I recently posted a comment in response to a post discussing the current state of utility cycling at Eco Velo. The development of utility cycling in 2009 will have a strong impact on the growth and direction of Wandertec in 2009 so I thought I’d post up my thoughts on these matters.
From Eco Velo:
“After witnessing such heady exuberance within the bike industry during last summer’s ‘bike boom’, it’s no surprise that few could foresee the current industry downturn, probably brought on by lower gas prices and the deepening recession. Those who were prudent should weather the winter, but it’s going to be a tough road for those dealers who were carried away by the promise of a new golden era of cycling and over-bought for the coming season.”
Read the entire post and excellent discussion to follow here: Golden Era or Flash in the Pan
“There seems to be a tendency, in the various discussions of the challenges facing utility cycling, to argue that a particular issue is the primary issue, whose resolution would uncork a hurricane force that would shuttle bicycling directly into the mainstream. These issues are, in my general approximation, all of equal importance to the development of utility cycling.
These primary issues could be boiled down as such:
The Development of our Cycling Infrastructure (as discussed in David, Erik & Alan’s comments)
The Bicycle Industry’s Focus (as discussed in Kevin, Thom & Alan’s comments)
The Public Perception of Cycling (as discussed in ubray, Beth, David & Randy’s comments)
(and to somewhat less of a degree) The Media’s Portrayal of Cycling
The roller coaster ride that was 2008, at its height gave our utility cycling movement a great sense of optimism as cyclists took to the streets, bike shops thrived and the media took notice. The natural slowdown of the Fall, slowed further by our new found thriftiness and the drop in gas prices, has since dampered this sense of momentum and we are entering 2009 with a mixed bag.
Despite the current and possible continued slow down for the bicycle industry, there are plenty of reasons for optimism for the utility cycling movement. The momentum of last summer will continue to spill into 2009. Last year many people took those tenuous first steps, getting back on a bicycle. It will be much easier to dust off the bike again this spring (for those who aren’t already riding through the winter). Beyond just those new to cycling, the momentum of last summer has undoubtedly built up throughout our cycling communities. With the spring thaw, this momentum will spring back from our bike advocacy groups, online bike communities, bike shops, etc. etc.
While the motivation of high gas prices has diminished, the motivation of finding ways to save money has grown tenfold. Cyclists who took to the streets last year to save on gas will be joined by many more who are looking for every opportunity to reduce daily living expenses.
The fortunes of the bicycle industry are swaying back and forth with the violent tidal flows of the economy. In the current state of affairs, many cyclists are looking for low-priced solutions to their cycling equipment needs. In the immediate future, this will probably not help to grow the revenue of the bicycle industry.
Beyond the more basic persuasion of the bicycling industry’s current revenue, the utility cycling movement is poised to continue welcoming an influx of new cyclists. To seize the moment, we must develop a flexible, all-inclusive approach to the previously mentioned challenges of infrastructure development, industry focus and public perception. We must develop a keen awareness of the joint-reliance and interconnection of these issues. Where possible we should facilitate communal efforts that join the momentum of projects working towards solutions to these various challenges.
2008’s roller coaster ride has demonstrated that opportunities can quickly rise and fall. The utility cycling movement can and will thrive in the year ahead if we can appreciate the full spectrum of issues, while applying solutions tailored to fit the opportunities that are arising.”