Global bicycle ownership has halved in the past 30 years, according to research published yesterday.
The study, in the Journal of Transport & Health, analysed data from 1.25 billion households between 1981 and 2012, and is the first to assess global bicycle ownership over time.
China showed the most dramatic changes: in 1992 more than 97% of households owned a bicycle, the figure almost halving to 48.7% in 2007 before rising again to 63.2% in 2009. Northern Europe showed the highest bicycle ownership, while the lowest were in parts of Africa and Central Asia.
Removing India and China from the picture – their high populations skewing the data – researchers noted a steady global decline in household bicycle ownership from an average of 60% in 1989 to just 32% in 2012.
Researchers, based at Johns Hopkins University in the US, weighted data to make it comparable between different countries. They found that geographical proximity and cultural similarities equals similar bicycle ownership levels between countries.
Olufolajimi Oke, lead author of the study, said: "If a country doing well in terms of bicycle ownership, surrounding countries also seem to do well.”
However, Burkina Faso was one exception, with a high average bicycle ownership despite being surrounded by low-ownership countries.
Researchers hope the data will help inform policymakers to improve cycling rates, by being able to identify when changes in bicycle ownership occurred, and where ownership is highest.
Oke said: "Everyone is focused on what's happening now, but looking to the past can really help policy makers - it can show them what worked and what didn't and give them ideas."
"By pulling together and analyzing many sources of data, we have produced a database that we hope will give policy makers the information they need to take action."
The research data, which is freely available, can be viewed here.