With ever-increasing gas prices tempting empty wallets and bank accounts all around the world, commuters have been propositioned with a solution that gets them out of their car seats and onto their saddles. No, you will (hopefully) not see horses tied-up outside of your office next time you're at work. International businesses and governments are beginning to sell their constituents a new-fangled-old-school technology that has been proving itself popular both on the streets and in the market place: the bicycle.
The thought of using a bike as a primary source of transportation may seem a little strange or impractical at first. However, according to the Washington Post, global bicycle production has been increasing for the last six years. Sales by Giant, a Taiwan based manufacturer and the world's largest bike company, reported sales doubling over the last six years, and up by twenty-four percent in the first half of this year alone. Regardless of whether the cause is frugality or a sudden unbridled need for speed, biking has suddenly become more popular that it has ever been.
Governments around the world are playing along by responding to the massive demand for stronger infrastructure to support the emerging biking culture. European cities like Berlin and London have been encouraging the shift towards biking down-town by imposing pricey driving fees and making old bus lanes available for cyclists. In Asia, where the Economist cites Giant's sales increasing by almost fifty percent since 2004, many city governments are responding by increasing public access to parking facilities. Just this year, $67 million was spent in Tokyo and surrounding areas on building high tech parking towers that grab your bike with a robotic arm and pulls it underground into a storage facility (it's worth checking out on YouTube).
Many countries, though, have yet to catch on to the fever on two wheels. Countries with fledgling middle class populations, such as India or China, still perceive the bicycle as a low class mode of transportation. Cars are quickly replacing bicycles in major cities like New Delhi, where only twenty years ago bikes consisted of sixty percent of total traffic flow (this number has since decreased to a measly four). On the other side of the planet, the United States is another country that has yet to catch on; public infrastructure has yet to accommodate the small grass roots movement towards biking that is exhibited in pockets nationally, such as Critical Mass or the “Same Road Same Rules” movement.
Nonetheless, the Economist cites the emergence of bicycles in the global market as the quick fix for gasoline prices and health challenges. The numbers are also pretty compelling when you take into account the number of bikes being produced versus the number of cars: global bicycle production has increased to roughly 135 million per year while cars are barely over 45 million. And because there are so many different parts that can be manufactured to fit a single bike, market competition is cut throat keeping products affordable internationally.