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In Almost Every European Country, Bikes Are Outselling New Cars

In Almost Every European Country, Bikes Are Outselling New Cars thumbnail
A mechanic repairs a bike at Calmera bike shop in Madrid in September. As car sales slump across Europe, bicycle sales in Spain are outpacing cars — a trend seen across much of the Continent.

A mechanic repairs a bike at Calmera bike shop in Madrid in September. As car sales slump across Europe, bicycle sales in Spain are outpacing cars — a trend seen across much of the Continent.

Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Chart comparing new passenger car registration and bicycle sales in five European countries.

We know that Europeans love their bicycles — think or . Denmark specifically for cyclists.

Indeed, earlier this month, , which has long had a love affair with cars, is embracing the bicycle: For the first time on record, Lauren noted, bicycles outsold cars in the country.

But it’s becoming a Continent-wide phenomenon. More bikes were sold in than cars — for the first time since World War II.

This prompted us to look at the figures across the 27 member states of the European Union for both and . New-car registrations for Cyprus and Malta weren’t available, so we took them out of the comparison.

Here’s what we found: Bicycle sales outpaced new-car sales last year in every one of those countries, except Belgium and Luxembourg. The top five countries by bicycle sales can be seen in the top chart.

Where the ratio of bike sales to new car sales is the highest.

We decided to delve a little deeper into the figures and see which of these countries had the highest rates of bicycle-to-car ownership. Those states can be seen in the second chart.

So, what explains the numbers?

Parts of the data can be explained by the slump in across Europe. Car sales reached a earlier this year. showed they were recovering.

This decline coincided with the worldwide recession, which hit , though there are they may be recovering).

The U.S. has fared much better. Last month, car sales jumped to . But U.S. automakers face another problem: . Bike sales, on the other hand, are .


13 Comments on "In Almost Every European Country, Bikes Are Outselling New Cars"

  1. DC on Sun, 27th Oct 2013 8:10 pm 

    Not that the 2 leading countries.

    Greece. Hasnt recovered from the US sponsored attempt to cripple the EU, and likely never will. Gas-powered trash cans are a useless luxury in a collapsing economy.

    Romania. Long one of the poorest nations in Europe. Is not going through a Greek-style meltdown maybe, but there is still plenty of poverty to go around in that country.

    Fact is, none of the countries on that chart are exactly doing well atm, but aside form Germany, who is? Sales would be up here in North America like that too, except for the small problem of GM and amerikan oil cartels booby-trapping our entire infrastructure in a such a way to make *most* attempts to substitute gas powered cars for bikes…..difficult to say the least.

    In the area I live, suggesting people bike to work on a daily basis would be met with howls of derision and laughter. Every single day(twice a day), the highway is literally choked with gas-burners on there way to sit at desks and sell plastic garbage made in Chinese factories by western corporations. The only ‘job’ my fellow citizens have is to consume plastic trash and amerikan crap food we insist on importing. Few people bike to work, or school, or anywhere. Right now, gas is 6.21 p gallon (imp.) Far to low to change peoples behavior, much less get them on a bike, or a bus even.

  2. Arthur on Sun, 27th Oct 2013 9:18 pm 

    Developments as described in the article indicate that the idea of peak demand occuring before peal oil could be true. We are not running out of oil in a long shot, but the prices have reached such a level that many are preparing to stop consuming oil.

  3. Newfie on Sun, 27th Oct 2013 9:41 pm 

    The “standard” of living is declining because of the Great Recession. Face it, the so called recovery is not going to happen. The era of growth is over. People buy bikes because cars are unaffordable to buy and run.

  4. rockman on Sun, 27th Oct 2013 10:02 pm 

    Certainly every little bit helps. Unfortunately it’s a very little bit. Latest stats: 5 million bikes sold at a cost of $860 million. OTOH about 60 million vehicles were sold for about $200 billion. IOW 99.6% for vehicles and 0.4% for bikes. It is estimated that over 1 billion passenger cars travel the streets and roads of the world today. The 1 billion-unit mark was reached in 2010 for the first time ever.

    Sometimes those silver linings can be almost invisible.

