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Cities are changing as the sale of electric bikes can skyrocket

Cities around the world are struggling with the same problem: how can you safely reopen in the COVID-19 era? Public transportation systems in places like New York, London, and Paris typically bring millions of people to work and business every day, which is equivalent to about 1.5 billion trips a year. Now nobody wants to be in a crowded subway and risk being exposed to the virus if they can avoid it. However, if everyone jumps in cars instead, traffic will stop, disrupt emergency vehicles, and reverse many cities’ progress in reducing CO2 emissions during the closure. That is why city planners and residents see the humble bicycle as a way out.

Bicycles are the ideal form of transportation as cities emerge from the quarantine, which is now becoming even more attractive as summer approaches in the United States and Europe. They are fast, comfortable, convenient, and allow you to distance yourself socially while you are active. In combination with an electric motor, e-bikes can also make long journeys a relaxing and sweat-free experience. They also help maintain the dramatic improvements in air quality that have been seen in cities around the world since coronavirus containment began.

In some US cities, multi-lane streets and parking lots can make up 50 to 60 percent of all real estate. Not only does it rob the residents of parks and other open spaces, it also makes social distance on overloaded sidewalks almost impossible. What better time is there to rethink transport models and regain space for CO2-burping vehicles from past times?

If not now when?

Initially, some companies saw a decline in traditional bike and e-bike sales as the global supply chain was interrupted by block orders and bike shops had to be closed. But now sales are booming worldwide, and many buyers are choosing electric bikes for the first time.

In Germany, for example, sales declined by 20 to 30 percent in the first weeks of April due to the closure of bike shops. But now that they’re reopened, bike shops are reporting loudly Bicycle EUE-bikes outperform normal bikes because people switch from simply buying leisure to everyday use.

The same thing happened in the U.S., said Ryan Citron, senior research analyst at Guidehouse. “E-bike sales were hit pretty hard initially during the closures as many retail stores were closed,” Citron said in an email to The edge. “However, sales have increased rapidly since the bike shops reopened.” If stores can stay open, Citron expects e-bike sales to match or slightly exceed previous forecasts by the end of the year, “as consumers in the COVID era are looking for more personal mobility options and physically distant transportation options “.

Matt Powell, NPD Group’s senior industry advisor, said The edge U.S. retail sales of e-bikes increased 90 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2019.

Sales of the Gocycle GX e-bike increased by 65 percent.
Image: Gocycle

Some of the most popular e-bike companies state that these trends are reflected in their sales receipts.

Brompton, the London-based manufacturer of legendary folding bikes, saw a rapid increase in online sales in the UK, both from accredited retailers and via Brompton.com – five times higher than in the previous month – although global sales in the past two months have been compared were down on the previous year. However, the company has had record sales in China in the past three weeks as travel restrictions are lifted. Brompton’s website traffic has gone through the roof, particularly in the United States, where the company has seen an “incredible surge in interest,” according to a statement sent to it The edge.

The UK-based company Gocycle recorded a decline in sales with its direct sales model. Sales of his quick-fold Gocycle GX e-bike have increased 65 percent in the past six weeks, compared to the same period in 2019, the company said The edgeTraffic to the gocycle.com website increased by 90 percent. The company attributes growth to changing commuter habits in response to the pandemic.

“Intelligent commuters invest long-term and rely on e-bikes,” said Gocycle founder Richard Thorpe. “We have seen sales of our Gocycle GX series foldable rocket go up in the past few weeks – literally four times more in urban areas than it did last year. COVID pulls the adoption curve forward. “

The Dutch e-bike manufacturer VanMoof sells bicycles online and through its own brand shops, completely bypassing traditional bicycle shops. Sales are said to have increased dramatically from February to April compared to the same period last year. Sales increased in all major markets, including Germany (+226 percent), the UK (+184 percent), the Netherlands (+140 percent), the United States (+138 percent) and France (+92 percent). The increase was at least partly due to price reductions prior to the launch of the S3 and X3 e-bikes in April.

The US bike dealer Lectric eBikes has recorded a 140 percent increase in sales since March 15. “Our customers said that e-bikes are a great option for the new lifestyle of the coronavirus era,” said co-founder Levi Conlow Electrek. “The dramatic increase in sales shows that people at the national level are trying to change their ways.”

Rad Power Bikes from Seattle announced that sales in April increased a whopping 297 percent year-on-year and far exceeded the company’s expectations. The company’s sales to business customers in the delivery area also increased 191 percent from March to April this year, a spokesman said.

Aventon Bikes, based in Ontario, California, claims to be flooded with orders. Sales increased in Massachusetts (+298 percent), California (+85 percent) and New York (+164 percent). “We were busier than ever and breaking orders and sales records every day,” said Adele Nasr, marketing director at Aventon, in an email.

Worldwide, Google’s search for the “best electric bike” has increased since March 22, less than two weeks after the World Health Organization declared the new corona virus a pandemic. More people searched for the “best bike” in the same period.

The influx of new bicycles requires an infrastructure to protect these riders. It won’t happen overnight, but even bike-friendly cities like Amsterdam – where about half of all commuting takes place by bike – had to start somewhere.

Britain is leading the transformation by providing hundreds of millions of pounds to make cities more bike-friendly, while at the same time asking the public to avoid public transport. An emergency fund of GBP 250 million (approx. USD 300 million) was developed from a cycling and hiking package of GBP 2 billion in order to create new cycle paths and safer junctions “within a few weeks”. The cities have already been told that they should reassign the street space “for a significantly increased number of cyclists and pedestrians”. E-scooters are currently illegal in the UK, but trials will be accelerated from next year to next month to potentially change this.

