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Bikes Are Officially More Popular Than Cars in Europe

Sales of two-wheeled vehicles are outstripping four-wheeled vehicles across the continent. Now we'll get to see what a widespread biking culture really looks like.

Mercedes-Benz may have just put out a cheaper new "luxury" model to attract the commoners, but in most European countries, more people are interested in buying bikes.

On Friday, Nationa Public Radio published an analysis of vehicle sales in 27 European Union member states showing that bicycles outsold cars in every single country except Belgium and Luxembourg.

Some of this trend could be linked to the dip in car sales due to the global recession, since the most extreme differences were seen in countries with lower GDPs than their more prosperous EU peers. Lithuania sold nearly 10 times as many bikes as it did cars. In Greece, new bike sales outnumbered car sales by more than five to one. The same held true for Romania and Slovenia, while bike sales in Hungary quadrupled those of cars.

Still, a similar pattern held true for Spain, Italy, France, Britain, and Germany, all countries that also witnessed more bikes than cars sold in 2012. As NPR noted, this was the first time more bikes than cars were sold in Italy since World War II.

In the U.S., car sales are actually doing well for the first time in six years, but that's no indicator of what's to come, NPR noted.

As we've written in the past, the next generation of car owners just isn't all that into four-wheel drive, or luxury items, for that matter. Plus, with dreams of the Hyperloop making mass transit sexy again, conventional gas-guzzling cars suddenly seem a little passé.

[Images via Shutterstock]

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  • James

    Although I think we should all be buying bikes instead of cars - I wonder how many 5 year olds are driving a mercedes car? These figures don't seem to account for the fact that:

    A: Kids ride bikes, don't drive cars and will probably drive cars when they're older.
    B: Most people with bikes have a car and vice versa, this is no indication of how many cars are being used daily compared to bikes.
    C: I would buy second hand not new, especially when much more of us have much less money.

    This does seam like an article focussing on headline figures and not the real world facts.

  • Tony de Graaf

    How is that the land of bicycles 'The Netherlands' is not shown in the graph. I think every dutch person owns 2 bikes on average (I own 4 bikes)

    maybe an interesting article about how bikes dominate Amsterdam transport. And how there are almost no cars in the city centre.

  • Jesse

    Ugh why are we celebrating the production of more wasteful Private Vehicle Transit? Cheers to all those who ignored the perils of car culture and ran straight into this brick wall. Mass transit or no transit, bikes are bullshit urbanism.

  • Simon Besteman

    Jesse what's your problem with bikes? They're clean, they're silent, they're good for your health, they don't cause traffic jams, and they give you much more freedom than mass transit, especially in dense urban areas. Did you have a bad fall in your youth that you hate them so much?

  • Jesse

    I don't know where you live but in NYC bikes and their riders deify all those descriptors.

    1) Clean? - Bikes are clean like ethanol is "clean", sure it doesn't burn gasoline but it certainly draws energy (the pollution generated by bike production is significant too). The human body is a lot less efficient at converting food to energy than an internal combustion engine. Bikes are really only "clean" if you were going to eat all those calories anyway, and this is not as negligible as one might imagine. Granted a lot of people are fat but biking isn't actually the best way of dealing with that problem either.

    2) silent -The 1% of NYers who bike are, next to cars, extremely loud and extremely annoying with their bells, whistles, and blow horns. Much of this is due to self-righteous attitude of most bikers (a consequence of telling people what they are doing is "good") but the fact remains that more bikes = a louder pedestrian environment.

    3) They're good for your health - This is true, however there are plenty of things that are good for your health that don't take up street space or degrade the pedestrian environment. Biking as a recreation (in recreational areas) is cool but exercise is not the inherent goal of Transportation.

    4) They don't cause traffic jams - This is just straight up wrong. Granted there is virtually no research that examines anything that could damage the sterling reputation of bike transit (a reverse Marijuana science problem if you will) but it's clear as day in most places. In a crowded place ANY vehicle will cause traffic jams or congestion. Again the self-righteous attitude doesn't help here as most bikers don't think any traffic laws apply to them and this delays buses (bikers in bus lanes or on the shoulder where buses typically operate) and causes hesitation at intersections. There's also a special place in hell for those who take their bike on the subway during rush hour.

    5) Freedom - This. This is why people promote bikes, they like their Private Vehicle Transit. The problem is that PVT brings virtually all of the Tragedy of Commons problems with it. This is why cars are now considered "bad" -aside from their gasoline - in most urbanist communities. We all like #freedom but it's incredibly expensive in the realm of transit, just ask the manager of the highway trust fund.

    All that being said, the problem is not the vehicle itself or the fact that people like PVT, It's that we've collectively decided that this is a good thing to subsidize, explicitly and implicitly (thought the construction of dedicated infrastructure), this subsidy is bad because their are no positive externalities to bike use. There are positive externalities to pedestrian environments and transit use, but not bikes. People think there are positive externalities of bike use, as you mentioned, but these are in fact just the negative externalities of car use inverted to support biking. I neither like bikes or car in my city and cars may be worse but that dosen't make bikes "good".

    P.S. I've actually biked quite a bit in my life with no traumatic result. I do this on bike trips or in the park. Biking doesn't make sense in big cities and I don't bike there because I don't like the idea of taking advantage of erroneous public subsidy. To me the urban bike movement is a misguided attempt of suburban migrants* to develop their own "urban identity", it's sad we continue to let the suburban interest dictate our transit policy in the city.

    *this term may be misinterpreted outside the U.S., I'm mainly referring to the drivers of gentrification in america