Bike to the Future

Chinese bicycle sales surge as coronavirus deters millions from using public transport 

Bike to the Future
On Ya Bike: People pedal on a bicycle lane along a street in Beijing on July 5, 2020. Photo: AFP

(ATF) China is seizing on the disruption of coronavirus to upgrade its economy to meet demands of a technology-led future. But one sector is profiting from being sent back decades.

Fear of travelling on crowded public transport during a health crisis has prompted more people to get back on bicycles in an echo of the nation’s famous two-wheeled past.

That’s helped China's major bicycle manufacturers increase profits 25% year-on-year in the first half, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) Monday.

Bike makers with annual main-business revenue of more than 20 million yuan ($2.87m) raked in 2.87 billion yuan in total profits from January to June.

Meanwhile, their total revenue rose 4.1% from a year ago to 69.3bn yuan, the MIIT data showed.

In a modern twist to an old story, makers of electric bikes also reported a dramatic revenue increase, up 13.4% to 38bn yuan, with their profits surging 32% to 1.7bn yuan, said the ministry.

China is reflecting broader trends in virus-era transportation around the world. Bike demand is surging and more cycle lanes are being built in cities as workers swap the bus and train commute for pedals. Online bike sales surged 350% in France, for instance, and Rome has announced the construction of 15km of new cycle lanes, according to data in the Financial Times.  

Governments have also encouraged cycling as an alternative as lockdowns disrupt transportation networks and roads emptied of daytime traffic also attract first-time bikers and lapsed cyclists to climb onto the saddle.

Such has been the global demand for new bikes that many manufacturers have been unable to keep up. That’s also been hampered by fractured shipping services and supply chains, 

Souzhou Dynavolt Intelligent Vehicles, the maker of Dyna Bike products said sales were three times what they were last year, according to the FT. Consequently the company is unable to source all the components it needs to fulfil all orders.

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