The Economist is currently running a story on its website about the popularity of bikes. Bikes, the article proclaims, are the preserve of the middle classes and wealthy bankers with £10k bikes (the media’s favourite number – it gives that ‘ouch!’ factor) flying off shelves like hot cakes. Numbers are cited from London, Boris Johnson is the flawed architect and Sir Chris Hoy is apparently responsible for raising cycling’s profile. In short, a barely researched, mildly naive and London centric article. I’m sure Sir Chris would be very flatterd by that suggestion, but also the first to admit that the current boom in cycling is due to a heady mix of high Cost of fuel/car ownership, traffic choked roads, success of team SKY, great marketing by the big cycling companies and continued lobbying from cycle advocates (the Times ‘Safe cities campaign being the most high-profile) and organisations such as Sustrans. In short, the timing is right.
There are some interesting stats though. Apparently the richest 20% of people on average cycle 33 miles a year to work, compared with ‘just 9 miles’ for the poorest. Given that the poorest may not even have jobs, I’m not sure how much I’d trust those stats (and of course, my empirical research suggests that 93.27% of all stats are made up on the spot. Like that one). But is there any truth in this class stuff?
Maybe. Perhaps. Most of the people I know that cycle are professional types with long term careers and also use their bike for sport. But then those are the people I work, train and socialise with, so I’m by no means a reliable witness. However, given that I work in an area of Cardiff that is not terribly affluent and I see increasing amounts of residents on their bikes every day, I actually think the change is more widespread than the Economist’s assertion suggests. Oh… and I can never park my flippin’ bike in the Hayes. The stands are always full. The best measure of the lot.
I’m off shortly to watch the Tour of Britain grind its way over Caerphilly mountain; my favourite training spot. I’ll see some £10k bikes in their only natural environment, perched under the backside of pros.