Bicycle Production Reaches 130 Million Units
Bicycle production was up 3.2 percent in 2007 to 130 million units, a continuation of the upward trend that has characterized production for most of this decade.1 (See Figure 1.) Global output continued to be largely a Chinese affair, as China produced two of every three bikes made worldwide.2 (See Figure 2.) India, the European Union, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Brazil were the next five largest producers, accounting together for about a quarter of the total.3
Cycling is potentially an important mode of sustainable transport: it is non-polluting, inexpensive, and good for users' health and the quality of urban life. But the amount of cycling in most cities worldwide remains well below its potential.
The share of all trips made by bike varies greatly among countries. Chinese cities still register some of the highest cycling rates in the world, despite growing consumer interest in private automobiles. In the most cycled cities, such as Tianjin, Xi'an, and Shijiazhuang, the bicycle accounts for more than half of all trips.4 In the west, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany have the highest rates of cycling, ranging from 10 to 27 percent of all trips.5 This compares with about 1 percent of trips in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.6
In Africa, where bicycles are often unaffordable and where walking is generally the dominant transportation mode, cycling's share of trips registers in the single digits except in a few medium-size cities such as Morogoro, Tanzania; Eldoret, Kenya; and Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, where 10-23 percent of trips are made by bike.7
Electric bikes, which use an electric motor to assist pedaling, are a burgeoning market segment, with most production again taking place in China.8 Sales of electric bikes in Germany nearly tripled in 2007.9 For aging populations and for riders tackling hilly terrain or facing hot temperatures, electric bikes make cycling a viable transport option. Yet battery disposal poses a potentially significant environmental downside to e-bikes.
Increases in global commodity prices in 2007 and 2008 could soon affect bicycle production. Price hikes for steel, butyl, rubber, titanium, and other materials are driving up production costs, and materials shortages have left tens of thousands of partially completed bikes in warehouses.10
At the same time, the spike in gas prices in the first half of 2008 began to stimulate cycling, especially among commuters.11 Dealers began to stock bikes and accessories in anticipation of increased demand.12 In some U.S. cities, including Toledo in Ohio and Charlotte in North Carolina, rising gas prices led officials to resurrect or start police bicycle patrols.13 The Trek Bicycle Corporation reports increased sales of police bikes for the past three years.14
The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and other European nations reached high cycling rates through policies that give priority to cycling, walking, and public transportation over private automobiles.15 Bikeways that are separated from traffic, stoplights timed to the speed of bikes, shortcuts allowing cyclists to make right-hand turns before intersections, traffic calming in residential neighborhoods, ample bicycle parking, and coordination with public transport have all made cycling safe, fast, and convenient in strong biking cities.16 (See the Video Resources section for links to videos that illustrate various biking infrastructure features.)
Placing importance on cycling in transportation and land use policy leads to an increase in cycling safety. Bicycle injuries per kilometer traveled are about 30 times higher in the United States than in the Netherlands, and cycling deaths are eight times higher there.17 The sense of safety in the Netherlands has helped increase ridership even among the elderly: 24 percent of all trips made by elderly Dutch people are bike trips.18
Some cities are also increasing accessibility to cycling by establishing public bicycle rental programs.19 Similar to car-sharing programs, these schemes make bikes available to subscribers at strategic locations citywide. Patrons pay on the order of $50 per year to subscribe, as well as a per-hour charge, although in many programs the first half-hour is free.20 Users get access to a bike with an electronic card, use the bike as needed, and return it to the same or another parking rack when finished. In many cities, the program is paid for through on-bike advertising or through concessions to communications companies, who fund the programs in exchange for the right to erect new billboards and sell advertising on them.21
Copenhagen, Berlin, and other European cities have featured public bike programs like this for many years, and Paris took the concept to a new level in 2007-08 by making 20,600 bikes available at more than 1,450 rental stations-four times as many stations as subway stops-some of which are located about 300 yards apart.22 Bikes are now essentially an extension of the public transportation system in Paris. Barcelona and Lyon have also started major programs in the last two years, and new initiatives are planned for Rome, London, Moscow, Geneva, Beijing, Tel Aviv, and Sydney, as well as in a few U.S. cities, including Washington, DC, and San Francisco.23
Several recent videos illustrate some advanced cycling infrastructure and programs from around the world. Click on each item to be connected to the video.
- Biking to school in the Netherlands.
- A cycle roundabout in the Netherlands.
- Stoplights and bollards timed to favor bicycles in Odense, Denmark.
- A "bicycle lift" for steep hills in Trondheim, Norway.
- Secure, protected bicycle parking in France.
- Highly automated bicycle parking in Japan.
- Simple, high-volume bike parking in Germany.
- The public bike system in Paris.
- Rutgers University professor John Pucher's lecture on making cycling attractive.
The Growth of World Industry, 1969 Edition, vol. II
(New York: 1971), from United Nations, Yearbook of
Industrial Statistics, 1979 and 1989 editions, vol. II
(New York: 1981 and 1991), from Interbike
Directory, various years, from United Nations, Industrial
Commodity Statistics Yearbook (New York: various
years), from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News,
world market summary data, various years, and
from Otto Beaujon, managing editor, Bike Europe
Magazine, e-mail to author, 10 March 2006.
2. “World Players in the Bicycle Market,” in John Crenshaw,
“China’s Two-Wheeled Juggernaut Keeps
Rolling Along,” Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, 1
April 2006, p. 40.
3.Worldwatch calculation based on data cited in note
4. “World Players in the Bicycle Market,” op. cit. note
5. “144 Percent: Mexico Doesn’t Mess Around,” Bicycle
Retailer and Industry News, 1 November 2005, p. 47.
6. John Crenshaw, “EU Passes Anti-Dumping Duties
on China, Vietnam,” Bicycle Retailer and Industry
News, 15 August 2005, p. 28.
7. Crenshaw, op. cit. note 2, p. 40.
8. “Indians Face News: Some Not So Good,” Bicycle
Retailer and Industry News, 15 March 2006, p. 28.
9. Crenshaw, op. cit. note 2, p. 40.
10. Doug McClellan, “E-Bike Makers Scramble for a
Share of Swelling Market,” Bicycle Retailer and Industry
News, 1 April 2006, p. 49.
11. Doug McClellan, “New Standards May Boost E-Bike
Market in Europe,” Bicycle Retailer and Industry
News, 1 November 2006, p. 32.
12. “Taiwan Builds Bike Paths, Promotes Cycling,” Bicycle
Retailer and Industry News, 15 July 2006, p. 27.
13. “Brits Take to Bikes, Infrastructure a Big Help,” Bicycle
Retailer and Industry News, 1 July 2006, p. 30.
14. “Aussie State Commits Big Bucks to Cycling,” Bicycle
Retailer and Industry News, 1 June 2006, p. 35.
15. “French Create National Cycling Czar Position,”
Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, 15 May 2006, p.
16. Rachel Gordon, “Cycling Supporters on a Roll in
S.F.,” San Francisco Chronicle, 21 August 2006.
17. John Pucher and Ralph Buehler, “Why Canadians
Cycle More than Americans: A Comparative Analysis
of Bicycling Trends and Policies,” Journal of
Transport Policy, vol. 13 (2006), pp. 269–75.
20. Megan Tompkins, “Transportation Bill Delivers Estimated
$4.5 Billion for Bicycling,” Bicycle Retailer and
Industry News, 1 April 2006, p. 38.
22. Robert Preer, “Start-up Offers Bike Rentals for $20,
Targets College Students,” Bicycle Retailer and Indus-
142 Vital Signs 2007–2008 www.worldwatch.org
try News, 1 May 2006, p. 27.