COMMENT: Will the commuter market be the key to unlocking the utility cycling market in Britain?

Popping to the shops on a bicycle is seen as eccentric in the UK

Show season is in full swing and the nights are now drawing in on one of the best summers we’ve had in years.

Did the summer set your ‘tills a-ringing? The UK bike market has been best known for sports cycling, so there’s a fair chance you sold mostly road or mountain bike-related product, right? Maybe the burgeoning commuter market has been a winner for you during these summer months, with ever increasing numbers of the country’s workforce encouraged to ditch the car for two wheels, especially while the sun has been out.

The commuter market spills into the utility cycling sector which, famously, hasn’t been the UK’s strong point. Getting on a bike rather than into a car just to pop to the shops or pick up the kids is so outside of the norm that it’s positively eccentric. Maybe that’s not entirely true nowadays, but utility cycling is still very much a minority activity across broad swathes of Great Britain.

I spent a weekend in Bruges last month where I was confronted with an ordinary, yet very alien sight: A woman cycling home from the local market with a box of fruit strapped to the back of her bike.

For a British tourist, the sight of someone returning from a spot of shopping with their purchased goods brought home on two wheels is as foreign as the words on the restaurant menus. I mean, what was she thinking? Didn’t she know it might rain? 

It might be different where you are, but I’ve never seen a comparable sight in the UK. Somewhere down the line it seems like the nation swallowed the car manufacturers’ myth that you need to get in a car to make ‘utility’ trips and it’s not going to be easy to shake that perception off. Maybe the growth of the commuter market is where the revolution will begin? Watch this space.

Back in Bruges – which was absolutely packed with bicycles, horse and carts, cars and buses – there were many examples of almost comically awful driving and riding, like the chap almost cycling into the back of a bus while texting. Despite all that, I didn’t see a single outburst of road rage. Maybe that’s something else they do better too…

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