Like this site? Help us to make it better.


UK’s cycling market and infrastructure “being left behind” by Europe, experts warn

Though cycling levels continue to rise by 33 percent, bike sales are down by a quarter on pre-pandemic levels

While cycling levels continue to grow, the UK’s bike industry has slouched to pre-pandemic levels and sales of electric bikes have finally plateaued following the boom of 2020, prompting experts to warn that the country is at risk of “being left behind” by Europe when it comes to cycling growth.

According to figures provided by the Department for Transport, cycling levels are up 33 percent in the year to 30 July.

However, as contributor Laura Laker has noted in an article for the Guardian this week, sales of new bikes are not keeping pace with this recent boost.

The latest market report from the Bicycle Association has shown that cycle sales are down more than a quarter on pre-Covid levels from January to June. Hybrid and children’s bikes have been the worst affected by this slump, though the “enthusiast” categories of road and gravel bikes have grown.

> "Considerable softening of the cycling market": Halfords sales slow as supply chain disruption and inflation bite 

Steve Garidis, the Bicycle Association’s executive director, says more needs to be done in the UK to boost cycling uptake, including providing further investment in infrastructure, secure bike parking facilities, and e-bike charging networks and subsidies.

 “Things are very difficult right now,” Garidis told the Guardian. “Since May 2021 sales have been tracking at below pre-Covid levels, and if you take out the 2020 mega boom in cycling and sales, we’re now doing worse than we were before Covid hit.

“When I look at the comparison between the UK and what’s happening in Europe it’s just a bit depressing, it’s sort of stark.

“There’s a definite sense that we’re being left behind, in terms of the size and value of the cycling market, but also left behind in terms of how people are getting around, both for leisure and for everyday [trips].”

> Bike shortages to last until at least end-2022, say trade experts 

Garidis also pointed out that the cost-of-living crisis has collided with a slump in the demand for bikes, though recent research by Blackhawk Network’s Cyclescheme suggests that commuters are switching to two wheels to help navigate the current crisis.

According to a survey carried out by Cyclescheme, 46 percent of commuters would prefer to cycle to work than spend money on travel, while over two-thirds of respondents have started or are considering cycling to work to decrease costs.

These findings have been echoed by Cycling UK, which has argued that the rapid growth of cycling since March is largely due to rising fuel prices. However, the cycling charity has warned that the recent surge could be undone if fuel prices drop, unless cycling infrastructure improves.

This view is echoed by Garidis, who has called on the government and businesses to incentivise people to travel by bike.

> It’s not all about racing: why the bike industry needs to take a chill pill 

He continued: “I think that if you had partnerships, collaborations with national chains of coffee shops or hotels or other sorts of practical everyday destinations, where there might be mutual benefit in attracting new customers coming on two wheels instead of four, people [may] take notice and think ‘I could do that’.

“There’s just a massive lack of infrastructure in terms of parking at the moment. Obviously, there’s a big focus [on] cycle lanes, which is brilliant, but you need somewhere to lock the bike when you get to the other end.

“Even e-bike growth, which had been pretty stratospheric and was driving the whole market, has stalled and is flat. Clearly e-bikes have got a massive application in bringing people to cycling… and we’re missing out.”

> Here’s why the bike shortage isn’t going away any time soon 

E-bikes, which have been earmarked as the most natural alternative to driving, make up nine percent of bike purchases in the UK. In Europe, however, they account for 23 percent of all sales. The United Kingdom also suffers from a notable lack of e-bike facilities. While there are 190,000 electric cars registered in the UK – only 15,000 more than e-bikes – there are 30,000 e-car charging points, compared to a paltry 16 for e-bikes.

Urging the government to introduce e-bike subsidies, Garidis said: “It’s been the big difference between what the UK has done to promote uptake versus what Europe has done, and you can see the results.”

“E-cycles are a vital part of our ambitious action to increase active travel, and we are investing in a wide range of measures to support more people to use them and reduce emissions,” a DfT spokesperson said.

