Figures have recently revealed that motorcycle sales in Europe have increased dramatically in the past year. Despite only a marginal increase in the GDP of some European markets, and further decline in others, motorcycle sales have managed to buck the trend. Since 2009, the general trend of the industry in this market has witnessed a dramatic decline. However it appears that figures for early 2014 have been times of rebound and resurgence.
An increase of 8.6 per cent over the same period last year certainly inspires confidence amongst the industry as a whole, with 121,478 motorcycles sold in January and February of this year – compared to 111,879 units last year during the same period. Of those sales, a large proportion of increase is owed to scooters with a low power output. But why has such a trend occurred in markets such as Spain, where unemployment has reached a staggering 25.6% during the period of increased sales?
Running costs are certainly a contributing factor to commuters, with fuel prices at an all-time high in the European market and public transportation costs increasing rapidly. “Although the bike is expensive , the expenses are less , the only cost is gasoline which is just 10€ ($15.21) for two weeks”, says Luisa Batlle Coderch from Barcelona, “This is much cheaper than my car , which is more expensive to maintain and spends more on gasoline”. By comparison, a single zone travel card in Barcelona costs 54€ ($82) per month, making scooter ownership around fifty per cent more cost efficient. Purchasing costs are pretty cost efficient too. In Britain, the cheapest car on the market is the Dacia Sandero retails for £5,995 ($11,076), meaning scooter prices undercut these costs by far. Increasingly, riders are sourcing used models from classified advertising websites to decrease the initial financial down payment. Sara Helen Bisset moved to Widemouth Bay in Cornwall 11 months ago. As she does not possess a valid driving license, she has been forced to start commuting by scooter to her rural place of work. Sara purchased her 2005 Daelim NS 125 on Gumtree for a bargain £125 ($231). “I booked my CBT for just £95 ($176), entitling me to two years of scooting on a bike as long as it does not exceed 125cc. The second hand scooter was just £125 ($231), then as it was already taxed, I just had to pay the £140 ($259) insurance and I was good to go,” she states, “So for under £400 ($739), I was free to get scooting.” Travelling by motorcycle is also one of the quickest methods of transportation around congested cities. Many cities, like London, are operating beyond recommended capacity during rush hour times, meaning travel by Underground or bus can often prove claustrophobic. Luisa explains that “I think I have more freedom. If there is traffic, I can easily overtake or even use the bus lane, although it is prohibited”. Although theoretically illegal in Barcelona, cities like London actually allow motorcycles to travel in bus lanes to increase rider safety and ease traffic flow. Parking is often more simple as well, with both Luisa and Sara reporting plentiful free parking. Sara explains that “Parking with a motorcycle is usually free. My boyfriend has to pay a £145 ($268) business permit to park in the car park by our flat [all] year round, I park up for free”.
Whilst both interviewees reported to have enjoyed their time as motorcyclists, the obvious motivation is cost and convenience. Although Sara revealed humorous anecdotes involving a minor accident, a wasp in her helmet and an embarrassing mechanical failure, clearly there has been a newfound love for this method of transportation, to the point of naming her beloved scooter Diego. “I have wondered why I don’t see many scooters on the roads of Britain”, she states, although a brief recognition of the weather definitely factors in. Equally, Luisa praises the scooter for providing an effective means of transport in the Catalan region’s major city, but also “another reason is that I love riding, the pleasure it gives you is unmatched”. Hence concluding that the increase in sales across Europe is mostly due to a lack of effective public transport and undercutting alternatives such as car ownership and public transport. Regardless, most share a passion for the freedom which only a motorcycle can provide.