Cycling declines in Asia, on rise in Europe

Bicycle ownership and use has been declining in China and India, while Europe is at the forefront of measures to popularise cycling.

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Published December 20, 2006 by Reuters

Bicycle ownership and use has been declining in China and India, while Europe is at the forefront of measures to popularise cycling. Here are some comparisons:

OVERVIEW

There are some 1.6 billion bicycles in the world, 500 million of them in China, 250 million in Europe and 150 million in the United States.

China and India are the world's largest producers of bicycles. China manufactured about 80 million bicycles in 2005, accounting for about 60 percent of global production while India's share was around 11 percent.

The global bicycle industry, including bicycles, parts and accessories, is estimated to have total retail sales in excess of $20 billion.

CHINA AND INDIA

Annual bicycle sales in China have fallen from 40 million in the 1990s to 20 million. Bicycle ownership in India is down from about 45 million in 1995 to 31 million.

The proportion of trips undertaken by bicycle in India is between 15 percent and 35 percent, but cycling is popular mostly in rural areas. The absence of safe cycling paths and parking facilities are the major obstacles.

Sixty percent of the workforce in China's capital Beijing cycled to work in 1998; that is down to less than 20 percent now. Hundreds of bike lanes in Beijing have been converted for use by cars.

EUROPE

In the European Union, bicycles have been included for the first time in the comprehensive transportation plan.

High car parking fees and abundant bike lanes have ensured that 35 percent of local trips in Amsterdam are made by bike. The percentage is even higher in other Dutch and Danish cities, according to Dutch figures.

The United Kingdom has developed a plan to quadruple bicycle use by the year 2012.

The Danish capital Copenhagen provides 3,000 bicycles free for short-term use. One-third of commuters bike to work.

Germany has more than 40,000 km of bikeways. In the city of Muenster, bus lanes can be used by bikes but not by cars and special lanes near intersections feed cyclists to a stop area ahead of cars.

Sources: Reuters; International Bicycle Fund (www.ibike.org); Earth Policy Institute (www.earth-policy.org); Worldwatch Institute (www.worldwatch.org) ((Writing by Bangalore Editorial Reference Unit; editing by Megan Goldin Reuters Messanging: Karthik.subbaraman.reuters.com@reuters.net; +91 80 4135 5900, fax +91 80 4135 5001))