SEOUL, Korea, Nov 04 (Korea Bizwire) – Recently bicycle commuting has become a fad, with the number of those riding bikes to work on the rise at an accelerated pace. According to data published by job portal career.com, two out of ten office workers (18.8%) use their bicycles to go to work. As to why they do so, 87.7 percent of respondents said they do it for exercise purposes while 59.6 percent answered that it’s a neat way to save money.
Not just bike commuters, but casual bike riders are also increasing rapidly. According to the Korea Statistical Office on October 14, the number of people riding bicycles regularly has grown to 441,000 in 2010 from 290,000 in 2005, up 52.5 percent in six years. The Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy said recently that the number of bicycles sold last year was 2.5 million, up 40 percent from 2008. Given the average bike price is 300,000 won, the market is valued at as much as 750 billion won.
To capitalize on the trend, clothiers and sports equipment makers are launching new products that go well with bike ride. For example, the bike sales for two months between April and May at online shopping malls such as Gmarket, Auction, and 11st rose 59, 35, and 12 percent respectively. Auction saw its second-quarter bike clothing sales climb up 35 percent from the same period last year, with its helmet and goggle sales go up 40 percent. The sales of other bike-related items such as cycling arm warmers, water bottles, bicycle speedometer, bicycle bells, rearview mirrors, and oils and detergents rose across the board.
The American denim jean brand Levi’s has introduced this year the “Commuter” line that targets office workers who take their bikes to work. Styled like a pair of classic Levi’s jeans, the new line of jeans features improved comfort and performance by using the stretch twill fabric and pants designed slightly tapered at the bottom. They also use nanosphere fabric that’s water resistant, dirt repellant, and antimicrobial. The 3M Scotchlite reflective tape glows in the dark so that the biker can be visible by motorists at night.
Its commuter jacket has improved comfort by designing air holes on the back of it for ventilation and five big pockets for easy storage. The sleeve and back parts are designed longer than regular wear so that bike riders won’t have to worry about protruding innerwear. On the shoulders of the jacket additional patches of fabric are added to enhance durability.
Youngone Corp., better known as its brand name North Face, has launched a functional line “Bike Series” for bicycle enthusiasts while LS Networks signed in May this year an exclusive sales agreement with Japanese sports apparel brand Pearl Izumi. The fully renovated Hyundai Department Store Coex has recently opened a Rainex shop selling high-end clothing items for professional cyclists. Within only three months after opening the Rainex store posted monthly sales revenue of 40 million won.
Catering to the needs of bike riders is not just limited to apparel makers. Construction companies are taking special care in putting in bike trails and bike racks when building apartment complexes. Hyundai Amco, for example, is actively advertising an indoor space for bicycles in promoting its “Sejong Amco Town” to be completed in Sejong Special City.
Lotte Engineering & Construction created a 1.1-kilometer walking and bike trail and a 0.7-km bike-only trail inside a forest near the Lotte Castle apartment complex to be built in the new city of Woonjeong near Paju. Raemian Mapo Wellstream, the apartment now marketed by Samsung C&T, is very close to the Hyunseok Interchange from which bikers can access the 24-km bike trail along the Han River. From the apartment, it takes for bike commuters only 20 minutes to Yoido.
To encourage bike riding and thus reduce carbon dioxide emissions, government offices are also lending a helping hand. The Mapo District Office is currently offering its employees incentives in the form of 20,000 “welfare points,” equivalent to 20,000 won, a month to anyone coming to work more than half of the days in bicycle. To that end, the district office has introduced in March 2009 a scheme to check bike movements through RFID tags. Up until now, 128 bike-commuting employees have attached the tags, with an average of 52.5 people using bikes every day.
There are also government-initiated programs for the general public to encourage bike riding. The so-called public-use bicycles are made available in depots scattered all around the city. The public-use bicycle program that the city government started in November 2010 has seen the number of daily bike users rise to 677 during the nine-month period last year, up 4.5 percent from the same period in 2011. Given more than 30 percent of bike use concentrated in the time zone between 7 and 9 in the morning and 6 and 8 in the evening, the city government figures that the bike riding has been mostly for commuting purposes.
Of all the sub-areas of bicycling, the most promising in terms of market potential is the electric bike. The first electric bicycle model was introduced by Samchully in 2009. Alton Sports came up with four models with an electric battery embedded in the bike frame in June last year. These models have been sold 2,000 units during the second half of last year. Hyundai Motor is currently developing a bike model that runs purely on the electric motor while Mando Corp. has lately launched a new electric bike model “Mando Footloose” that has no chain.
As more and more people take to the streets on their bikes, accidents related to bicycles are also on the rise. According to the National Police Agency, the number of bike accidents last year was 12,908 across the country. This is 2.3 times more than that occurred in 2002. That indicates there are not many good roads safe for bike riders, which calls for construction of many more bike-only trails.
Written by Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)