The Great Big Bike Industry Blog Round Up

In the final week before Christmas, we are very pleased to host a guest roundup - a special seasonal treat! - compiled by Mark Sutton of Cycling Industry News. Mark offers his thoughts on what 2016 presented in terms of cycling advocacy and the industry, and what might be come in 2017. Enjoy!


Unless you happen to be an author of a satire publication, 2016 has, let’s be honest, generally speaking been a forgettable year. I say this having launched a new publication for the cycling business and wider bike world at a time when it could be argued was hugely counterproductive to our objectives. Within the cycling business there have been few silver linings in a year of monumental change in routes to market, overstock bottlenecks (meaning a big dent in new bike sales) and continued undercutting of bike shops by grey supply and internet discounters. This year I have written a record number of articles on bike shops closing. Big, small, young, old – changing consumer buying habits have been indiscriminate.

Indeed, if we were to present a Blackadder take on 2016, Rowan Atkinson and co would have to scriptwrite a heady mix of post-truth politics and Kickstarters, oh so many bizarre Kickstarters. Take this one, a mobile phone map app that tells you when a cyclist is near your car. Might as well smash the mirrors off, then, save the drag.

I don’t participate in the us vs them (cyclists vs drivers) argument. Such debates are as good as pointless according to some interesting psychology I stumbled upon when writing on internet trolls, but it’s difficult not to be wound up at times. This was the year where Citroen decided to introduce a social media snap and share dashcam to its new C3. Remotely activated, yes. Remotely needed at a time when we’re trying to create less in car distractions? Hell no! Studies have already shown drivers can be distracted behind the wheel more than 50% of the time.

Unofficially, I’ve now banned the crowdfunding PR from our homepage. That was until I saw that thankfully the growth of omni-channel sales can apply here too, for once benefitting the local bike shop.

And it’s here I’ll briefly interrupt my thus far rambly rant on modern life to take a moment for reflection ahead of 2017. Whichever angle you come at it from, the cycle campaigner’s goal is to grow modal share – young, old, disabled, sporty, commuting, unicyclists – all of these and more we embrace as peak car tilts back in favour of alternative transport modes. A topic I’m understandably passionate about and having crunched our own data grown, increasingly concerned about, is the erosion of the independent bike shop. Please, consider them in your next purchase or risk losing these haven’s for tech knowledge forever. Worse still, please don’t wait until they’re closing to celebrate getting a bargain.

Closures equate to both knowledge and job losses. Bear in mind for a moment that the bicycle industry creates 4.89 jobs per million Euro in turnover. Within car manufacture, just 1.6 jobs are created for the same turnover. 655,000 people currently work in the European bicycle business, but with the numbers of bike shops and manufacturers now falling, so too will that figure if we’re not careful.

Therefore it is to be welcomed that the industry is finally getting its head around advocacy and the importance of growing the pie way beyond the stereotypical customer. Those fighting cycling’s corner come from all walks of life and disagreements on how best to fight the good fight often occur, but if fringe observations have taught me anything in 2016 it’s that we sing it better when we’re singing from the same hymn sheet. It’s at this point I should further congratulate and thank one of the best, Rachel Aldred, for her award-winning work and efforts to shift policy mindset.

Progress on the ground

While we may still be rubbing our eyes in disbelief on much of 2016’s news, a handful of positive headlines have given faith that cities around the globe are waking up to new ideas for transport in the urban jungle.

In Singapore, developers are now required by law to design in active travel into new builds. Stateside and Urban Land Institute research has actively recommended real estate developers do the same to increase the worth of their development. In the UK, the Department for Transport are aware of the facts too, but the Government continues it love affair with roads investment.

We’ve never had so much evidence to build a case for cycling and importantly, in the language spoken by those in Parliament. We’ve much to thank the European Cyclists’ Federations’ members for. Our case is only as strong as our weakest data and thankfully we’re getting better at keeping track of cycling’s worth. Even in the UK where notoriously we’ve lacked solid market data things are improving.

Much like the ECF’s collaborative effort, the Bicycle Association’s data is only as strong as its member’s contributions. Therefore, to quantify the worth of the cycling industry – and subsequently develop a case for joint-investment in safe cycling, training and grassroots with the Government – we must all chip in. Readers with bike industry links, please encourage your decision makers to anonymously submit their data to the BA. Those who pitch in to the soon-to-go-live Bicycle Industries fund may also benefit. The BA hopes to raise the profile of those supporting advocacy efforts on a pedestal to the consumer who cares.

As a result of the efforts of EU member organisations, we’ve this year been able to deliver a headline no politician can ignore; “Cycling’s economic contribution worth €1,000 per head, per year, across EU 28.”

London finally appointed a Commissioner for active travel, who starts in February. Only four months behind the target date, according to recruiters I quizzed. He has opted to take on the role full time, as opposed to the three-day-a-week part time position advertised during summer. Mr. Norman’s appointment, unlike his predecessor’s isn’t a political appointment, instead he came out top of the pile in a 152 strong CV pile. I am reliably informed that this pile included former Transport Journalist of the Year, turned Labour London mayoral candidate (and one who cycled the campaign trail) Christian Wolmar, my personal choice for the role. Indeed, Wolmar is still fighting cycling’s corner regularly. Norman, on paper, does however seem a strong choice and has a record £17-a-head budget to play with.

Progress has come in small, but satisfying chunks in the past 12 months. A prime example being the not-so-hilariously-one-sided UK justice system is finally starting to stick up for cyclists.

Though not a year renowned for logical trains of thought, we have gradually emerging a blueprint for the rest of the country in London. Streets are transforming for people, be they cyclists or otherwise. Pollution has become an elephant in the room around the globe and cities are many cases movingly surprisingly quickly to ban the worst polluting vehicles.

The message that we must adapt - both in the bicycle business and on the ground in our cities around the globe – is getting through. And that for me gives us a lot to look forward to as we head into 2017.