Highlights

  • Sri Lankans ditch their fuel-dependent vehicles for bicycle to combat fuel shortage
  • The demand for bicycles is rising amid limited stocks
  • The demand-supply imbalance has led to a rise in the prices of cycles and their spare parts

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Sri Lankans look to cycle their way out of economic crisis

Thousands of Sri Lankans from lower to middle-class have started using cycles for work commute and grocery shopping, among other daily chores. 

In the face of unprecedented fuel shortage amid a financial meltdown, Sri Lankans have ditched their fuel-dependent vehicles for the good-old bicycle leading to an increased demand for the two-wheeler amid short supply.

This transition not only helps them save money but also avoid long serpentine queues at fuel-filling stations.

“We can't afford petrol or the time it takes in queues - staying in queues doesn't assure petrol either. Many people have switched to cycles & public transport,” said a Colombo resident while standing outside a cycle shop.

Thousands of Sri Lankans from lower to middle-class have started using cycles for everything from work commute to grocery shopping, among other daily chores. This as public transport has also come to a grinding halt.

With Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves dwindling and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation—a public company—$700 million in debt, the country has not been able to secure oil shipments in over two weeks. The fuel crisis has forced the government to shut schools, let government employees work from home, and restrict fuel to essential services only.

The next oil shipment is reportedly expected to arrive by July 22.

As a consequence, the demand for bikes on Colombo's streets has rocketed even as stocks are limited. This imbalance in demand and supply has led to an exorbitant rise in the prices of new and used machines. In some cases, the prices have more than doubled.

Even spare parts and bicycle accessories such as helmets and locks are in short supply.

The shortage pertains to a cap on new supplies put in place by authorities who have restricted imports to basic necessities to conserve the country’s shrinking foreign exchange.

Also watch: Rajapaksas: the rulers and wreckers of Sri Lanka

The economic crisis developed after the COVID-19 pandemic hammered the tourism-reliant economy and slashed remittances from overseas workers. It was compounded by rising government debt, oil prices, and a ban on the import of chemical fertilisers last year as part of a sudden shift to organic farming that left the agriculture sector devastated.

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