A Plan to Fix the US Bike Shortage


In the early 1970s, bike sales boomed in the United States, and annual bike production averaged about 15 million annually. Domestic production might not keep up with need. To increase supply, bike manufacturers outsourced production to centers abroad in places such as Taiwan.Taiwan began to export bikes to the United States in 1969. Within 3 years, the nation was exporting more than 1 million bikes each year, simply as US demand removed. During this time, Taiwans federal government intervened in the bike industry by coordinating production and developing safety requirements considered acceptable by prominent export markets. Federal government assistance for bicycle production wasnt unique to Taiwan. Growing need for bikes in China throughout the 1980s led the government to establish the sector. Chinas accession to the WTO allowed almost unrestricted exports– and an export-oriented technique– for the Chinese bicycle market. Prior to Chinas accession, the US was producing 5.6 million bikes at home in 1990. Over the next twenty years, US output dropped significantly to 200,000 by 2015. The US is the global leader in carbon-fiber production, but most of this market is in aerospace, defense, and energy. Aerospace and defense made up 48 percent of overall carbon-fiber sales in 2015. The Department of Defense produces a “market pull” for these types of resources; the military continues to buy up most composite products that could be utilized for other nonmilitary applications. The material used to make carbon fiber, polyacrylonitrile (PAN), is not as readily available in the United States as in other places. A lot of PAN is imported from Japan. On the other hand, the federal governments of China and Taiwan have made it a top priority to increase carbon-fiber adoption in nonmilitary applications.But the commercial policies of other countries are not the only constraint on United States makers. Domestic producers are reliant on foreign corporations, which increases supply chain fragility in the bike industry, adding to bike scarcities and anemic domestic production. Corporations like Japans Shimano have near monopolies on some parts. Even though some United States bike manufacturers construct their items locally, they have to import many of their parts. Shimano has a 70 percent global market share of bike brakes and gears and 50 percent of the bike elements market. This concentration makes the supply chain incredibly vulnerable. Rich Fox, who runs Circa Cycles in Portland and makes bikes in the US, states, “Most of my bike products originate from distributors in Asia like Shimano, and there have been insane stock concerns amongst distributors and manufacturers.” This dynamic of a sole-source supplier specifically hurts small producers, since Shimano prioritizes scale when providing its products to other makers, making it harder for small gamers to get parts. “Youre always dealing with Shimano, and they can make it problematic and costly to get parts into the United States,” states Richard Schwinn. “A factory in China that requires countless derailleurs will get them on time and more reliably than we ever would– and we may have to pay a premium too.” The problems of United States bike producers mirror those of the lots of US manufacturing industries ill-equipped to contend in international markets. Theres a growing chorus of voices in Washington signaling that industrial policy must be revamped to supply better support for particular markets and important products. “Republicans have actually been more at the forefront of embracing industrial policy, although some Democrats are too,” says Schwinn.An industrial technique could minimize the possibility of supply chain disruptions in a plethora of economic sectors, such as bicycle production. A government firm for industrial technique, something like a Department of Economic Resilience, could expose weak points in domestic production ability and supply chains. Such a company could likewise develop export incentives for particular sectors, a technique that China undertook with bikes twenty years back. These tactics would likely be illegal or challenged under the WTOs Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, which restricts export aids and enables member countries to challenge other member states production subsidies. However all states thinking about building resilient production systems will likely have to review this agreement. In addition, antitrust enforcement should be a core part of commercial policy. To develop resiliency, industrial policy ought to prohibit any global company from controlling more than 25 percent of any American market, to eliminate dependency on sole-source suppliers such as Shimano.WIRED Opinion publishes short articles by outside contributors representing a wide variety of perspectives. Read more viewpoints here, and see our submission standards here. Submit an op-ed at [email protected] Great WIRED Stories

To increase supply, bike manufacturers outsourced production to facilities abroad in places such as Taiwan.Taiwan started to export bikes to the United States in 1969. Prior to Chinas accession, the US was producing 5.6 million bicycles at home in 1990. Domestic producers are reliant on foreign corporations, which increases supply chain fragility in the bicycle market, contributing to bike lacks and anemic domestic production. Shimano has a 70 percent global market share of bike brakes and equipments and 50 percent of the bike elements market. “Republicans have actually been more at the forefront of embracing commercial policy, although some Democrats are too,” states Schwinn.An industrial technique could reduce the possibility of supply chain interruptions in a wide variety of economic sectors, such as bicycle production.


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