Used bike prices are quite high this spring in thrift stores and on Craig's List. A few years ago $5-$10 bikes or even less were common in thrift stores (Salvation Army, Goodwill, Savers, etc.), now $25-$100 is a more common price, even for low quality bikes that are beat up and need tires and other repairs. Used bikes on Craig's List also seem higher than a couple years ago. New bikes of the discount store variety are still cheap at about 100-150 bucks, but the quality is the same as it has always been, awful. Bike store brands are selling new bicycles at close to three hundred bucks at the lower end for a quality brand and prices go up rapidly for better quality models and parts.
The popularity of bicycle commuting has grown as a cultural and economic trend and this might account for the price of used bikes to rise. While it has become more popular to ride to work, no one wants to risk parking an expensive new bike and coming back 8 hours later to find parts missing or the whole bike stolen. Better to commute using a beater that does not attract attention from people and that leads to used bike prices rising. Maybe commuters are responding to the rise in the price of gasoline and are willing to spend the cost of a tank of gas on a used bicycle. Or the falling value of the dollar may be driving up the base price of the used bicycle. There is no doubt that the cost of bicycling has gone up in the used bike market.
Bike commuters have a lack of organized bicycle parking and bike parking security. Most people would not hesitate to park a new car and come back to the company lot or municipal parking ramp and they DO NOT find the wipers, antennae, roof racks, license plates and wheels missing or the car stolen. Why do municipal and corporate car parking facilities not have reasonable bike parking with some security, just as car drivers have? Instead the bike is chained to a tree or signpost partially blocking a sidewalk with no security, or the other choice: stuck behind a building out of sight of people on a bent up old and badly designed bike rack waiting to be crushed by trucks backing up to the loading dock or raided by thieves in an out of the way unlit wasteland.
Another usability problem is that bikes for commuting are not the same as most bicycles sold in the USA which are patterned after racing bikes, road racing or BMX racing or mountain bike racing. These bikes have usability problems for commuting such as lacking chain guards (keep the chain away from work clothes), full fenders (keep water off you), light systems (good headlights and tail lights for riding during darkness), bells and cargo racks to carry items like food from the grocery. Many times this equipment is sold as expensive add-on products and do not fit various model bikes well or at all. Having bicycles that are not really suited for commuting is a usability and a safety problem that drives people away from bicycle commuting.
Some European and Japanese commuter style bicycles are becoming available for the new commuting demand but these are pretty expensive compared to most of the bikes available in bike stores and finding a good used commuter bike is not common and it is expensive if found. Usability problems with bicycle commuting are a larger domain than only equipment and parking facilities, other problems include a lack of a network of routes, navigation, signage and proper training both of bicycling and the car driving public. Some of these problems are addressed in other articles below.