It’s a grim scene at many filling stations in the Northeast, as customers still without power line up with gas cans to feed their voracious generators. One unexpected result of that, reports CNBC, is a big upsurge in … bike sales, particularly in hard-hit New York.


According to Reuters, “Even before dawn on Friday, long lines of cars snaked around gasoline stations around the area, and police were in place at many spots to keep the peace between furious, frustrated drivers. In one instance, a man was charged in the New York City borough of Queens with threatening another driver with a gun after he tried to cut in on a line of cars waiting for gas.”


Given that level of tension, it’s not surprising that bike stores in Brooklyn, Staten Island and other boroughs have reported heavy sales days as flooded subways keep people out of public transit. And fallen trees make many streets impassible to cars. According to Emily Samstag, a manager at Bicycle Habitat in Brooklyn, “Our first customer walked in and said: 'The subways are down so I have to buy a bike'. That was standard all morning.” reports, “With many straphangers stranded because of Hurricane Sandy-prompted subway shutdowns, bike shops across the city are reporting a staggering upswing in sales, with some reporting a 500 percent increase in revenue.”


It appears that a natural disaster has done what decades of well-meaning public policy has failed to do — get people out of their cars and onto bikes.


Related bike story on MNN: 12 urban bicycles ready to replace your car


Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

Hurricane Sandy: A boon to bike sales in N.Y.
The paralyzing storm has accomplished something that decades of patient public policy couldn't — it got New Yorkers out of cars and onto bikes.