How much is the bicycle economy worth? How much value do bicycles generate? Research by Ismart-Legambiente-Unioncamere created an estimate for 2018: 7.5 billion euros of value produced in Italy, from cycling alone. This is a sector that involved 6.7 million people.
However, if cycling tourism is combined with the daily use of bikes, it is clear how significant the impact of the cycling sector is on the issues of health, innovation, inclusion and work. This could be more than double if our country had the right infrastructure, both at an urban and suburban level.
Cycling: a driving force
Italy is in fact the ideal country to ride a bike and to be exploited for this reason, boasting its historical, cultural and environmental heritage. The artistic heritage of Italian towns is excluded from the major routes, so equipping territories with modern structures for bikes can become an economic flywheel capable of generating 12 billion euros a year in terms of DBP, the so-called Domestic Bike Product (Prodotto Interno Bici). “The European Cyclist Federation, which brings together associations that promote cycling at a European level, estimated three years ago the impact on the benefits of cycling at over EUR 500 billion a year,” Pierangelo Soldavini, journalist and co-author with Gianluca Santilli of Bike economy. Viaggio nel mondo che pedala (“a trip in the cycling world” t.n. - Aegea 2019), explains.
We must also consider that half of these 'numbers' have a direct impact on health and well-being: EUR 73 billion a year, in Europe, is the cost of the prevention of premature deaths, the prevention of chronic cardiovascular disease or diabetes and, therefore, lower public health costs. Cycling is therefore also a means of reducing public expenditure, considering that the figure of EUR 73 million is the same as the health expenditure of a country like Spain.
Beyond cycling: the world of bikeconomy
Recently, Soldavini adds, “ECF has recalculated and scaled the figures to be based on verifiable scientific parameters. However, we are talking about a market of total goods and benefits estimated at EUR 150 billion per year. Huge figures.”
Coming back to Italy, ANCMA, the association that brings together motorcycle and bicycle manufacturers in Confindustria, explains how during 2018 1,595,000 bicycles were sold in Italy, with 2,445,000 pieces produced and a very positive increase: +EUR 43 million. The total exports amount to 183 million euros and confirm the value that the sector continues to produce in terms of quality, recognition in the world, avant-garde technical solutions and design.
Cycling has always been a great builder for what is called making, fixing and restoring. A form of circular economy
ANCMA has also seen a growth in bike hubs and free-floating bikesharing: 147% in 2017 and a fleet of about 40,000 vehicles in the country, while E-Bike solutions continue to grow, with 173,000 pieces sold in 2018 and an export of bikes, which reached 42 million euros, up 300% compared to the previous year.
The weight of the bikeconomy, Soldavini explains, goes beyond the numbers. “Cycling is definitely a leisure, a pastime, a sport. Cycling is all these things combined and precisely because of this “variety” it is a very modern “product”. It does not have a single feature, but it has several services that can be activated and different uses. Multifunctionality has a value that is social and economic together.”
The future of the bike is self-driving
A great technological future for bicycles
Cycling has a great past, but also a great future. Invented over two hundred years ago, today bikes are becoming an increasingly inclusive vehicle. How? By innovating. “The new bicycle - Soldavini notes - opens the market to a public that, until now, was excluded”, just think of retirees increasingly interested in technologically advanced bikes and assisted pedaling.
Not to mention the fact that new things are really being experimented with even in terms of artificial intelligence and algorithms, which are connected to the bicycle (from simple GPS, to visionary innovations such as automatic transmission or electronic suspension reading the ground, ABS)... The next version of the bike is one that goes on its own, self-driving.”
Cycling is an inclusive medium: everyone knows how to ride a bike. But it is also inclusive because it is simple, cheap and has a great social value connected to it. Cycling has always been a great gym for what is called making, fixing and restoring.
Today, when we talk about the circular economy and sharing economy, Soldavini concludes, “the ability to fix, recover and recirculate is fundamental”. It is the economy of the future and it is moving on two wheels. And it grinds numbers, digits and value, not just kilometers.