Thursday, January 22, 2009

More Australians buy bicycles than cars

Aimlessly flicking through the evening news on a night when its too hot to do anything else, I came across the figure that Australians bought 1.4 million bicycles in 2008, as compared to 1 million cars.

Looking for further information on this, I found the following from the Cycling Promotion Fund:

Australian bicycle sales continue to outstrip motor vehicle sales and prove resilient in the face of a slowing economy. Figures released today show bicycle sales have bucked the downward trend in consumer spending, outselling cars for the 9th consecutive year.

“The economic downturn and the affordability of cycling is one of the key reasons for the continued surge in bicycle sales” said Elliot Fishman, policy advisor with the Cycling Promotion Fund. “The sluggish economy, coupled with concern over climate change, health, congestion and petrol prices have strengthened interest in cycling as an option” said Fishman.
Moreover, this is apparently not a sudden development, but has been occurring consistently through the 2000s.

A few things follow from this. First, if I think about how any car dealerships there are as compared to bicycle shops, I can see why 2009 is looming as a bad year to be in the car sales industry. Second, where do bicycles get attention in economic policy, as compared to the billions that are put before the car industry worldwide?

Finally, as images of unsold cars mount up around the globe, I wonder if we may be on the threshold of some wider shifts in how we live and work. Sure, most cyclists also own a car. But the extent to which bicycle sales exceed car sales in Australia (38% in 2008, as compared to 0.3% in 2001), suggests there may be a wider socio-cultural shift taking palce here whose fullimplications we are yet to fully think through.

No comments: