Sales figures from the U.K.’s Bicycle Association reveal that the “bike boom” is real: year-on-year sales of new bikes between £400 and £1,000 more than doubled in April, the first full month of lockdown.
Figures for May have yet to be released, but it’s expected that they will show that the boom accelerated as both the lockdown and the fine weather continued.
Overall, according to audited statistics supplied by Bicycle Association members, bike sales rose by 60% in numbers sold, and there was a 57% lift in value.
“Functional, affordable bikes were the public priority,” said the Bicycle Association’s executive director, Steve Garidis, adding that “sales of bikes over £3,000 fell amid the boom.”
Before lockdown, the U.K. bicycle industry had been in the doldrums, with March showing an 8% year-on-year decrease in sales. Following the imposition of lockdown on March 23, the Bicycle Association and the Association of Cycle Traders lobbied the government to classify bicycle shops as “essential businesses” that should remain open to cater for the transport needs of key workers.
The lobbying was successful. Much to the surprise and delight of the industry, sales of bicycles started to increase when furloughed Britons realized that fine-weather cycling offered socially distanced exercise close to their homes on roads almost empty of motor traffic. The U.K. government also officially encouraged cycling over motoring and traveling on public transit.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps reveled in the fact that he was the “first transport secretary in history who celebrates the idea that there are fewer cars on the road.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson predicted that the post-pandemic future would be a “golden age for cycling.”
However, all that glistens isn’t gold, and Garidis of the Bicycle Association said his organization was “disappointed” that sales of e-bikes during the bike boom had been lackluster.
“E-bikes have the potential to make even longer or more hilly cycling commutes practical and enjoyable,” posited Garidis, “which is why it’s disappointing that take-up under lockdown hasn’t accelerated as it has for bikes.”
Cost is likely to be a vital issue, with most e-bikes costing well in advance of £1,000.
“We suspect that many people are put off by the cost,” stated Garidis, and he believes this is reason enough for the government to start a purchase incentive scheme similar to the existing one for e-cargobikes.
“A purchase incentive of as little as £250 would double sales of e-bikes over 12 months,” claimed Garidis.
E-bikes can get people out of cars, stressed Garidis, which would relieve congestion and reduce air pollution.
A report from Oxford University’sCentre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions revealed that e-bikes, if used to replace car travel, can cut car carbon dioxide emissions in England by up to 50%.
“As lockdown eases, there’s just a short window of opportunity for the U.K. to build itself a cleaner, lower-carbon, and healthier transport system,” said Garidis.
“E-bikes and cycling must be a core part of that, which is why we’ve made detailed proposals to government as they develop plans for a post-lockdown stimulus package.”