Arguably the most sustainable transport option available today – and not just because of the obvious fact that they don’t emit harmful pollutants – bicycles are relatively cheap to produce, take up minimal space in overcrowded cities, and even help their riders maintain an active lifestyle.
Bicycles, the underdogs of mobility, were sustainable before it was cool to be sustainable, and now that the world has begun to shift away from personal car usage and towards a multimodal, shared future, bikes are poised to become an integral component of any comprehensive MaaS system.
Since the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, bicycle usage has jumped significantly across Europe. In Germany, bicycle stores sold three times as many bikes in March and April compared to 2019, causing shortages throughout the country. (1) Authorities in Berlin responded quickly to this spike in consumer demand by building 27 kilometers of pop-up bike lanes, made possible by reduced automobile traffic. (2) In London, a city infamous for both its congestion issues and its willingness to tackle those problems, officials went even further by building 30 kilometers of permanent bike lanes and blocking some streets off to automobile traffic entirely. (3) While the changes implemented in Berlin and numerous other cities have been met with backlash, they were applauded by cyclists and experts who welcomed their swiftness and saw them as a win for sustainable mobility development (4).
The encouragement of bike riding isn’t just limited to infrastructure investments: back in April, the French government offered a bike repair subsidy to every citizen as a way of providing a socially distant alternative to subways and buses deemed unsafe. Considering 60% of journeys taken in France before the pandemic were less than five kilometers long, bicycles are a particularly well-suited option for French travelers (and are ripe for combining with other mobility types). (5) At the end of 2020, England also proposed an e-bike subsidy scheme for Q1 2021 that is set to reduce the costs of purchasing a new e-bike by up to 30%. (6)
Even before the spread of the coronavirus, bicycles were beginning to undergo an image makeover. E-bikes – still a novel concept only a few years ago – saw sales skyrocket at the beginning of Europe’s lockdowns. In March, one in four Europeans were either already in possession of an e-bike or were interested in buying one in the coming year. (7) They made good on their promise, too: VanMoof, one of Europe’s trendiest e-bike brands, saw an increase of sales in all of their main markets compared to the same time period in 2019, including Germany (+226%), the UK (+184%), Holland (+140%), the US (+138%), and France (+92%). (8)
Of course, many consumers are understandably wary of spending over 1000€ on their own personal e-bike. But even the 2 out of 5 Europeans who cite the high price of personal e-bikes as a barrier to entry can make use of multiple dockless and free-floating bike sharing schemes that are sprouting up across Europe, Asia and the United States. (9) It’s not just the electrification and shareability of bikes that have made them seem more exciting recently, either: subscription-based bike rentals, in which riders pay a monthly fee in exchange for a personal bicycle and free maintenance, have already proven very successful. In Berlin, e-bike subscription company Dance raised 15€ million after only three months of testing their invite-only pilot project. (10) If the numbers are any indication, bikes are officially growing in popularity.
Consumer preferences have changed since bicycles began to be taken seriously as commuting options in the early 1900s. Today, consumers are more likely to combine mobility types than ever before; as with many shared mobility options, bikes aren’t seen as standalone solutions, but as an additional choice consumers now have when planning their travel journey.
That makes the timing of Trafi’s brand-new bike routing technology all the more relevant. Cyclists using the Trafi white label app can benefit from exact arrival times, easily combine their bike trips with public transport options, and even compare a potential bike route with, say, a route taken on a kick-scooter or bus. This allows for an extremely convenient travel experience.
Bicycles, overlooked no more, are on the rise. Increased consumer demand, spurred by the coronavirus pandemic and boosted by government investments, is a testament to bicycles’ newfound popularity. By integrating bicycles into holistic, multimodal MaaS networks, cities and companies can do their part in ensuring their longevity. But considering how practical, sustainable and surprisingly innovative bikes are, we’re confident that they’re here to stay awhile.