More bikes sold in Italy than cars for first time since WWII

In a radical departure for the car-mad country, home to legendary marques such as Fiat, Ferrari and Lamborghini, 1,750,000 bikes were bought in 2011 compared to 1,748,000 motor vehicles.

As austerity cuts deepen and petrol prices hit a new high, the purchase of new cars has dropped to levels not seen since the 1970s.

Families are buying bikes, ditching their second cars and signing up to car pool schemes – a major shift for a nation which has one of the highest car ownership rates in the world, with around 60 cars for every 100 people.

Car ownership became a symbol of the Italian economic miracle in the 1960s and has steadily grown since, but as unemployment rises and living costs soar, it has become an unaffordable luxury for many Italian families.

Petrol recently hit nearly $10 per gallon, the highest in Europe, and it is estimated that the average car in Italy costs $10,000 a year to run.

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