COMMENT: The cycle market is contributing billions to the UK economy, but the potential is even greater

Bikes are booming? Let’s see some support then

You might have missed it, but in the midst of Eurobike, Interbike and the NEC Cycle Show, we got the news that bicycling is booming, contributing £2.9 billion to the UK economy in 2010.

That was the figure from a report commissioned by Sky and British Cycling and carried out by the London School of Economics. Drilled down, that figure equates to a ‘gross cycling product’ of £230 per cyclist, per annum.

It added that bicycle retail in the UK had seen a sales rise of 28 per cent year-on-year in 2010, with sales of 3.7 million bikes generating £1.62 billion.

I’m not going to bang on about the accuracy of the figures here, for fear of boring regular readers still further, though it’s worth noting the report isn’t from one of the usual market research firms, although it is funded by those with a vested interest.

The report author – Dr Alexander Grous – emphasised that the figure is the tip of the iceberg, saying ‘the scale of opportunity is clear’: “New cycle commuters are estimated to contribute £505 per head in terms of typical bicycle and accessory purchases. Encouraging all 2,215,700 latent consumers to become recreational cyclists could therefore be worth over £709m to the UK economy."

The question has to be – why the hell aren’t we encouraging precisely that to happen? Unlocking that dormant economic potential should be a no brainer at a time like this, but economic woes have coincided with the Government’s philosophy of localism. The report mentions that UK Government spend on cycling is notably lower than that of our European cousins, despite the untapped potential of more cyclists to the economy.

So, in answer to ‘why aren’t we trying to convert non-cyclists into cyclists’ – the cycle world is, stepping into the breach through the likes of Bike Hub and the wider cycle world like Sky Rides, Cycletta and all the rest. And let’s not forget campaigning bodies like Sustrans, the CTC and new organisations like The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain.

We might not necessarily agree on the methods – like whether bike lanes should be segregated and how it should all be paid for – but it’s in all our interests to find ways of unlocking that untapped potential. But if we are waiting for the Government to intervene while it’s preoccupied with localism then we’ll be waiting for some time. In the words of Grous ‘the scale of opportunity is clear’.

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