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August 10, 2021

Cash-strapped Greeks ditch cars, pick up bikes

Since the recession sprang in 2008, there has appeared to be a rotating cast of financial villains, companies, sentiments or nations that have taken the blame for the world’s economic shortfalls.

Immediately, it may have been consumers, who were borrowing too much, spending too much and buying homes they couldn’t afford. Later, it became Wall Street – more specifically, Goldman Sachs and AIG – the public felt had gambled us into fiscal abomination, handing out fat bonuses the whole way through.

The most recent scapegoat, however, has been Greece, the debt-soaked country that may just now be learning to pay its taxes.

The Greek crisis has held its toll, surely: on its citizens, its employment rate and the rest of Europe. But at least it’s been profitable for one enterprise.

According to a Reuters report out of Athens, Greece’s economic woes have supercharged the nation’s once dormant bicycle industry.

*Bing: How did Greece get into so much debt?

Thanks to the high cost of road tax, fuel and auto repairs, cash-strapped Greeks are ditching their cars en masse in favour of bikes.

By numbers from Greek’s government statistics office, the number of cars on Greece’s roads declined by more than 40 per cent in each of the last two years, a time when about one in five Greeks lost their job.

Meanwhile, more than 200,000 bikes were sold in 2011, up about 25 per cent from the previous year, according to Reuters.

Greece, of course, is no Saskatchewan. The nation is covered in mountainous landscape, which ought to put the country’s new reliance in bikes into perspective; despite the perilous cycling conditions, Greeks are succumbing to the lower-cost form of transportation.

Reuters reports new bike shops are sprouting all over the country, especially in Athens, the ancient capital.

“People who were never interested in cycling are buying bikes,” said one bike manufacturer boss. “There’s no more money for luxuries and that helps (boost sales).”

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...