A rash of recent statistics suggests that bikes are doing better than ever as compared to cars – both in terms of manufacture and use.
Bike production and sales are forecast to rise steeply across most areas of bike sales in 2009, from racers to commuters, meaning that the number of bikes produced annually may, for the first time, be triple the number of cars produced – or more.
Figures from the US-based Earth Policy Institute show global 2007 bike production at around 130 million units and car production at around 52 million. However, a recession-inspired downturn in car production and an increasingly sharp rise in bike sales mean the three-to-one ratio could easily be reached in 2009. For example, August 2008 saw record revenues for bike giant Giant, totaling some US$42.19 million.
Figures recently released by Australia’s Cycling Promotion Fund confirm the trend; although bikes have outsold cars there for nine consecutive years, 2008 saw the bike sales lead over cars hit an a high of 38 percent.
CPF’s Policy Advisor Elliot Fishman stressed it wasn’t just bike sales but bike usage that was increasing; ‘Census figures (based on state capital cities) show a 28-percent increase in cycling to work, with Melbourne’s growth soaring to 48 percent.’
Of course, the ‘bike-car’ gap that threatens to turn into a chasm is also fuelled by a crisis in the automobile industry – figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed new car sales towards the end of 2008 were down 23 percent from the same time a year ago. Major US and Japanese car manufacturers have all had very well-publicised and drastic drops in turnover and profit in 2008, with 2009 not holding out much hope of an upturn.