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UK buys more bikes than cars

On the face of it, it's good news. The Government is concerned about our health and tells us that we need to exercise more. At the same time we face congestion on our roads and declining oil reserves. The fact, then, that more of us are choosing to cycle is surely a positive thing. The figures come from an unusual source, US public radio station, NPR. Their survey shows that the phenomenon is experienced across Europe.

On the face of it, it's good news. The Government is concerned about our health and tells us that we need to exercise more. At the same time we face congestion on our roads and declining oil reserves. The fact, then, that more of us are choosing to cycle is surely a positive thing. The figures come from an unusual source, US public radio station, NPR. Their survey shows that the phenomenon is experienced across Europe. In the EU as a whole, 23 out of the 27 members are seeing bicycle sales outstrip that of cars.

The figures are particularly striking in the UK. Here, we bought 3.6 million bikes last year, nearly double the figure of car sales at 2 million. In our major competitors the gap is smaller, which may indicate that we are getting fitter. Germany bought a little less than four million bikes as opposed to more than three million cars. French bike sales also beat cars by under one million. Many observers have cited the Olympic effect as the reason. Stars like Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton have undoubtedly inspired us to get on our bikes. The Government has also invested heavily in cycling as a green way of travelling. There have been major cash injections into infrastructure projects to make our roads safer for cyclists.

Unfortunately, there may be a far more basic reason for the growth in cycling, as an AA spokesman explains: "It makes sense especially for people travelling short distances to the shops, picking up a paper or go with their children to school because of the high cost of fuel. Many people have a budget for fuel and soaring prices were knocking these budgets. Last year unleaded reached 142.48 pence a litre in the spring, which was a 10 pence spike over the average. It coincided with the impact of the Olympics on people, which reflected the impact of Bradley and Victorian Pendleton. The trend was reflected in the Government's National Travel Survey which showed people were trying to cut the cost of short journeys. Also the soaring cost of parking saw many commuters buy bikes, which are far cheaper to leave at the station than a car."

What is being welcomed as a breakthrough in green commuting and healthier lifestyles may simply be a case of not having enough cash to run a car. As the Government hails growth in the economy and suggests that the economic crisis is behind us, it seems that for some families at least the financial impact is still biting deep.

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