This street in London, just outside Brixton tube station, was recaptured by pedestrians as part of the Streetspace program.
Picture: TfL

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps argues that alternative modes of transport will benefit in both the short and long term long after the pandemic has subsided:

Millions of people discovered cycling during this crisis – be it for sport or as a means of safe, socially distant transport. Nothing changes today about the message “stay at home”, but when the country goes back to work, these people have to stay on their bikes and join many others.

Otherwise, our trains and buses could be overcrowded and our roads blocked because the capacity of public transport is severely limited at this point – emergency services, critical workers and essential goods are being held up.

We know that cars will continue to be vital for many, but if we look to the future, we need to build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air, and healthier communities.

Last week, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL) launched the street space program to redesign London’s streets to achieve an expected tenfold increase in bicycle traffic and a five-fold increase in walking as the restrictions on blocking are relaxed. Much of the work is temporary, but according to TfL it could become permanent.

Other European cities have started similar initiatives. Milan, one of the most polluted cities in Europe, plans to convert 35 km of streets into bicycles and pedestrian areas in the summer as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. The city’s plan includes temporary bike paths, new and wider sidewalks, lower speed limits of 30 km / h and roads where cyclists and pedestrians take precedence over cars.

“We have worked for years to reduce the use of cars. When everyone drives a car, there is no place for people, there is no place to move, there is no place for commercial activities outside of shops, ”said Milan Mayor Deputy Mayor Marco Granelli in comments from The guard. “Of course we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis than before.”

France installs temporary cycle routes in cities across the country. Paris plans to open 400 miles of pop-up bike trails and will convert its largest cross-city route into a bike-only highway. Mayor Anne Hidalgo, an advocate of cycling long before the pandemic, said that the idea that Paris would return to a city dominated by cars was “out of the question”.

“I am determined to say that there is no question of us being ambushed by cars and pollution,” said Hidalgo CityLab. “It will worsen the health crisis. Pollution in itself is a health crisis and a hazard – and pollution associated with corona virus is a particularly dangerous cocktail. So there is no question of believing that arriving in the heart of the city by car is a solution if it could actually make the situation worse. “

Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union, adds some 40 km of bike paths. “We know that two thirds of trips within Brussels are less than three miles. So we want to encourage healthy people to walk or cycle, ”Transport Minister Elke Van den Brandt told Belgium Le Soir Newspaper. “And it is our responsibility to secure infrastructures for that.”

In the United States, a number of major cities have outlined plans to block roads for automobile traffic to create a safe space for socially distant walking and cycling. And some go a step further by making them permanent.

Seattle recently announced it would permanently block 20 miles of roads from most traffic. “[The pedestrianized streets] are an important tool for families in our neighborhood to go outside, exercise and enjoy the beautiful weather, ”said Jenny Durkan, Mayor of Seattle, in a statement. “In the long term, these streets will become valued assets in our neighborhood.”

In April, Oakland announced it would gradually walk to the pedestrian zone, with the goal of blocking 74 miles for most vehicles, or about 10 percent of the city’s street scene. Denver has 13 miles of open roads, while Minneapolis has 18 miles for pedestrians and cyclists. Boston is considering using the street space for bike paths, wider sidewalks, and faster bus routes.

New York City, where vehicle traffic has dropped dramatically, opened 12 miles of pedestrian streets this week and added another nine miles of protected bike trails. That was in addition to the nine miles of roads that have been closed to cars since early May. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is often criticized for using an SUV in city ownership, said his goal was 100 miles of open roads in total.

New York has recently legalized electric bikes, which has been a blessing for immigrant grocers who rely heavily on e-bikes at work. New York City has yet to set a regulatory regime for newly registered vehicles, but e-bike manufacturers expect city sales to skyrocket for city dwellers looking for quick ways to get around without public transportation or carpooling will.

According to the latest data, cycling in the United States has exploded since the blockade came into force. According to Eco-Counter, which collects bike data, cycling in North America is 5 percent higher than usual. Several regions in the U.S. rose over 100 percent over the weekend alone.

In the meantime, vehicle traffic has decreased and the air is easier to breathe. According to the federal government, the number of vehicle miles traveled on all roads and paths in the US in March fell by almost 19 percent compared to the same month in the previous year. As determined by transportation researcher Yonah FreemarkThat is 50.6 billion fewer vehicle miles in March compared to the baseline. And with an average US fuel consumption of 22.3 mpg, that’s around 45 billion pounds of CO2 that hasn’t been released, says Freemark.

It’s a remarkable change, but it could all be reversed if cities aren’t brave about how they reinterpret their street landscapes.

The VanMoof S3 in Amsterdam.
Photo by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

Amsterdam has not always been a world-class bicycle city. In the early 1970s, cars dominated the streets. It took years of violent activism and enlightened policymakers who were not burdened by the desires of deeply rooted automotive interests before the city realized that cars were not the future of urban transportation.

Now bicycles permeate the culture and make it as Dutch as clogs and tulips. Everyone, from toddlers to the elderly, enjoys the freedom and safety of protected bike paths and the by-product of smog-free air. Yes, Amsterdam is flat and therefore ideal for cycling. But electric bikes can flatten a hill in San Francisco, like orders that stay at home can flatten an infection curve.

Unfortunately, many of the COVID-19 era transportation measures introduced by cities are being carried out so cautiously, often under the guise of temporary changes – assuming that the world may return to normal quickly after the blocks are lifted. edge However, readers will know that this is wishful thinking.

Or maybe it’s a smart policy that puts residents in a new reality of urban transportation.

“If everyone returns to cars, it will be a nightmare,” said Jean-Louis Missika, deputy mayor of Paris. “Our secret dream is that the temporary becomes permanent.”

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