Bicycle Boom in Industrial Countries

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People are buying a lot of bikes and cycling way more than they used to. Today, we explain why

  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, bicycle suppliers have been struggling to keep up with an unprecedented demand for all things cycling.
  • As lockdowns changed commuting and work patterns in many places around the globe, and Covid-19 made the use of public transport less attractive, bicycle sales surged.
  • The reasons for this “bike boom” are fascinating and expose a dramatic shift in people’s lifestyle priorities: many people exercised more, or felt a sudden yearning for more outdoor activity.
  • Data shows that women were motivated to cycle more than previously or even begin to cycle altogether, as lockdowns meant they perceived less busy roads as safer.
  • As restrictions dragged on and people’s mental health frayed further, some “panic bought” pricey Peloton exercise bikes, pushing the company’s revenue up by 66% in the first quarter of 2020.
  • This isn’t the first bicycle boom: In the early 1970s, demand for bikes was so strong that retailers regularly ran out of stock and had to work through lengthy waiting lists.
  • There was no pandemic raging then, but many other circumstances were similar: Baby-boomers had growing disposable income, healthy living was trendy and environmental concerns took centre stage.
  • But by 1974, much of the boom was ebbing down and many people returned to cars and other means of transport, although some had already predicted the end of the automobile era.
  • The cycling community and politicians are keen to preserve this iteration of the boom, as public health benefits of getting millions of people to stay permanently in the bike lane would be enormous.
  • A 2017 study found that compared to “a non-active commute”, riding a bike to work was associated with a 45% lower risk of cancer and a 46% lower risk of heart disease.
  • Countries with high bicycle use tend to be among the happiest overall, with the Netherlands ranked 6th in the World Happiness Report 2020 (daily bike use 43%) and Denmark 2nd (daily bike use 30%).
  • Many have been pointing out since the start of the boom that the infrastructure in many cities and towns is not ready for the millions of people who picked up cycling over the past two years.
  • This readlist takes a look at what is fuelling this current obsession with two wheels in industrial countries, and whether it may last this time.
The Guardian
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5 articles on this topic


The great bicycle boom of 2020

6 min read
The Guardian

‘I haven’t looked back’: the women who discovered cycling in lockdown

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3 min read
The Conversation

3 in 4 people want to ride a bike but are put off by lack of safe lanes

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3 min read

'The new toilet paper:' Bikes fly off shelves, overwhelming shops

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3 min read

These Entrepreneurs Show Why the Bike Boom Is Here to Stay

2 min read