  5. action on Sun, 27th Oct 2013 10:26 pm 

    That’s because Europe is the PERFECT place for bikes, much more convenient than a car, with all the small winding streets and nearness of everything, safe for pedestrians as well. Now try that in the US…

  6. alokin on Sun, 27th Oct 2013 10:26 pm 

    Part of this movement is that Bosch has developed the first decent electric unit for bikes. That is a huge help in hilly country.

  7. Bike Man on Sun, 27th Oct 2013 10:35 pm 

    Every one can have a vehicle, but we should also use a bike for short distance rides like 3-5 km. Ideally if we have a electric bike, we can go even farther like 10-15 km. Biking is good for health and a natural exercise.

    So why not we develop a 4 wheeled light framed vehicle which can carry 1 passenger and priced very economically so that we can travel even in rain & snow without worry.

  8. DC on Sun, 27th Oct 2013 11:19 pm 

    Europe is no more ‘perfect’ than any other place for bikes-that is a myth. If you build properly for them, anyplace can be ‘perfect’. Just like anything else.

  9. Kenz300 on Mon, 28th Oct 2013 12:16 am 

    Bicycles are great transportation….. you burn calories, stay healthy and fit.

    Cities need to become more people centered and less automobile centered.

    We need more safe bicycle paths that connect, work, hones, schools and businesses. Apartments, schools and businesses need to provide better places to lock and store bicycles.

    We need to rethink our cities and make them more appealing to walking and riding a bicycle.

  10. BillT on Mon, 28th Oct 2013 1:28 am 

    Newfie, you are correct. It is price vs income that is making people look for alternates. We are in a permanent Great Recession. Growth is over.

    action, you are correct. It wouldn’t work in the US. And, no, DC they cannot ‘rebuild’ a country as big as the US for bikes. The distances and terrain is too variable for one thing. For instance, Pennsylvania is mostly mountains. Ditto many other states. Then there is the Midwest where everything is hundreds of miles apart. True it is flat, but the local grocery store may be 40 miles away.

    Then there is the weather. Snow that gets deep and icy roads when you get freezing rain. Blizzards, hail, 110″ F. temps.

    Bikes will be possible for some instances and places and people, but, not for most.

    Bike Man, Google pics of trikes here in Manila. Three and four wheeled vehicles are common here and are peddle-powered. They just require man power to move them. I have seen as many as 3 people being moved by one, with their groceries. The move good, clothes, building materials, etc. along with people. The driver has strong legs…lol.

    Bikes are also hi-tech in many ways and will disappear, but it will just take longer.

  11. BillT on Mon, 28th Oct 2013 1:36 am 


    If you want to see them. You can also see the motorized version that move more and bigger loads. and the electric ones that I have never seen so they must be new.

  12. Arthur on Mon, 28th Oct 2013 6:40 am 

    As DC and Bill indicate, it is a myth that Europe is a heaven for bicycles. In order for bicycles to work you need small, overcrowded totally flat countries, without snow. Two countries meet those criterias: Denmark and Holland and these two are really bicycle heavens. Here is a photoreport from the American who runs and who lived in the Netherlands:

  13. DC on Mon, 28th Oct 2013 6:48 pm 

    Bikes can work fine almost anywhere, outside more or less snowed in regions,which thanks to Exxon and GM, wont be problem much longer. That aside,my ‘city'(strip mall actually) is perfectly flat in the valley. Ideal for bikes. The end of town I live in, pretty hilly and uneven. So what. Hasnt done me any harm. But down on the valley floor? ALL cars -all the time. Buses sure, yea some people bike. But its cars and sprawl all the way down. Sure its getting cold(er) now here-still hasnt done me any harm. But despite near perfect geography for biking here, even in my mountainous province, car is still king. Very little bike dedicated provisions and the building codes are, like everywhere in N.A., built for the car, and the car alone. Everything else is considered a hindrance or impediment to cars. However, of late, they are spending money on painted lines for us. So I guess you could say were making progress-of a sort…..

    The only ‘rule’ that says things are the way they are, is corporate rule. Where you live has almost nothing to do with how well bikes ‘work’. Its what we build and how we build it. Nothing more.

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