart attacks. This finding was reached after accounting for the activity’s elements of exposure to air pollution, physical exertion and stressful events, among other factors. Though cycling in traffic undoubtedly poses risks, it’s important to recognize that the benefits of increased physical activity outweigh the risks associated with factors like exposure to air pollution and stress of the road. The Lancet’s study illuminates the necessity of a marriage between outdoor physical activity and safe, clean environments. In another study by Portland State University’s Department of Environmental Science, researchers found these improvements to both air quality and stressful road conditions from superior cycling infrastructure, which included cycle tracks, bicycle boulevards, bike paths and general traffic calming.

Gassing Up Public Transit

A recent study by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), a transportation advocacy group based in New York, finds that in addition to revving up spending, recent gas price hikes are likely to increase public transportation ridership. Gas prices in recent weeks have averaged $3.50 per gallon, and in some parts of the country are already approaching $4 per gallon. According to the U.S. Energy Department, these levels haven’t been reached since September 2008.  If gas prices do reach averages of $4 per gallon, APTA expects public transportation ridership to increase by roughly 670 million public transit passenger trips, and as many as 1.5 billion new trips, if pump prices climb to $5 per gallon. As economists expect, even a few months of such price hikes could affect the nation’s travel behavior, so it’s necessary to consider public transit’s capability to handle high demand.  “The volatility of the price at the pump is another wake up call for our nation to address the increasing demand for public transportation services,” APTA President William Millar said. APTA supports the Obama Administration’s proposal for increases in public transit investment by 128 percent throughout the next six years.

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