By Jessica Harp, Envy Magazine
Ricky Grunden, a 22-year-old student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, mounts his Trek Road Bike every morning to pedal the 10 minutes through shaded neighborhoods to campus. He rides his bike to work, to the gym, to friend’s apartments and even into Downtown. He rides his bike everywhere. But Grunden also has a Toyota 4Runner sitting in the garage of his duplex.
“Our country is at a constant rate of increase concerning urbanization,” said Grunden. “As that happens, cities are becoming friendlier toward bike transportation and it’s good because you can get around faster and you don’t need money for gas.”
Grunden is not the only one researching inexpensive alternatives into his daily routine because of the economy. According to data from Bike Europe published in May 2009, bike imports to the United States exceeded car sales in the same country by $.4 million. This means that over the course of several years, the demand for bicycles rose, which in turn stepped up production, making bikes appear as a more logical alternative to cars as a primary source of transportation.
“What we’re seeing is people are gravitating towards comfort and easy ride road bikes for more recreational use [as opposed to performance],” said Senior Marketing Manager of Mongoose/Schwinn Bikes, Lori Heimerl. “More people are becoming educated about the effects of biking and are picking it up.”
Heimerl said Mongoose sales increased from $113 million in 2008 to $116 million in 2009, but these numbers can be misleading. Both these profit margins are severely lower than peak years in the past; down about 30 percent according to Bike Europe. And just because the dollar amount in sales goes up, warned Heimerl, doesn’t mean more people are buying bicycles. “Between 2007 and 2008, we passed along material price increases to our customers, the Wal-marts and Targets of the world,” said Heimerl. “What they paid for our bikes, they had to charge their customers for retail. So we made more money, but we sold fewer bikes.”
Benjamin Joannou, Vice President of J&B Imports, which owns Sun Bikes, believes the rise in sales, with respect to dollars, is up due to market and merchandise sales. “Our market sales are up, which means more consumers are repairing their older bikes instead of buying new ones,” he said. “If bike sales passed car sales, they’ve done so on a low level.”
One branch of the cycling industry that is booming in business is the pedicab. Popular in large cities such as San Diego, New York City and Boston, the pedicab is a carbon-free taxicab that uses manpower to drive passengers around car crowded streets. In laymen’s terms, a bike drawn carriage.
Austin pedicab driver, Dane Edwards, joined the business during his first years pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University of Texas. He said he needed something to satisfy his passion for cycling after he returned from a 4,620 mile journey to Alaska. “I don’t have a passion for taking people places,” Edwards said. “In a car, you’re simply moving from one place to another. You can’t feel the wind in your hair or experience the city.”
Edwards doesn’t mind the economic benefits either. For one day, he rents a pedicab for around $70 from his employer Capital Pedicab and collects anything past the rental fee as a straight paycheck. A ride in a pedicab costs anywhere from $5 to $10 a person, depending on the distance to travel, whether it’s uphill or downhill and what a passenger is wearing. “It’s intuitive,” said Edwards. “If they’re decked in fur, I know I can squeeze in an extra buck or so.”
Pedicabs, even on the corporate level, are witnessing an increase in units sold. Dan Werner, Sales and Marketing Director for Main Street Pedicabs in Broomfield, Colorado, said he is selling more pedicabs than ever before, but the demographic he’s selling to has changed since the recession. More small town folk from Ohio, Idaho and South Dakota are snagging this trend to solve their financial problems. “There’s a silver lining for us. I’ve had people call me earlier this year just at the end of their wits. Their job was being consolidated and mergers were happening,” said Werner. “I can just sell them a good and reliable product that they can turn around and make money with.”
Werner refers to a pedicab as an investment, costing on average $4,000 per vehicle. But that’s pocket change, he said, compared to the money a driver will rake in between fares and advertising, or as he calls it, “The Rolling Billboard.” Maintenance on a bike also costs drastically less than on a car, which depreciates over time. “Having a bike in a big city is extremely cost effective,” said Grunden, who can’t remember life before his bicycle. “It’s amazing I was still able to afford food while I was paying for gas this time last year.”Tags: bicycle, bicycles, bikes, Main Street, Main Street Pedicabs, Pedicab News, pedicabs, rickshaw