Bike Sales Top Car Sales in Italy for First Time in Decades

By Alexandra Beane — November 19, 2012

For those of us who feel superior when we pull into the gas station once a month or so in our Prius or electric car as we watch the folks in the lane next to us who can’t even fill up their tank in their SUV because the pump won’t dispense more than $100.00 in gas, here’s something to put us in our place: Italians purchased more bicycles than cars in 2011. This is the first time that this has happened since World War II.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that “crazy drivers, swerving scooters, and gigantic potholes have not stopped a renaissance in cycling, as the economic crisis forces Italians to tighten their belts.” Yes, the country that is home to such elite car makers as Fiat, Ferrari, and Lamborghini sold 1,750,000 bikes, compared to 1,748,000 motor vehicles.

Even though Italy has one of the highest car ownership rates in the world (about six cars for every 10 people), a car is now an “unaffordable luxury” for many Italians. Gas prices are now approximately two euros per liter ($9.50 a gallon) – higher than in any other European country.

Even though the roads in Italy leave something to be desired, traveling by bicycle is the most inexpensive, convenient, and often the fastest way to get around. Antonio Della Venezia, President of the Italian Federation of Bike Lovers, told La Republica newspaper, “People who have only ever driven cars are changing their thinking. I don’t think Italy will go back to the levels of cars sales that we saw before 2008.”

This has meant bad news for Italian car manufacturers. Sergio Marchionne, the head of Fiat, said last month that “anyone operating in the automotive sector in Europe today is experiencing varying degrees of unhappiness. The European car market is a disaster.”

Although the change is largely a result of economic considerations for Italians, environmentalists can celebrate as “[t]he glory days of streaking down the autostrada or rattling down country lanes seem to have hit the skids.”


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