Search the Site

Why It's Hard to Find a Used Bicycle in Denmark

(Photo: king_david_uk)

Visiting friends in Copenhagen and cycling around the city, I wondered why so many bicycles were new (and, having experienced Scandinavian pricing, expensive). When I lived in England, I bought a three-speed BSA bicycle from the wonderful Chris Lloyd Bikes repair shop for only £60 (about $100). The bicycle had already lasted 40 or 50 years; according to Laplace’s rule of succession, it would probably last another 40 or 50 years — at least with regular maintenance. Which I provided. When any problem turned up, I took the bicycle back to Chris Lloyd, who set it right for a right price.

That’s the difference from Denmark, with one of the world’s highest hourly wages. In a modern factory, that cost is more than balanced by the productivity of highly sophisticated and automated machinery. However, as Baumol and Bowen found for playing music quartets, repairing a bicycle wouldn’t happen much faster with fancier tools. Bicycle repair, unless you find a tricorder, requires a lot of human expertise and time. If the repair takes a couple of hours, in Denmark that could cost $200 or $300.

At those prices, anyone except the handiest will just junk the old bicycle, carbon-dioxide pollution be damned, and buy a new one.

(Related: used bikes are very dear in Portland as well.)