Which Country is Suddenly Crazy for Bicycles?

Written by A.K. Streeter

If you hadn’t already guessed from the photo, it isn’t any of the places we generally think of as bike-friendliest – the Netherlands or Denmark. It isn’t China, which has the fastest growth in bike sharing but is also embracing the automobile in massive proportions.

It’s Italy, that boot-shaped nation that brought to us pasta, pizza, the movie The Bicycle Thief, and a big bunch of bike culture.

By the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, Italy was already crazy about biking, with well-known brands – Bianchi and Olympia – and lots of popularity, especially in the Northern areas of the country. Italy copied France’s success with the Tour de France and created its own Giro d’Italia. A number of Italian champions have dominated the sport side of cycling, and many of the most famous racing bikes are Italian.

Italy’s cycling glory years, says Ellee Thalheimer in her book Cycling in Italy, were the time of fascist rule and the period immediately after WWII. Eventually, city dwellers rejected urban cycling – just 90,000 Italian secondary kids under the age of 10 ride their bikes to school, in a nation of 60 million.

Edoardo Croci/CC BY 2.0

But now, for the first time in nearly 50 years, Italians have purchased more bikes in a year than cars. In 2012, 1.65 million bikes found new Italian owners versus 1.2 million new cars.

Italy has suffered economically since 2008, and more Italians have bought bikes to deal with high gas prices and less disposable income. Fiat’s chairman Sergio Marchionne called the drop in car sales “Carmaggedon.”

Commuter bikes are now Bianchi‘s fastest-selling segment, and the company is branching into e-bikes.

But bikes are not universally embraced – in Milan a bike sharing scheme is popular, but in traffic-clogged Rome bike sharing failed completely.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.

 

84 comments

Sheila D.
GGmaSheila D.3 years ago

I think it's wonderful that a country's leaders can practice what they preach - for the photo op anyway. I think it would have a better picture if some of these men and women (yes, there were two I could see) would have smiled, at least for the camera. I wonder how many were back in their 4-wheeled vehicles after this photo was shot?

It will be fantastic if a week from now we find out that at least some of these men and women are still on two wheels. Always nice when politicans set an example, thus becoming true leaders.

Ernie Miller
william Miller3 years ago

cool I just rescued 2 bikes from the trash yesterday and will fix them up for neighbor kids.

paul m.
paul m.3 years ago

Thanks..

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper3 years ago

Noted

Dale O.

Fascinating and interesting. Bicycles are certainly a delightful form of travel. Seeing many sights as one is in less of a rush...for the most part.

Elaine B.
Elaine B.3 years ago

I never knew that

Virginia Belder
Virginia Belder3 years ago

tyvm...

Aileen P.

Thank you for sharing.

D D.
Dolores D.3 years ago

Sounds great....thanks!

Wendy J.
Wendy J.3 years ago

Way to go Italy! Thank you for sharing.