Amid economic gloom and public disorder, cycling in the UK appears to be weathering the storm, with reports of sales increases, funding renewals and backing from influential public figures.
Supermarket chain Tesco have been developing their in-store bike shops, with the original eight now swelling to 24. Customers can take away a flat-pack bike or one assembled by Tesco staff. Whether they're worth buying is another question altogether.
Halfords have reported an 11.5 percent increase in bicycle sales during the quarter ending 1 July despite a poor Christmas and what sounds like a fairly quiet first quarter.
Pashley, suppliers of postal delivery bikes for many years until the Royal Mail decided they didn't like bikes any more, have launched a couple of new models with a retro look – the Pashley Parabike and, for women, the Pashley Penny, both of which have five-speed hub gears and fully enclosed drum brakes. All Pashleys are hand built at their Stratford-upon-Avon factory.
Brompton Bicycle's history of innovative design continues with the installation earlier this month of the UK's first self-service Brompton bicycle rental scheme at Guildford railway station, with plans for several more sites across the UK. The solar-powered dock holds 50 bikes. And the Brompton factory in Brentford formed the backdrop to a recent television interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer focussing on economic growth.
Not that the Chancellor was first on the scene – a man who knows all about cycle hire had been there a few weeks before. Following a visit to nearby Fuller's brewery, London Mayor Boris Johnson took to a Brompton for a ride along to the factory with managing director Will Butler-Adams, who said: "Getting Boris in the saddle was a great way to demonstrate the product. We had a lot of fun on the way from Chiswick. I think he really liked the bike."
London's Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme has just received confirmation that the bank will continue their sponsorship for an extra three years into 2018 and provide a further £25 million. In typically flamboyant terms, Boris Johnson said: "My thanks go to Barclays for the benevolence they've demonstrated with their latest bestowal of funds and I am pleased that we can confirm the extension of their sponsorship agreement. By working together, we are putting thousands more Londoners on two wheels."
However, it appears more could be done by Ministers to encourage smarter travel generally. The summary of a just-published report for Sustrans and Friends of the Earth says: "The Government and local councils in England are failing to roll out value-for-money measures proven to cut traffic and carbon emissions, despite the advice of their expert adviser, the Committee on Climate Change."