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Petrol panic sparks sales surge at Birmingham bike shops

Retailers across Britain's second city report rise in sales of hybrids especially - the weather helped too...

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 joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Paul M | 12 years ago

"Noddergeddon"? I do hope that is not a pejorative reference to less experienced or committed bike riders, because if it is, that would explain quite a lot about why noncyclists hate cyclists.

I doubt parking and showers will do much for cycling levels in central London now. Surely the market for hard-riding vehicular cyclists who "have their wits about them" and can handle the hostile conditions must be saturated by now. The City of London currently estimates that it needs about 27,000 more parking spaces, the great majority of which can only be sourced by upgrading planning requirements in the impending local development framework, from 1 for 250 sqm to one for 150 sqm. Progressive employers are close to that already, plus free showers and, in my firm's case, a fresh towel everyday for a modest charge.

The number however assumes a 10% modal share for cycling which ain't going to happen unless road conditions improve.

Nor do I think it likely while halfords and Evans persist in selling speed-steeds or fat-tyres and few or no practical velocipedes, as I just don't see a sweaty trip to the showers first thing being much of a draw.

georgee | 12 years ago

Noddergeddon is in full swing in London the last two weeks, to the extent that heavy rain was viewed as good by some regular commuters.

The limiting factor for an office of 250 people located in central london is parking and shower facilities, not fuel strikes. I'd like to know what a truck load of sheffield stands and monitored CCTV would do for cycling levels.

Simon_MacMichael | 12 years ago

Probably less in London I would imagine, at least in terms of the direct impact of the petrol panic.

Levels of car ownership among people living within Greater London itself, and particularly Inner London, are well below the national average; use of public transport for commuting is higher, use of cars lower than elsewhere.

Of course, the state of public transport in the capital means that cycling is increasingly viewed as an attractive alternative (though it's not one that's likely to appeal to first-time cyclists commuting into the centre from the outer boroughs or beyond, and the perception of safety is also an issue).

Could be though that some of those people commuting in by other means might be looking for a bike to make local journeys where they live, including to and from the station?

Super Domestique | 12 years ago

I wonder what the London figures were like?

3 locals approached me for bike and riding tips last week. If it gets people cycling then its all good.

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