“This includes committing £42m to improve cycle storage at railway stations and cycle routes to stations, £8m for a national e-cycle pilot to boost take-up, and putting tax benefits in place for buying e-cycles through the Cycle to Work scheme.”

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

Add new comment


Rdeman | 1 year ago


I really, really, really dislike how the UK is being pitched as an entitiy separate from Europe, instead of as, correctly, simply being part of Europe. The British -or rather English- ingrained habit of portraying the UK as some sort of island continent of it's own is just.. passive-agressive and actyally subconsciously borderline jingoistic at that.

Nobody else on the planet thinks of the UK as a place outside of Europe. And even in UK the Scottish would beg to differ. It's typically the English that "go to Yurup" for the weekend. The Scots, like the Irish, go "visit amsterdam or Barcelona for the weekend". In fact, when I travel from NYC to London I do "go to Yurup".

The English told themselves a twisted version of geopgraphy in order to cultivate a perception in which an island is not really part of a continent, willfully confusing mainland for continent in the process. But anyone with understanding of actual basic geography would dimiss that idea and know and island simply belong to continents: nobody ever disputed Japan to be part of Asia. Not even the Japanese themselves. The English KNOW that Great Britain is a European island, as much as Japan is an Asian island (albeit Japan is more than 100 miles further from the Asian mainland). But it's this willfull ignoring and beinding of definitions to adhere to the fantasy idea of the UK being something special, on it's own, rather than just another European nation like so many others. Football, doner kebabs, crappy weather, cobblestone streets and a churches everywhere you look. This place could simply be anywhere else in North and West Europe really. The UK is an integral part of Europe, not just by geography but also and even more so by culture.

Yes, my comment is not flattering. But it's factually completely correct. With that in mind, read the 3 lines of text below, takem from the article and observe the very artifical juxtaposition between the UK on the one hand, and "Europe" on the other hands. A juxtaposition Introduced as if "Europe" is a cohesive entity, one exlcuding the UK, where everything is homgenous enough to claim that "in Europe", "bike infrastructrue is amazing" and "sales are up". Sure, maybe. Maybe not. In Denmark and The Netherlands this is probably true. But the Danes, unlike the Dutch, are not even using the euro currency. It for sure is very much not true for Bulgaria and Romania - places where most Danes and Dutch have never been and know nothing about. Just like most Brits.

  1. "UK’s cycling market and infrastructure “being left behind” by Europe", experts warn"
  2. "...difference between what the UK has done to promote uptake versus what Europe has done"
  3. "..."ine percent of bike purchases in the UK. In Europe, however, they account for 23 percent of all sales"

Words matter!

What you really ough to write is not “being left behind by Europe" but rather "“being left behind by the rest of Europe"" (only if Denmark or The Netherlands would represent all of Europe bicycle-wise, which they most definatly do not, then your statement would be correct)

Brexit did many things - but it did not move the UK to another continent. On the flip side, the muddled thinking that the UK is not part of Europe, has definately contributed to Brexit.

Thank you, end rant. Mic drop.

PS yes words matter. Apologies for the ocassional spelling mistake. I did my best, not easy to write an eassy in this miniscule text box.

hawkinspeter replied to Rdeman | 1 year ago

Impressive first post rant!

I largely agree, though I'm English and would never say "going to Europe", but would state the specific country or city instead.

I think part of the reason that people perceive a difference between the UK and the rest of Europe is due to language. Obviously English has become fairly dominant as a language, so there's a tendency to think of other English speaking countries as being closer culturally than other countries and it's easier to recognise cultural elements in e.g. Australia just due to the language being the same. We tend to split the world up into 'english-speaking' and 'non-english-speaking'. There's a similar effect with the different alphabets in use too, although the countries that use different scripts tend to be further away anyhow.

brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

Wasn't there supposedly a newspaper headline, many many years ago, that said "Fog in Channel!  Continent cut off!"...

brooksby replied to Rdeman | 1 year ago
1 like

rdeman wrote:

Thank you, end rant. Mic drop.


chrisonabike replied to Rdeman | 1 year ago

Now this is how to rant!  You are swldxer's loquacious cousin and I claim my five pounds!

