Greeks Turn to Bikes to Weather Economic Storm

Today on the Network, Reno Rambler links to a Reuters story, via the Huffington Post, on how economic upheaval in Greece has led to a dramatic shift in how many get around.

Thousands of Greeks are turning to bikes to help weather the crisis, and while unemployment is at 20 percent, the bike business is booming:

The number of cars on Greek roads has dropped precipitously as people turn to bikes. Photo: AP/Huffington Post

The high cost of road tax, fuel and repairs is forcing Greeks to ditch their cars in huge numbers. According to the government’s statistics office, the number of cars on Greek roads declined by more than 40 percent in each of the last two years. Meanwhile, more than 200,000 bikes were sold in 2011, up about a quarter from the previous year.

Shops selling bicycles, and equipment ranging from helmets to knee pads, are spreading fast across the capital, popping up even between souvenir shops on the cobbled pedestrian streets of the touristy Plaka district.

“They’re sprouting up like mushrooms,” said [Giorgos] Vogiatzis, who designs and builds tailor-made bicycles in his workshop on the Aegean island of Rhodes.

A former cyclist on Greece’s national team, Vogiatzis opened his business in the mid-80s, combining his love for drawing and mathematics, but only recently watched sales boom from a modest 40 bikes a year to over 350.

“There’s no more money for luxuries and that helps,” said Vogiatzis, who works away furiously with two other staff to meet demand for all sorts of bikes — some lavishly hand-painted in glitter, others flaunting the Greek flag.

A far cry from the shuttered shopfronts in the capital that have become a painful reminder of the country’s worst downturn since World War Two, bike shop owners estimate that at least one store opened every month in 2011.

Vogiatzis laughed: “Every neighbourhood has its bike shop just as it’s got its kebab shop.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: The League of American Bicyclists breaks down MAP-21 funding state by state; Greater Greater Washington has proposals on how to reduce the public stigma surrounding automated traffic enforcement; and Urban Review STL looks at the problem of mobility scooters that aren’t designed for use on buses.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

On Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge, 20 Percent of Traffic Is Bikes

|
Ever encountered a transportation agency that says it’s not worth the money to install bike access on an urban bridge, because bikes aren’t “real transportation?” Point them to the case of Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge. Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland reports that the bridge just recorded its two millionth bike trip since it began electronically tallying […]

What’s the Best Way to Make Biking Mainstream in a Car-Centric City?

|
How can you turn a car-dependent city into a place where most people feel safe cycling for transportation? Researchers in Auckland, New Zealand, created a predictive model to assess how different policies affect cycling rates over several years. In a paper published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives [PDF], they concluded that a combination of protected […]

Goodbye, James Dean: Young Men Reject America’s Car Obsession

|
Phineas Baxandall is a senior analyst at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. This piece was originally posted on Huffington Post. Just released official data show that Americans drove a billion fewer miles in April 2012 compared to April 2011, despite a slightly better economy. It’s now well known that Americans, led by youth, have been reducing their […]

Census: American Bike Commuting Up Nine Percent in 2012

|
Congratulations, America. We’re biking to work more than ever before. We’ve known for a while that Americans are driving less than they used to, even as the economy grows. And just about every quarter, the American Public Transportation Association delivers more stats about increasing transit ridership. Now the Census brings another measure of Americans’ shifting transportation […]

How Much Would It Cost to Minneapolize the Country?

|
What would it cost to retrofit the entire United States to be reasonably bikeable? It all began with this idle question on Twitter. Bike advocates in the U.S. love to talk about incremental changes, small victories, baby steps. But, I wondered, what if we went further? What if we just went ahead and retrofitted the […]