Bikeflation in Portland (but not Denton)

photo by Stuart Isett of The New York Times

photo by Stuart Isett of The New York Times

Robin Goldstein just wrote a Freakonomics article about his perception of bicycle price inflation in Portland, since cycling has been growing almost 30% per year (as measured in 2007-2008).  Robin was visiting Portland and wanted to buy a cheap bike to get around, but he couldn’t find anything for under $300 or so, which led him to analyze the average prices for recent Craigslist ads in several major cities.  His price index table shows a rough doubling of prices in Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland, compared to Phoenix and Miami.  I suspect that Dallas is on the cheaper side.  (Anyone want to run the numbers and comment?)

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.

I asked a few people in town about this and got some general sense of agreement and common frustration: cheap bikes are impossible to find around here. The word on the street was that so many people are selling their cars (or taking their cars off the road) and using bikes to commute to work that there just aren’t enough bikes to go around.

From my experience, used bikes seem to be priced relatively low in Denton, and the Querencia Community Bike Shop (at which I volunteer) has many used bikes for sale at super cheap prices ($25-100).  Many of the bikes which make their way to QCBS have been thrown away or donated.

Cycling appears to increase steadily in Denton, especially in the last few years, and I’m curious whether the inflationary trend will eventually raise Denton bicycle prices?

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