Of course, it’s tempting to dismiss the shift as a byproduct of the Great Recession. Many auto industry officials believe that young cyclists and transit riders will join their parents in buying minivans and crossover vehicles as soon as they have their own children. Likewise, it’s hard for people who were raised to lust after powerful engines and shiny sheet metal to believe their kids won’t eventually be seduced. Yet everything I’m hearing from my college-age nephews, the undergraduate and graduate students I’ve taught, the people who submit their stories to Curbing Cars, and the conversations I’ve had in airports and at conferences tells me there’s definitely something afoot when it comes to attitudes about automobiles. We’ve seen people rethink many aspects of American society, from what they view on TV to gay marriage to climate change. Much of that happened gradually, with the media figuring it out only after the shifts were taking place.

In this case, the audience may be way ahead of the story. 

 

Micheline Maynard is the editor of Curbing Cars, and a contributor to Forbes.com. She is the former Detroit Bureau Chief of The New York Times and was senior editor of the Midwest public media project, Changing Gears.