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To cope with the cost of gas, locals try bikes and tighten budgets

On Sunday, the statewide average was $5.04 per gallon, according to AAA, with drivers in Suffolk County facing the steepest cost at $5.18.

Sophia Ly, 25, has decided to ride her bike to work at BMC from her apartment in the Fenway area because of the high gas prices.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The average price of regular gasoline in Massachusetts has nearly doubled in the past year, hitting a landmark $5 per gallon on Tuesday, according to AAA data, a price that’s prompting drivers across Massachusetts to consider changing how they commute.

The spike in gas prices has been swift, rising from about $4.45 per gallon last month and $2.24 per gallon at this time last year. On Sunday, the statewide average was $5.04, according to AAA. Drivers in Suffolk County face the steepest cost, at $5.18 per gallon.

Experts cite a combination of causes for the skyrocketing prices at the pump, including inflation, disruptions to supply stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the hurricane season, and the return of demand to pre-pandemic levels.


But a spokesman for AAA insisted in a statement last week that Americans are “still fueling up” despite the cost.

“At some point, drivers may change their daily driving habits or lifestyle due to these high prices, but we are not there yet,” said spokesman Andrew Gross.

Many locals are already there, though, trading in their cars for vehicles with better mileage, or forgoing them altogether in favor of bikes, motorbikes, and walking.

For Chris Ridgway, 55, who lives in Wakefield, the breaking point came two weeks ago, when he was “hit with a double” — shelling out $80 to fill his Audi and $60 to fill his Jeep in a single day.

“This is ridiculous,” he thought to himself, so he sold both vehicles and purchased a hybrid Jeep. Since then, he’s driven about 500 miles in the hybrid, he said, and used only half a tank of gas.

“I couldn’t see filling up two tanks as being sustainable, and going down to one vehicle and not having to rely solely on gasoline was definitely the motivation for this,” he said.


Others, like Sophia Ly, are opting for bicycles, which surged in popularity amid the pandemic.

Ly, 25, said the cost of filling the tank of her Honda HRV increased by $20 to $30 in recent months, which prompted her to joke about switching to a bike. “Then I was like, ‘Well, why don’t I?’ ”

She was able to acquire a bicycle at no charge, and took advantage of a free safety check offered by Boston Medical Center, where she works.

Ly took to Twitter to announce her choice.

“Due to the high gas prices, I have decided to start biking on these Boston streets,” she wrote last week. “Please pray for me.”

Despite her concerns about safety, Ly said she has concluded that “to save time, to save money, biking is the best option, honestly.”

Ly is far from alone. In response to an informal survey by the Globe, John L. Eisenberg wrote that he “ditched [his] car and bought an E-Bike, therefore totally eliminating any gas bill.”

Domenic Veneziano and Caio Santos both responded that they have recently purchased motorcycles, which are typically much more fuel-efficient than cars.

Some who are unable to change their mode of transportation are instead changing their lifestyles.

“There is much more planning when I am driving and running errands. No wasted trips,” wrote Jim Barry.

About half of survey respondents wrote that they are reducing their expenses, including spending less on food and taking fewer trips out of the house.


Beverly Jeddrey, 81, has struggled to afford the cost of gas while living on a fixed income and battling cancer. She often has to drive from her home in Townsend to Concord for appointments, treatments, and tests, a trip that ranges from 40 minutes to more than an hour, depending on traffic.

Last month, Jeddrey returned to work as a cashier at a grocery store, in part to compensate for the financial burden imposed by the rising cost of fuel.

“I’m working two four-hour shifts a week, and that’s my gas money,” she said in an interview. “It’s frustrating. When I retired, I thought I had it made. Then boom, cancer hit. And COVID hit. And gas.”

Jeddrey has also had to change how she shops for groceries — like buying store brands instead of name brands — and how she socializes.

“I’m very frugal now. I can’t go out to eat,” she said. “It’s really hard.”

Ernest Mauristhene, 43, said his family has had to “become more efficient” with “normal logistics” to accommodate the price of gas.

As a father of three children, ages 16, 15, and 11, all of whom attend separate schools and participate in activities like athletics, Mauristhene typically spends a few hours a day in the car.

“It’s weird now having to pay upwards of $100 a week just for gas,” he said. “You have to think about it and constantly budget for it.”


Mauristhene said he has started to encourage his daughter to stay after school before her basketball practices instead of driving her home between activities. He also anticipates choosing closer destinations — like local beaches — for family outings this summer.

“With gas prices being over $5 per gallon around Boston, all family extracurricular activities will be suspended until [further] notice... unless [it is] within a ten-minute walk,” he wrote on Twitter last week.

Brian Flaherty, an accountant, said the price of gas “adds another barrier” to efforts to persuade workers who have spent the pandemic working from home to return to the office, especially those who live in the suburbs.

“The city is where they have to commute to come to the office, and gas prices have doubled,” he said. “There’s no incentive for them to come back.”

Flaherty said that he has been careful with his budget to account not only for the price of gas, but also related price increases.

“Gas is the driver of everything. Gas delivers your food to the grocery store, your packages to your door through Amazon, your clothes that you’re buying — it’s all gas-related, it’s all shipped, it’s all moved,” he said. “If gas goes up to 25 percent, I should probably think about reducing my costs by that, just to be careful.”

Camille Caldera was a Globe intern in 2022.Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.