At the beginning of the year, former Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman appeared before the British Parliament and delivered a sterm message: “Choose a crisis and surely the bicycle is a solution.”
Historically, large-scale crises create a total breakdown of the norm but, at the same time, also new opportunities.
This health emergency is forcing us to reconsider our way of life, including two aspects that we feel very committed to: sustainability and urban mobility.
The bicycle might just be the shining star of this change.
Just before the crisis, Deloitte published a report that forecasted something Orbea has always believed: bikes are the future of urban transportation. By its estimates, cycling will double in large cities by 2022.
The study highlights the importance that electric bikes play in this evolution. More than 130 million units will be sold worldwide between 2020-2023.
Without a doubt, that’s great news for Orbea and our line of urban e-bikes: Gain Urban, Optima, Katu or even Keram. All of them add to our wide range of mechanical models aimed at moving around in cities.
SOMETHING IS CHANGING
Mobility restrictions and social distancing measures are accelerating the adoption of bikes.
Unprecedented examples from around the world make us think that something truly is changing…and fast. A movement where even large institutions begin to champion for the cause.
The European Commission has been allocating funds to projects that seek to promote bike use in cities. Their support is measured against three pillars: cost, speed in short journeys, and the benefits for health, environment, and habitat.
The health crisis could mean a relaunch of these policies. Public and private transportation has its limitations, and many governments and local entities are beginning to give the bicycle the space it deserves.
In France, the Ministry of Ecological Transition finalized a plan so that, after self isolation is over, the bike will become the main means of transportation to maintain social distance. In Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo expressed her commitment to achieve a 100% cyclable city by 2024. This is supported by another campaign, Plan Vélo, that launched nationwide in 2018 to triple the amount of work commuters by bike over six years.
For his part, the head of Health in Spain, Salvador Illa, recently pointed out that “the bicycle is a safe way of getting around.” As in Italy, a country hit particularly hard by COVID-19, their institutions seem ready to promote the bike as a necessary alternative.
The anticipation of coming out of self isolation, especially for children, is a compelling reason to pedal with them and teach them the values of biking as both a sport and a lifestyle.
Throughout many cities in Germany, with Berlin at the forefront, streets have been converted into new reversible bike lanes, and many of the existing lanes have been doubled in width, taking away space from motorized vehicles. Never have so many cyclists been touring the city with regards to safety, both in terms of road design and health.
FROM LONDON TO BOGOTÁ
In other capitals, such as London, or large cities in the US like Boston and Chicago, public bike rentals have made their rates more flexible and, in some cases, free of charge (at least partially). The same happened in New York, where the number of Citi Bike users has seen a 70% spike in the past few weeks compared to the same period last year. Likewise, bike traffic crossing the East River bridges shot up 52% after social distancing measures were declared.
In Prague and Berlin, they implemented (although temporarily) a half-hour of free public bike use. And in other capitals around the world, such as Mexico City or Bogotá, they made bikes available to professionals and health personnel directly involved in the pandemic fight.
In fact, it’s these cities in Latin America that have implemented some of the boldest measures that benefit cycling.
At the end of March, the Mayor’s Office of Mexico City proposed a temporary build of 130km of bike lanes in the right lane of the roads, spanning eight sections of the city between 7am and 9pm.
For its part, Bogotá City Council, one of the world’s biggest supporters of urban cycling, has opened up 117km of new bike lanes with the aim of reducing traffic congestion and personal contact, many of them simply sectioned off with cones.
Even in China, the Department for Disease Control and Prevention recommended cycing as the safest form of public transportation. In fact, their gradual return to activity has led to a notable growth in shared public bike rentals. In Wuhan, usage tripled over distances greater than three kilometers, while 17% of those who went to the hospital did so by pedaling.
A GLOBAL FACT
Certainly, some of the countries most affected by the Coronavirus have restricted recreational cycling. In many others, however, the sport of cycling has been defended as a respectful way of following the local regulations while improving health.
In any case, the increase of urban bike traffic is a global event.
As our CEO, Jon Fernández wrote, “Many people have already understood that using the bicycle makes us healthier, much happier, and that pedaling builds a better world,” adding that cooperation from administrations and private companies, like Orbea, is essential.
At our cooperative, we work to build a stronger social and business model for future generations; the revival of cycling in cities points us in that direction. As we wrote in our article, Choose Another Path, we believe that there is a different and more unique way of understanding life and the society in which we live.
Time will tell whether the looming change is final. We will continue to do our part to keep the momentum going. Because, as our CEO said, our purpose is to change the world.