OnYerBike replied to Rdeman | 1 year ago
1 like

Somewhat ironically, one of the adverts I'm hit with on this page is Lufthansa offering to fly me "from London to Europe from as little as £79."

I would also note that this article's headline paraphrases that of The Guardian article, which in turn paraphrases comments by Steve Garidis, the Bicycle Association’s executive director. So maybe Steve ought to be the one on the receiving end of this rant?

Gimpl | 1 year ago
1 like

What a load of b0ll0cks!

Just try buying a bike right now - you'll have a very long wait. I wanted to buy a new road bike a few weeks ago - if I'm lucky I may get it in about 12 months. Covid plus a host of other supplier related issues e.g. container pricing, Brexit etc have all contributed to this. 

It's pure speculation that we're going to be 'left behind by Europe'. What a crock. 

VIPcyclist | 1 year ago

A couple of close passes are all it takes to realise your kids are going to be road kill. The driver will get delt with by the courts - have a guess how that will go-and you'll be left devastated for life. Buy a child a bike in this country? No way, it's not safe.

Sriracha | 1 year ago

For me it's the lack of secure (well, any) cycle parking. If we cycle to Lidl, we have to go as a pair so one of us can sit with the bikes. But the car park is nice, for cars, so we drive. And so on - with bikes it's a lottery whether or not you can park, unless you've previously scoped the destination you end up taking the car as then parking is a dead cert.

chrisonabike replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
1 like

I'm pleased you've noted this.  I've missed the importance of this in the past.  That said, living in a city I've yet to find anywhere without something I can chain my bike to within 50 metres or so.  I do get that many people wouldn't put up with that though.  If you take kids with you, use an adapted cycle or carry extremely bulky things it would be an issue.

What does good look like?  It's more than just giant parking garages although these would be great to serve stations and central destinations:

It's also things like laws on decent bike storage provision for new builds (we have this for cars in places) and solutions for places with older development:

Johncyclist replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago

Yep - cycle parking provision is minimal and what there is, is not at all secure. None of my local DIY stores or supermarkets have any provision (but they do have huge car parks!). I'm very lucky to be able to park the bike in a converted store cupboard at work - next to the secure basement car park...

Clem Fandango | 1 year ago

In other news, bear sh!ts in woods

eburtthebike | 1 year ago

It isn't just the government (if that term is even applicable to the hiatus we have currently) it is the media.  They are all over electric cars, but completely ignore or even denigrate cycling and electric bikes, despite having endless programmes about the environment, health, pollution etc, despite the best answer to those problems being a transfer of short car trips to cycling.  If the media reported cycling fairly, there would be articles every day, extolling its virtues.

Speaking of which, just bunged in a complaint to the BBC, yet another one, about their coverage of Grant Shapps/Mark Briggs proposed new law of Causing Death by Dangerous Cycling, totally lacking in balance or different views.  Five minutes on R4 on Saturday of Mr Briggs being interviewed with the interviewer agreeing with him with no opposing views, no other person interviewed.  I can barely wait for the response telling me that it was fair and unbiased.

steaders1 | 1 year ago

UK Govt is far too reliant on motoring tax income so no wonder nothing but token cycling jestures are seen and even then the motoring I must be able to use my car anywhere, anytime public get up in arms

chrisonabike replied to steaders1 | 1 year ago

Indeed - and yet people who've done all the sums have mass motoring coming out as a net expense (factor in damage, cost of maintenance of infra, pollution, health effects [ lots ] etc.).

Kind of like the Public-Private Partnership stuff from years back.  We got short-term "money" / stuff off the government's "expenses" column at the cost to the future (now the present).  That's a general human issue though as we're incentivised to take fast money / fixes as careers can be short and none of us last forever.

Latest Comments