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But on the long drive west, Mohammed won’t be taking any shifts behind the wheel—she doesn’t have a driver’s licence. “It’s just something that kind of happened, because of the places I lived,” she says. She’s one of a growing number of younger people who shrug their shoulders at the idea of getting a driver’s licence, leaving car companies fretting and older generations perplexed.As a high school student in Toronto, “I just didn’t bother.” At university in Halifax, “everything was very accessible by bike or bus, and it wasn’t really necessary.” Now, in Montreal, she walks, bikes or takes the subway. Getting a licence used to be a rite of passage—one that brought younger people together, gave them access to jobs, opportunities and the glories of the open road. “That moment when the keys got passed from dad or mom to you, and you could drive by yourself, was a liberation,” says Steve Penfold, who teaches a course on the history of the automobile at the University of Toronto. I’m bordering on adulthood.’ ” People remember their first car “like they remember nothing else,” he says, and often they gave the car a name. “Our idea of adolescence was invented in the 1940s and ’50s, and cars were an important part of that,” says Max Valiquette, managing director of strategy at Toronto-based ad agency Bensimon Byrne and a frequent commentator on youth culture.In 2009, Americans aged 16 to 34 took 24 per cent more bike trips than in 2001—even though that age group shrank in size by two per cent.They also walked 16 per cent more often, and increased the number of miles travelled on public transit by 40 per cent, according to the report Baxandall co-wrote.
She and three of her friends plan to drive from Montreal, where they live, to the Okanagan Valley.Among 25- to 34-year-olds here, 92 per cent had a licence in 1999; 10 years later, 87 per cent did. were under 30 in 1983; today, it’s less than a quarter. The drop in licensed drivers “predates the economic downturn,” Baxandall says.In Canada, this decline occurred in every age group from 16 to 54. S., Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Norway and South Korea, the percentage of younger people with a licence also fell. Young people who have jobs and are doing well financially are also driving less. Bike culture is flourishing, with bike-sharing networks popping up everywhere from Montreal to Washington and Honolulu.“Then, at the turn of the century, something changed.” From 2001 to 2009, the number of “vehicle miles” travelled by Americans aged 16 to 34 dropped 23 per cent. “It’s been such an article of faith that we’re driving more and more, with more road congestion, more highway buildup, in a vicious cycle.” But that’s not the case—and the decline is happening in other countries, too.“It does come as a surprise,” says Phineas Baxandall of U. In another new study, researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) found a drop in younger licensed drivers in more than half of 15 countries they surveyed, including Canada.
A 2011 survey from Zipcar, the car-sharing service, notes that 55 per cent of millennials (18 to 34) are making an effort to drive less, partly because of concern over the environment, and partly because of the cost of owning a car.