But is it because bike sales are up or car sales down?

Bikes outsold cars in most European countries last year, with even car-mad Italy seeing pedal power overtake engines for the first time since the second world war.

Figures compiled by National Public Radio in the US show the UK in second place behind Germany in the volume of bikes sold last year, although the difference between car and bike sales is smaller in Germany.

Only Belgium and Luxembourg bucked the trend, with more cars sold than bikes.

Germans bought 3,966,000 bikes last year, but only 3,083,000 cars. The numbers for the UK were 3,600,000 bikes versus 2,045,000 cars. With about the same population as the UK, Italians bought 1,606,000 bikes and just 1,402,000 cars.

Bikes usually outsell cars in Germany, the UK and France, but last year pedals beat engines for the first time since WWII in Italy and Spain. (Image ©NPR) 

While this looks like good news for bikes and the bike industry, those 2012 figures are all slightly down on 2011 bike sales (Germany: 4,010,000, UK: 3,640,000, Italy: 1,771,000). Italian car sales have been hit very hard by the state of the Italian economy, as have bike sales.

In fact car sales hit a 20-year low earlier this year, though there were signs of an upturn late in the summer.

NPR picked out the five nations with the largest relative gap between car and bike sales as Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, Hungary and Greece.

(Image ©NPR)

The Wiggins effect or the economy?

While some commentators have turned to the ‘Wiggins effect’ to explain the relative strength of the UK bike business compared to the car trade, an AA spokesman who spoke to the Telegraph put it down to economics.

He said that travelling by bike, “makes sense especially for people travelling short distances to the shops, pick up a paper or go with their children to school because of the high cost of fuel.

“Last year unleaded reached 142.48 pence a litre in the spring, which was a 10 pence spike over the average.

“It coincided the impact of the Olympics on people, which reflected the impact of Bradley and Victorian Pendleton.

”The trend was reflected in the Government’s National Travel Survey which showed people were trying to cut the cost of short journeys.

“Also the soaring cost of parking saw many commuters buy bikes, which are far cheaper to leave at the station than a car.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.


jarredscycling [455 posts] 4 years ago

This is a great sign for the future. As for the reason I would imagine you have to give some credit to the "wiggins effect" but hopefully that just catches a person's interest and then they can realize the economic value of riding a bicycle

mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 4 years ago

I'm not sure the 'reason' matters as long as

a) the trend continues

b) people actually *ride* the damn things

Wolfshade [205 posts] 4 years ago

What would be a better statistic would be to be able to differentiate between Adult bikes and Child bikes. I wonder what proportion of these bikes are for kids that have grown out of their old one.

Matt eaton [741 posts] 4 years ago

Seems a bit like comparing apples to oranges to me. Presenting data like this makes it look like people think 'shall I get a car or a bike?' and then make a definitive choice to be either a driver or a cyclist and we all know it's not that simple.

sm [406 posts] 4 years ago

I thought this was good news until I read "Bikes usually outsell cars in Germany, the UK and France."

Unfortunately, bike sales numbers does not equal more people using bikes instead of cars. This article might as well say: recession = less new cars sold. Bicycles still selling, although slightly down. Recession too probably.

Abdoujaparov [21 posts] 4 years ago

I'm confused as to where the UK bike numbers come from, as the UK bik trade itself doesn't know how many bikes it's selling. The data simply isn't available. I assume the numbers are actually imports, which is very different to bikes sold and of course bikes ridden.

brandobiker [22 posts] 4 years ago

Well I bought a new bike earlier this year.