Since the 1950s the world has seen a shift in production for popular methods of travel. A more direct comparison shows the worldwide bicycle vs automobile production for the last several decades.
In the 1950s-1960s, bicycles and automobiles were nearly produced at the same levels. Wealthy nations turned to automobiles as the primary use for transport. In the US – the interstate highway system was being built around this time, suggesting that automobiles were here to stay.
Worldwide Bicycle vs Automobile Production 1950-2007
Despite this, bicycle production held its ground. From 1970-1990 bicycle production actually took off and drastically widened the gap. Countries from all over saw a rise in bike popularity.
The oil crisis in 1973 and 1979 led to a simultaneous increase in auto transport costs, as well as increase in bike usage. As oil was difficult to come by people turned to bicycles once again.
The 1990s saw a minor road bump for bicycles. Developing countries turned to automobiles to encourage growth and consumption. China for instance saw its share of bicycles owned decrease by 35% from 1995 to 2005.
Nevertheless, bicycles once again have seen a jump in production at the turn of the century. As the world became more aware of the effect of fossil fuels on climate change, cities and governments have taken active measures to encourage bicycle usage. Implementation of bicycle friendly infrastructure has made the travel much safer.
Cities with heavy automobile traffic congestion and air pollution also have encouraged more bicycle usage. The effect has helped to alleviate some of these issues. Bike share programs and electric bikes have also helped lead the resurgence in popularity.
Europe is a global leader in bicycle use and promotion. Many cities have clearly made it a priority, and spend the money necessary to maintain that status.
Source: Earth Policy Institute