Friday, July 08, 2005

Sudden Popularity of Bikes

The bombing attacks on London's transport system yesterday ground public transportation there to a halt as the Underground and bus lines shut down. Suddenly people who depend on that transportation we compelled to find other ways home. Lots of people had to walk. Bikes became instantly popular. This is from South Africa's News24 site:

London - Bicycle stores in Central London reported brisk sales on Thursday as commuters in the capital sought alternative methods of transport, after the suspected terrorist attacks on the city's public transport system.

With taxis in short supply and services canceled on both London's underground railway system and its central bus network, commuters are flocking to the city's bike shops in an effort to get home.

"We've sold a hell of a lot of bikes today," said the manager of Evans Cycles in central London.

"People are coming in and buying bikes because they can't get home today."

Another of the capital's bike shops reported similar sales.

"We're getting a lot of calls asking what are our cheapest bikes but we've actually sold out of them," said the manager of Condor Cycles.

The manager confirmed he had sold about 15 of these bikes by early afternoon.

Being central London, the lowest priced bikes at these shops were between £200 and £250.

Quick-thinking commuters saved themselves some cash by visiting bicycle hire shops, though by Thursday afternoon they were out of luck.

"We're all out," said an employee at On Your Bike, a cycle sales and rental shop near London Bridge.

"We've actually built extra bikes to cater for the demand but they're all gone too."

I do love London but I don't think it's much of a biking town. It is very congested and, speaking as one who has rented a motorcycle in Central London and ridden out, solo navigation is a complete menace. The city is heavily dependent on public transport and that makes the Underground and bus systems natural targets to maximize disruption. It is ironic that in the Twin Cities, where public transportation is fairly marginalized, a similar attack would have a tiny impact on most people's daily lives. Ironic also that when one thinks of really vibrant world cities, London, Paris, Tokyo, New York, Toronto, San Francisco, Chicago, there is usually a pretty comprehensive public transportation infrastructure. With all these iconic targets and all that public transportation, it's not hard to imagine more attacks along these lines.

1 comment:

John said...

I read some of the same stories about bicycle popularity in the wake of the July 7 bombings. I've never been to London, so I can't comment on it being a biking town or not. I'll take your word for it.

That said, I was encouraged that people considered cycling. I think a similar attack on public transit in the United States would leave most people thinking about buying cars.