Monday, July 11, 2005

The Interest Continues

I wondered if a lot of people bought $500 bikes and then got home and thought, what did I do that for? Apparently, the interest continues. This article is from today's Guardian.

Londoners flock to bicycle shops
Deborah Haynes | London, United Kingdom
11 July 2005 09:25

More and more people will cycle into London this week as the fear of being caught in a terrorist attack on public transport overrides concerns of being knocked off their bike by a car, experts say.

Sales of bikes -- from fold-away models to multi-gear machines -- have rocketed at cycle shops across the capital since last Thursday.

Millions of stranded commuters were forced to use overground stations, boats or simply their legs to get home. Many, in their desperation, poured into bike shops to purchase their own set of wheels to speed the journey up.

"It was just one person after another coming in out of desperation," said Grant Young, the owner of Condor Bikes in west London, the oldest bike shop in the city, which sold about 50 bikes on that day compared to the normal 15.

"People have said to me, great business, but it's not really. It is nice to be able to sell bikes, but for another purpose," he said.

As the dust settles on Britain's worst terrorist atrocity, however, a lot of Londoners remain fearful of the risk involved in catching an underground train or hopping on a bus, and some have dusted down old bikes from the garden shed or invested in new ones to sample a different kind of commuting.

"I think the attacks will probably make a few people think they are a bit frightened to go on the transport system at the moment," said Young, while adding that he doubted the fad for bikes would last for everyone.

"Things will go back to normal, so if there are 500 new cyclists now and 200 of them stick to it that's great," he said.

Evans Cycles, the biggest independent bike chain in Britain, sold four-times as many bikes as usual at its nine outlets in central London last Thursday -- about 400 bikes -- and had another good day Friday, said director Mark Evans.

He noted that in the past people have said they feel unsafe riding a bike in the city because of the heavy traffic.

"Now they don't feel safe on public transport so I expect over the next few weeks more people will be trying out bikes," said Evans, adding that a bike also saves commuters money on rail and bus tickets and keeps you fit.

Swarms of people -- some examining helmets and reflective gear, others trying out bike models and more still purchasing specialist cycling shoes -- crowded the Onyourbike store, another independent outlet by London Bridge.

Toufique Ali (25) a researcher at the BBC, is among some of the prospective buyers, after Thursday's bomb blasts prompted him to replace his old bike, which broke about a month ago.

"I don't like public transport whatsoever and I like to be on my bike more often because you are self-reliant," said Ali.

"I was always going to get a bike, but the attacks did spur me into going to the bike shop this particular weekend," he said.

The terror factor aside, however, industry experts note that bikes have been growing in popularity for the past few years, with the market in Britain expanding at a rate of about 20% to 25% annually.

In London, a congestion charge to drive cars plus the uncomfortable heat of the underground in summer has helped to push people onto their bikes.

In addition, "most people who try it for the first time realise they can cycle to work faster than if they were going on a bus or a Tube," said Young.

"The ones who have stuck it out can't believe how fit they have got and how well they are feeling and, if they are overweight, then the weight has literally just fallen off," he said.

On the down side is the obvious risk of using the roads, but cycle groups have drawn up maps indicating the safest routes.

There is also the threat of bicycle theft. - Sapa-AFP

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