Move over King Car, here comes Queen Bike

30th November 2012, Comments 0 comments

Following an absence of more than ten years, the bicycle will make a comeback at next year’s Motor Show at the Heizel from 11 to 14 January. At the exposition Fiets&Zo visitors will be given the opportunity to test ride traditional and electric bicycles on a covered track. Joost Kaesemans, communications director for the automobile and bicycle association Febiac, does not find it strange. “If we plan to remain mobile in the cities, we need bicycles,” he insists as he refers to the increased interest in bicycles. “I see more and more people cycling to work to avoid the traffic. I am one of them. The two-wheeler fits perfectly in the DNA of the car show, even though we may have not given it its rightful place during the past ten years.” Wonderful words which are like music to the ears of bicycle sellers. According to Patrick Chamizo, a bicycle shop manager in Sint-Katelijne-Waver, there is more at play here. “Febiac has no choice because the bicycle is taking over from the car. The traffic jams and bicycle kilometre allowances urge more people to opt for bicycles to get to work. I have also noticed that a number of car dealers and brands are trying to profit by manufacturing or selling their own bicycles.”  The renewed popularity of the bicycle goes hand in hand with the emergence of the electric bicycle, the E-bike. Even though there are currently 5.34 million bicycles in Flanders, only one in ten people choose this mode of transport for a distance of five kilometres and more. This behaviour is set to change with the electric bicycle, predicts Chamizo, who has seen his sale of E-bikes treble this year. The bicycle’s increasing popularity has meanwhile given dealers reason to smile, leaving them reasonably free from the troubles many businesses in Flanders have suffered as a result of the financial crisis. At a time when other businesses are shrinking, Chamizo is expanding. “We are not affected by it. On the contrary. This is our 27th year and our best ever.” And for the cyclist, who has since swapped his car for a bicycle because he wants to save money, it doesn’t matter if a bicycle now costs more than before. “In the past people bought their bicycles from the discount warehouse,” he says. “Now that it has gained status as a mode transport, cyclists are happy to spend more in it.” Of course there will be trends and preferences. Commuters seem to prefer a foldable bike while afficionadoes may prefer a retro bike. “The bicycle, like a piece of clothing, has become a reflection of someone’s personality,” says Hendrik Winkelmans of the cycling store chain Fiets! Bicycle!. Helmets and bags are now a hip accessory. Until a few years ago they were simply there to serve a purpose and offer safety.”

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