In 2011, the country sold 1,750,000 bikes compared to 1,748,000 motor vehicles. Making last year the first time since World War II that bike have outsold cars in Italy.
It’s a major shift for a country that has one of the highest per capita motor vehicle ownership rates in the world. The shift, which has been spurred by record gas prices and deep budget cuts, is causing Italians to turn to the much cheaper form of transit, The Telegraph reports:
Car ownership became a symbol of the Italian economic miracle in the 1960s and has steadily grown since, but as unemployment rises and living costs soar, it has become an unaffordable luxury for many Italian families.
Petrol recently hit two euros a litre, the highest in Europe, and it is estimated that the average car in Italy costs €7,000 a year to run.
More than 60 years after the making of ‘The Bicycle Thief’, a classic film about a man desperately hunting for the stolen bike that he needs for work, Italians have also hauled around 200,000 rusty old bikes from their garden sheds and attics and restored them to roadworthiness.
While bikes are seeing a resurgence, automotive companies are feeling the pinch not only in Italy but throughout Europe. As Sergio Marchionne, the head of Fiat, told The Telegraph, “anyone operating in the automotive sector in Europe today is experiencing varying degrees of unhappiness. The European car market is a disaster.”