Bike shops in Birmingham, the British city perhaps perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being most in thrall to the motor car, have reported booming sales – up by almost 60 per cent in one case – as a result of last weeks panic over warnings of a looming petrol shortage.
Petrol stations across the country ran out of fuel as motorists queued to top up their tanks after Cabinet Ofice Minster Frances Maude suggested people should keep jerry cans of fuel at home ahead of a threatened strike by petrol tanker drivers. His remarks received widespread condemnation for sparking unnecessary panic-buying.
Bicycle retailers in Britain’s second-biggest city have benefited from the minister’s ill-advised comments, however, reports the Birmingham Mail.
A spokesman for the country’s largest chain of bike shops, Evans Cycles, which has a branch in Temple Street in the city centre, said that sales of hybrid bikes last week were up by 57 per cent.
“There’s been a definite surge in cycle sales prompted by the prospect of queues on forecourts,” he told the newspaper.
“Concerns about a fuel strike definitely seems to have pushed the cycle option back into people’s minds and a spell of sunshine has helped make the option even more desirable.”
Ryan Jones, bike sales manager at the Halfords store in Selly Oak, commented:“We’ve seen an increase, particularly in hybrids, a kind of mountain bike without suspension so it’s much quicker. It’s ideal for roads and towpaths.”
He added: “It’s seasonal – we’re approaching a busy time. People are also looking to get fitter, but the petrol situation has played a part.”
Aziz Rehman, who owns Ladypool Cycles at Balsall Heath, also saw sales rise, although the increase in his shop’s case was a more modest 10 per cent. “The price range has been between £100 and £300, mostly hybrids with some suspension,” he revealed. “We’ve had a surprising demand for bikes with racks so people can take laptops to work.”
Shaun Jones, manager of local bike shop Harborne’s Bicycles contested the view that the rise he had seen in bike sales was due to the panic over petrol, pointing to another cause.
“We’ve seen an increase, but it’s got more to do with good weather,” he explained.
Those new cyclists who have picked up bikes in Birmingham over the past few days would of course be well-advised to get their hands on the Top Tube Map of the city’s off-road cycle routes that we flagged up earlier this week – copies can be downloaded here.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.