THE BLOG

2009 -- A Banner Bike Year, We Hope

04/15/2009 10:17 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Name one industry that hasn't yet suffered from the global gray economy. Personal hygiene? Snacks for couch potatoes? Nope, it's the global bicycle industry. Taiwan's Shimano reports that its bike division is driving profitability, and Giant Manufacturing predicts upwards growth well into next year.

And the fledgling U.S. market for e-bikes is expecting a banner 2009, with sales projections of 170,000 and Wal-Mart as major distributor. (Kind of an irony when you consider how difficult it would be to bike to most Wal-Marts in this country!) Japan (the best e-bike market) added nearly twice that number of new electric bikes last year. China is increasing its export subsidies for the bicycle industry to fuel exports during the recession.

Bicycle technology is also advancing with the advent of the chainless belt-drive bike, new models of folding bikes, and snazzier e-bikes.

To support this positive data, continued improvement to the U.S. bike infrastructure is a necessity.

Seattle, where the City Council is determined to spend $240 million in order to one-up Portland's fabled reputation as Cycle City, has the right idea.

New York City's City Council, which is considering putting bike path development on the chopping block as spending projections plummet, does not.

From the looks of it, Obama's stimulus plan is giving a green light to infrastructure. "Shovel ready" highway and bridge projects total about $18 billion, while bicycle and pedestrian projects are currently a paltry $325 million.

America Bikes and Rails-to-Trails are trying to push a more balanced stimulus package with more emphasis on pedestrian and bike projects. Instead of a lot more eight-lane highways let's push for things like separated-lane city streets mixing the needs of peds, bikes and other transit, and give U.S. biking its best year ever.