For the first time since World War II, bike purchases in Italy have surpassed automotive sales. The bikeâ€™s growing popularity may be due to several factors, particularly the current economic turmoil in Europe.
Last year, 1.75 million bikes were sold in Italy, compared to 1.748 million motor vehicles. Fuel prices recently hit â‚¬2 a liter (over $9.50 a gallon!) with the average cost of car ownership as high as â‚¬7,000 (over $9,000) a year.
Aside from the obscenely high costs, the congestion involved in driving through some parts of Italy just isnâ€™t worth it to many people. 60% of Italians own cars, one of the highest rates in the world. This leads to cramped streets and in the heart of Rome, itâ€™s often quicker to go a few miles by bike than by taxi.
â€œAnyone operating in the automotive sector in Europe today is experiencing varying degrees of unhappiness,â€ said Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne, â€œThe European car market is a disaster.â€ In just one year, September auto sales dropped 25%.
â€œPeople who have only ever driven cars are changing their thinking,â€ said Antonio Della Venezia, president of the Italian Federation of Bike Lovers. â€œI donâ€™t think Italy will go back to the levels of car sales that we saw before 2008.â€
Between carpool groups, one-car families, and the cost of restoring a bike in comparison to the cost of a car, itâ€™s easy to see why so many people want to make the switch. Do you think people in Italy will go back to cars over time, or is this the start of a shift in Europeâ€™s transportation?
Image CC licensed by Nick Carter: Bile hire in Italy