From Wired.com, 09.28.08:
As America Implodes, The Bike Industry BoomsInterbike wrapped up last week, and from all reports, the bicycle industry is bullish on future growth. This is the same industry that long neglected the commuter market, as it chased the performance athlete and the single-track trail shredders. It's nice to see the industry finally waking up to the obvious market potential of the 98 percent of Americans who presently don't commute by bicycle. For complete Interbike coverage, see Cyclelicious and CommutebyBike.com.
LAS VEGAS--It's never been a better time to be in the bicycle business, what with global warming, childhood obesity and a failing economy.
The nation may be wracked by collapsing banks, foreclosed houses and a tanking economy, but there's no sign anything's amiss here at Interbike, the bike industry's annual trade show. In fact, it's party time as a perfect storm of eco-conscious consumerism, health-conscious lifestyles and wallet-sapping gas prices conspires to get people out of cars and onto bikes -- especially electric ones. "The gas prices are the best thing that ever happened to cycling," says Kevin Menard, whose year-old custom bike business, Traitor Cycles, is thriving. "I hope they go up even more."
The gargantuan trade show, and the crowd filling it, has never been bigger, organizers boast. A record 23,000 people and 750 exhibitors fill several acres of the Sands Convention Center, further proof that all is well in the bike biz..."You can feel the collective buzz," a smiling Tim Blumenthal, executive director of the bicycle advocacy group Bikes Belong, says from the middle of the bustling show floor. "It's a really, really heady time for us. This show feels very optimistic and that bucks the general economic trends. There doesn't seem to be many businesses that are thriving, but the bike business is doing very well."
Cycling enjoyed a "huge spike" in interest in June when gas topped four bucks a gallon, Blumenthal says. Much of the bike industry has enjoyed double digit growth since then. Some manufacturers have seen 50 percent growth in the last quarter, and dealers can’t keep up with demand. The service sector ("tubes and lube" in industry jargon) also is booming as old bikes are hauled out of sheds and garages and dragged into shops for tune-ups and tires. A growing number of people are ditching cars in favor of bikes for commuting to work or running to the supermarket, Blumenthal says. "Cycling for recreation in America has always been big," he says. "Now we're starting to see cycling for transport." (Read more.)
One product category making a splash at Interbike is electric bicycles. As a traditional pedaling bike commuter, I have mixed feelings about electric bikes. I suppose I'll welcome more car-less commuters, even if they are on powered rides. But it feels a little funny to me. Electric bikes may reduce congestion and pollution, but won't address the public health issues of low physical activity levels among Americans. I'm also concerned about the safety issues (speed differentials, braking, noise, etc.) that arise from mixing powered and pedaled bicycles in dedicated bike facilities (bike lanes, bike paths). But maybe I'm just being a cranky geezer.
Your thoughts? Are electric bicycles a form of vehicular or cycle commuting?
Image: Web capture. Titanium commuting bicycle at Interbike 2008
Visit: Interbike 2008: Commuters are King in '09, Bicycling.com
Visit: Schwinn’s New Tailwind eBike: 25 To 30 Miles On A 30 Minute Charge, OhGizmo!
Visit: Bicycle makers tout two-wheeled hybrids for commuters, Los Angeles Times
Visit: More Americans Bike To Work, Voice of America
Visit: Manufacturers nailed it with new cruiser and commuter bikes, The Standard (St. Catharines, Quebec)
Visit: U.S. lags in global bicycling boom, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: CBS on bicycles in the U.S., Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Americans learn bikes cut costs and improve fitness, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site