- WASHINGTON (AFP) - More bicycles
than cars have been sold in the United States over the past 12 months,
with rising gas prices prompting commuters to opt for two wheels instead
- Not since the oil crisis of 1973 have bicycles sold in
such big numbers, according to Tim Blumenthal, executive director of Bikes
Belong, an industry association.
- "Bicycle sales are near an all-time high with 19
million sold last year -- close to the 20 million sold during the oil embargo
in the early 1970s," said Blumenthal, whose association is based in
Boulder in the western state of Colorado.
- The US Chamber of Commerce says more bicycles have been
sold than cars over the past 12 months.
- In a country where most of the population still relies
heavily on cars, some 87 million people have climbed on a bike in the past
12 months, Blumenthal said.
- While less than car sales, bike sales generate about
five to six billion dollars of business a year, he said.
- Bicycles are back mainly because the sharp increase in
gas prices has made them a practical alternative, said Paul Gaiser, owner
of Scooter Commuter in Bethesda, Maryland.
- "Above all it's the higher price of gas, but also
it's concern for the environment and the cost of another car," Gaiser
- The average price of gas in the United States has increased
47.3 percent in a year, according to figures published last week by the
American Automobile Association.
- Gaiser believes the bicycle trend is no passing fad.
- "Our sales have quadrupled in the last two months,"
he said. "I think it's a major paradigm shift. It's here to stay."
- Cyclists on the streets of the US capital agreed.
- "I bought my first bike six months ago to go to
college. I could not do without it. It's faster in traffic and less expensive,"
said Erik Lubell, a student at George Washington University wearing a multi-colored
- Near the affluent district of Georgetown, Stella Hardwood
said she had a different motivation.
- "I don't want to put on weight and my bike forces
me to exercise," Hardwood said.
- The superstar status of cycling champion Lance Armstrong,
who has won the Tour de France seven times, has also helped spark interest
in the sport.
- The US government has also done its part to promote a
more bicycle-friendly environment. Some 3.5 million dollars in federal
money has been set aside to create cycling trails over the next four years.