UK bicycle sales rose by 63 per cent during the first three months of lockdown, according to market data from the Bicycle Association (BA) – with sub-£1,000 bikes the best-performing segment of the market, with the firm that compiled the figures saying they suggest “that consumers have cottoned on to the cycling revolution before the government did.”
The data cover the period from April to June, and Sports Marketing Surveys Inc. (SMS), which collects the data on behalf of the BA, said there was also strong growth in sales of e-bikes costing above £1,000, which rose by 150 per cent, albeit from a low base.
The period of course saw huge growth in interest in cycling, whether for exercise or travelling to work while avoiding public transport, although SMS says that according to its analysis of commuting patterns during the period “it is too early to identify any sea change in the proportion cycling and walking to work.
“What the figures will offer is a solid benchmark for the initial post-pandemic period, one against which future marks can be compared as the government’s plans turn from vision into reality,” it continues.
“At present the figures suggest a weekly proportion of up to 7 of those who are travelling for work doing so by bike, consistent with the top end of estimates for before the pandemic.”
According to SMS, however, the number of people who commute by bike – and interestingly, their profile – “could begin to shift,” thanks partly to safe infrastructure that will overcome one of the biggest barriers to cycling, the continuing wish of many to avoid public transport, and the location of jobs best suited to working from home.
“For one thing pre-Covid cycling commuters tend to be younger people living in urban areas or slightly older white-collar workers incorporating cycling as part of a commute in tandem with public transport,” SMS explained.
“However, as the lockdown in the UK eases, it is precisely these groups who are finding that office presence, and therefore commuting, is not currently required.
“Metropolitan office employers have largely been the group best able to accommodate working from home,” it said, citing research from The Centre for Cities, “with footfall weakest in major metropolitan areas with a substantial office footprint, including London, Manchester and Liverpool.”
Referring to the sales figures, SMS added: “In fact, the data suggests that consumers have cottoned on to the cycling revolution before the government.
“As commuting starts to loom large in the Autumn and into 2021, and especially as the government commitment to cycling translates to more regular and more positive coverage in the national press, the surge could be set to continue.”
Marc Anderman, who heads SMS’s cycling business, said: “The opportunity that cycling has is nothing short of colossal. Consumer demand, environmental and public health benefits, and government support are all coming together to highlight the advantages and benefits of cycling. Most leisure pursuits would be delighted to tick one or two of those boxes, to have all three is as rare as it is incredibly exciting.”
Steve Garidis, executive director of the Bicycle Association, added. “The BA has been able to provide stakeholders in government, local authorities, and transport organisations with accurate and reliable figures from the Market Data Service.
“This is now the most authoritative source of data on the UK cycling market. Having detailed data hugely enhanced the BA’s credibility as we lobbied for a national e-bike incentive scheme, and it will be invaluable for our advocacy work going forwards.”
The Market Data Service only launched in April, but it has two years’ worth of historical data, enabling comparisons to be made across time.
According to the BA, the sales data, which are collected anonymously through point-of-sales systems, cover 50 per cent of the UK cycling market by turnover, and it aims to increase that to 70 per cent by next April.
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.