Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Paradox of Bikes in Britain

Bricycles photo 2013
There’s an interesting article by Anthony Young on the European bicycle market in the latest edition of Bricycles magazine, the magazine for Brighton and Hove’s cycle enthusiasts. It comments on the latest statistics on the European bicycle market and I’ve taken the liberty of extracting a chunk.

“The UK…. has easily the highest bike sales of the big five nations – well ahead of cycling-mad France, and twice as high as Italy, traditional centre of the bike world. UK bike sales, over 3.5m p.a., or 58/1,000 people, are over 40% higher than the European average. This isn’t a Bradley Wiggins Olympics phenomenon – the figures are for 2011 and the UK’s lead in bike sales has been like this for many years. Nobody knows how many usable bikes there are in the UK, but it must be around twenty million. That would mean over 30% of Britons has a bike, even though apparently less than 3% ride their bike regularly. Perhaps that’s the link that squares the circle. Britons have more bikes than anyone else, but use them less. Is this to be explained by a lack of safe opportunities to cycle in the UK? Cycle facilities here are much poorer than continental countries, where they actually have fewer bikes.

This portrays cycling as a huge unrealised opportunity for the UK. We’re perfectly capable of riding our bikes. If facilities were better and if those millions of bikes (which have car driving owners) were used as they are in Europe, we would make huge savings on petrol and our roads and hospital wards would be far less crowded. We just need to get people who own bikes to see themselves as cyclists, those who don’t own bikes to see that they’d be better off if more people rode bikes rather than driving cars, and public authorities to see that it would be in the national interest to give equal priority to cycle facilities.”

Well said, Anthony.

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