Four wheels good, two wheels better, Canadians say

Fri Aug 8, 2008 1:52pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - In the face of unprecedented gasoline prices and a desire to be more "green," Canadians are increasingly trading in four wheels for two, swapping their cars for motorcycles, scooters or bicycles.

"I think people are prepared to do anything at the moment to avoid paying gas bills," Bruce Cran, president of the Consumer Association of Canada, said on Friday.

Canadian manufacturer Dorel Industries, whose bicycle brands include Schwinn and GT, said on Thursday that two-wheeler sales had soared as bikes fly off the shelves.

Chief Executive Martin Schwartz noted the rising demand in Dorel's quarterly earnings statement, saying that "higher fuel prices, environmental concerns and a desire to be fit are increasing the popularity of bicycles."

Motorcycles, long viewed as the vehicle of choice for rebels, also appear to be growing in popularity with Canadians who are willing to don a helmet in favor of better gas mileage.

Insurer Kingsway Financial Services said on Thursday that its motorcycle premiums rose 18 percent for the first half of the year, reflecting a move to more fuel efficient vehicles.

Scooters are also seeing a surge in popularity in Canada. Cran said that after talking to bike dealers, those selling scooters were the most enthusiastic for the future, including the iconic Vespa. The Italian firm's website boasts the slogan: "Spread the love, save some green."

Cran said that between rising fuel prices and growing environmental concerns, the trend looks like it may be here to stay, although the enthusiasm for two wheels may cool somewhat once winter returns.

While getting around on two wheels is more likely to appeal to the young, or singles who don't have families to transport, Cran notes that he knows a married couple with matching Vespas -- blue for him, pink for her.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; editing by Rob Wilson)