biking around the world

Bike Month: Bikes and Biking Around the world


Tuesday we talked about Biking around the World, an amazing feat first accomplished by Thomas Stevens (on a High Wheeler), today we talk about Biking, Around the World.

Bikes may be used mostly for recreation or exercise in the USA, but in many other parts of the world they are vital mode of transportation for people who can’t afford a car or who commute on streets too crowded to easily allow them. estimates that:

There are more than a billion bikes on planet earth.

Thats one for ever 7.1 people.  What’s more, there are 100 million bikes produced every year and only 42 million cars.  Hooray.  As of this post, 51,924,399 bikes have been produced in 2015.  Where are all those bikes going?

Fiezen: Bikes in The Netherlands

It shouldn’t be hard to guess which country bikes the most, so we won’t make you try.

In the Netherlands there are 16,652,800 people and 16,500,000 bikes, according to Spokefly.  They assume that 99.1% of the Dutch are cyclists; probably not true.  Many Dutch bikers own more than one bike – one for tooling around town and one for racing or long distance riding.  Still, when consider that toddlers and octogenarians don’t ride much, the ridership rate is probably about as high as it can be.

Biking culture is incredibly strong in NL, with protected bike lanes and independent paths connecting up nearly every place, not just within but BETWEEN cities.  And more bikes are safer bikes.  Popular Mechanics notes that as biking increased 40 percent between 1977 and 1997, cycling fatalities fell by 40%.  The same phenomenon occurred in Portland Oregon, when traffic deaths (from all modes of transport) dropped from 46 to 28 per year between 1997 and 2007 while bike trips jumped from 1.5 to 6% of all trips.

The safety factor is probably linked to the other amazing number related to dutch biking.  55% of cycling is done by women.  Compare that with the UK (29%) and USA (25%) and then just sit back and marvel for a minute.  Because roads are safe, people are less likely to wear helmets (or any specialized bike clothes) to ride; riding in business (or club) attire and spike heels is perfectly ordinary.

Biking Around the World, or #MostBikes

Runners up for most bikes per citizen are:

  • Denmark 80.1%
  • Germany 75.8%
  • Sweden 63.7%
  • Norway 60.7%
  • Finland 60.4%
  • Japan 56.9%
  • Switzerland 48.8%
  • Belgium 48%

The USA is outside the Top 10 and clocks in at 100,000,000 bikes (exactly?) or 32.2%  Only .9% of US trips are made by bikes.  We can do better.

自行车 (Zìxíngchē): Bikes in China

The country with the most bikes, full stop, is also the country with the most people.  China ranks only 10th on Spokefly’s list of Top 10 Biking Countries because while it has an amazing 5 hundred million Bikes, it also has 1.3 billion people so the bike per person rate is only 37.2%.

Sadly, bike usage is declining in China.  As more and more Chinese people realize the America dream of car ownership, fewer and fewer are biking.  Worldometers estimates that bike trips / all modes of transport dropped from 33% to 20% in China since 1995.  In Beijing, where 60% of people commuted by bike in 1998, by 2002 only 20% did.

While we are rolling around Chicago, loving life, its good to know people are out on cycles all around the globe.  The more people bike, everywhere, the better biking will be anywhere.

Where are you riding today?