Sun, Mar 03, 2019 - Page 5 News List

‘Bike country No. 1’: Dutch go electric in record numbers, changing the norm

The Guardian

A woman rides a bike on the “Plastic Road,” a bicycle lane built from recycled plastic, in Zwolle, the Netherlands, on Sept. 11 last year.

Photo: EPA-EFE

In what was already a long-running purple patch for the Dutch bicycle industry, domestic sales records have been broken in the past 12 months, despite spiralling prices as technological developments push the standard bike into the annals of history.

The Dutch love affair with the bicycle is well-chronicled — there are 22.5 million of them in a country of 17 million people — but has moved up a level, according to a study by the RAI Vereniging, an organization representing the country’s automotive and cycling sectors.

More than 1 million bicycles were sold last year in the Netherlands, up 5.7 percent from 2017 and Dutch consumers appear willing to spend big on their bicycles, particularly on e-bikes, statistics show.

E-bikes accounted for 823 million euros (US$936 million) of 1.2 billion euros in bicycle sales last year. It was the first year that overall sales surpassed 1 billion euros and the first time more e-bikes were sold than standard bicycles, the statistics show.

In terms of units, 409,400 e-bikes were sold, up 40 percent from 2017. As a result, the average price of a bicycle in the Netherlands rose by about 200 euros to 1,207 euros. In 2011, the average was 734 euros.

Asked whether rising prices would begin to put the Dutch public off the two-wheeled mode of transport, RAI’s Floris Liebrand said: “Not in the Netherlands. It is in our culture, in our blood. We are bike country No. 1 in the world, so we are used to investing in innovative bikes, so there is difference there compared with other countries, including the UK.”

“For us it is quite normal to spend 1,000 euros on a bike. An average for an e-bike is over 2,000 euros, but that is in our culture. We believe in the quality of our products. There are e-bikes of 700 euros or 900 euros, but they are from southeast Asia and the quality is lower,” Liebrand said.

The buoyant sales are partly being put down to the good weather of the summer of last year.

However, Liebrand said there had been a change in the Dutch mindset as electric bikes have moved on from being seen as the choice of older people.

“In the future we will not talk about e-bikes, but just bikes,” he said. “E-bikes will be the new normal, I think, within 10 to 15 years. We think that all bikes will be supported by small engines.”

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