This is a lighter post after the last one on climate activism of shareholders. This article travels the world to see how cities, companies and start-ups are fostering the use of bicycle for personal transportation and delivery of goods.
We are gradually getting out from quarantine, getting around on errands, and commuting back to work. Riding a bicycle is a good alternative to respect physical distancing while getting back in shape after several weeks of staying at home.
This time may be a chance for an environment friendly mode of transportation to strive in busy cities. Still, there are many issues to address: public space availability, safety, comfort, maintenance and parking. Let’s see how different parts of the world are tackling these issues.
Freight and personal transportation is responsible for 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions . Environmentally, a bicycle is a symbol for decarbonized transportation and sustainable cities. Bicycles are an eco-friendly means of transportation which requires no fossil fuels.
As an energy efficient form of transportation, bicycle uses renewable human power in the most efficient way compared to other alternatives to move people and product from point A to point B: there are no greenhouse gas emissions emitted per km on a bike compared to 220g of CO2eq per km in a car .
Safe bike lanes
Cycling is an efficient way of using scarce space in urban areas. However, governments and cities have been struggling to give more space to bicycles. This is a chicken and egg problem. There are not enough bicycles to reserve them space and there are not enough bike lanes for bike riding to go mainstream.
Now everything has changed. Many cities across the world have created additional dedicated bike lanes post Covid-19.
- The UK government has put forward a £2 billion package to foster cycling and walking. Pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors will be created.
- Bogota, the capital city of Columbia stands 12th in 2019 Copenhagenize index, that ranks bicycle-friendly cities. Bogota has extended its formerly Sunday only Ciclovia program to all days of the week and added 80 km of bike lanes to its 550 km of existing ones.
- In New York City, officials have announced that up to 100 miles of streets will have extended bike lanes and sidewalks.
There are precautions cyclists need to adhere to in order to make their commute as safe and stress-free as possible: knowing the route in advance, being alert of the environment, putting a helmet on, wearing reflective clothing and having appropriate lighting to be seen on the road.
Where and how can you confidently park your bicycle knowing it will not be stolen, or damaged by weather, and will not disturb pedestrian traffic? Parking is indeed also an issue. The cities are struggling to keep up with the demand and manage sometimes anarchic parking.
- In the Netherlands, a giant bike parking facility is conveniently located directly next to Utrecht Central Station, Stationsplein. It caters space for 12,500 bikes.
- Automated underground bicycle parking systems are popular in China and Japan. The machinery frees up space on the surface. One system can hold 200 bikes. To see it working, watch this “futuristic” video.
- When you can’t park or when you want to travel longer distance, you may take your bike with you in a bus or a train. This can prove difficult in busy public transit. The region of Seattle has found a solution. Bikes can be installed at the front of buses.
Access to bikes
First things first. You need a bike. There are many ways to get one, from buying, to rental or leasing.
Most large cities now have bike rental services. Rental systems can be with fixed stations or dockless, whereby bikes can be left anywhere.
- Itaú’by Tembici in São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Santiago or Velib by Smovengo in Paris both provide traditional and electric bikes. Riders park them at pre-defined spaces in bike stations.
- Free Float bike rental have suffered from theft and damage. Few are still operating. Among them Dott in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Poland, Mobike in China.
Electric bicycles or e-bikes participate in making bike mainstream. Less effort is needed to drive longer distance or carry stuff and you can stay fresh after riding your bike. However, electric bikes come at an hefty price compared to traditional ones: €500 to €3000 for an electric bikes compared to as low as €200 for a traditional one.
Leasing models make electric bikes more affordable. Such a model is rolled out by Dutch company, Swapfiets in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. For €75 per month, you get an electric bike of your own with the additional benefit of included repair and maintenance.
Repair and maintenance
The rental and leasing models leave the hassle of repairing and maintaining to the lessor or the rental company: a big advantage. Repairing a flat tire, adjusting brakes or derailleur, or tightening the chains are common tasks of the everyday cyclist. They are not easy when you are not into “do it yourself” or are not equipped with the proper tools (and need to stay clean in your business attire).
Going to the nearest bike shop is an obvious choice. Alternatively you may rely on online platform that put you in contact with a technician that comes and repairs your bike at your place. Cyclofix or Repair and Run are such services operating in major cities in France.
Bikes for all needs
Bikes, once all similar now come in very different shapes to cater to various needs: design and performance, delivery of goods, kid transportation, and city commuting.
The number of electric bike firms is growing. High-end ones compete on design and functionalities.
- Angell bikes come with a secured system against theft and a modern and slick design.
- One of the models of Moustache Bikes provides with an ultra low stepover frame that makes it easy to get on and off the saddle at each red light in the town.
- Vanmoof bikes include automatic electronic gear shifting and integrated anti-theft technology.
- A removable battery built seamlessly into the frame is Cowboys bikes’ signature detail.
In addition to these high-end electric bikes, you can find cargo bikes designed to transport children, carry your groceries or deliver product to e-commerce customers: to name a few Italian Measy, French Douze Cycles, Dutch Urban Arrow or California based Yuba bikes.
Finally, folding bikes such as those of British Brompton are useful if you have limited storage place. It also makes multi-modal transportation possible.
Bikes at the office
Riding a bike to work is what 62% of Copenhagen citizens do everyday. Without the appropriate infrastructure at work (parking space, storage space, showers, bike friendly culture), it can be hard to change habits. Luckily, more and more employers are working hard to foster bike commuting, a more reliable, healthy and environmental friendly alternative to driving.
Innovation and progress are happening all over the world to foster bike riding as a mode of transportation.
Give it a try. Riding a bike brings back a sense of freedom to a daily commute. No need to have the exotic expensive bikes and gear to be a cyclist. In addition, a bike will help you rediscover the joy of stepping out of the door and exploring your surroundings like the breathtaking roads of Cormet de Roselend.
Recap of innovations
 There are different greenhouse gas. Their warming power as well as their persistence in the atmosphere are very different. Scientists have defined an equivalent between the different greenhouse gas and CO2. This way, greenhouse gas emissions can be expressed in one common unit, i.e., gramme CO2 equivalent (g CO2eq). CO2 has been chosen as it represents three quarters of total greenhouse gas emissions released in the atmosphere each year.