OSAKA — Folding bicycles have been gaining popularity among urban residents over the past few years because of their portability and improved design.

Bicycle industry sources speculate that one factor behind the growing sales is housing conditions in urban areas, many of which do not have sufficient parking space for bicycles.

Folding bicycles can be brought into apartments and stored in the trunks of cars, making them less likely to be stolen, the manufacturers say.

About 80,000 folding bicycles have been made and shipped in Japan between January and July this year, more than twice the figure recorded in the corresponding period of last year, a survey conducted by the bicycle industry shows.

The number of folding bicycles shipped in Japan is expected to surpass 600,000 when imported products from Taiwan and other countries are added, according to the industry.

The bikes feature designs of frames and wheels more distinctive than those of conventional bicycles, according to the makers.

The Traincle 6500, developed jointly by the Osaka-based National Bicycle Industrial Co. and East Japan Railway Co., capitalizes on its portability to the extent that it can be stored in the large-size coin-operated lockers at train stations.

Priced at 176,000 yen, it weighs only 6.5 kg and has a titanium frame.

Bridgestone Cycle Co., based in Saitama Prefecture, will put its 9.4-kg folding bike Transit Light on the market in October. The company intends to emphasize the brand’s relatively low price of around 40,000 yen.

National Bicycle also boasts of the WiLL Bike targeted at female users, which trades on its fashionable design. The brand’s bicycles come in the 12 different colors of birthstone.

“Since it went on sale in July, several thousand have already been sold,” a National official said.

“People in various age groups buy folding bicycles. Many of them purchase the product as an easy transportation tool in urban areas as well as at holiday sites,” said a sales clerk at the Shinsaibashi branch of Tokyu Hands in Osaka.

The branch has sold about 1,000 folding bicycles over the past year, the clerk said.

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