Pain At The Pump: Many Switching To Motorcycles For Gas Economy

Concerns about oil supplies and a weaker dollar helped to drive up oil and gas prices again today. The Energy Department says you'll have to accept that gas prices will hang around the $4 mark through next year. Oil prices today rose $5 to $136 a barrel.

Here in Texas, we're paying an average of $3.92 a gallon for regular fuel, less than the national average of about $4.05 a gallon.  Those gas prices are spurring more East Texas drivers to switch to motorcycles. Today, KLTV 7 News' Danielle Capper has this report.

Jonathan Hopkins of Mt. Pleasant is like many East Texas drivers - shelling out hundreds of dollars to stay on the road. "I've been looking at buying a bike. I drive a truck, my wife drives a truck - so from an economic standpoint, we're taking a hit. Last month our gas bill was about $350 a month and now that we are travelling in the summer, it's just going up even more. I think the price of a bike can be justified with our gas bill the way it is."

Hopkins isn't alone, and now his solution to his truck's piggish thirst for gas may lie in a hog.

Joe Mann is the sales manager at Lone Star Harley Davidson. He says sales are up and what's interesting is that it's people from all walks of life who you'd never expect to be buying a motorcycle.

"We are having people come here on fixed incomes, who can't afford to put money in their automobiles...throwing their legs over motorcycles."

Mann says riding isn't just a sport anymore, and when the average Harley gets 45 to 50 miles per gallon, it's becoming more and more common.

"What's neat about this is that you can beat the gas crunch and look cool while doing it. Everybody wants a Harley. The big thing right now is that fuel mileage. With gas the way it is, through the roof, more and more people are looking for other ways to get to and from work."

More motorcycle purchases means more bikes on the road, and Tyler Police says in all of 2007, there were 53 accidents involving motorcycles. So far, in 2008, there have been 30 - and it's only June. In fatalities, in 2007, there was one fatality for the whole year. So far this year, there've been two.

"We want them to be more aware that motorcycles are out there, adn that they know that motorcycles need as much room as an automobile," says Mann.

Drivers and police agree - with more bikes on the road, everyone plays their part in sharing the road. Still, as long as gas stays this high, the iron horses won't be going away any time soon.

Danielle Capper, Reporting