Posted: 18 May 2020 8 min. read

Tech trends - think global, cycle local

It doesn’t take much persuading to get me to talk about cycling… in fact cycling has been almost my only “escape” from lockdown. On my daily exercise rides round Edinburgh with my son, it’s been heartening to see families riding together on the empty city centre streets for what looks like the first time. Bikes that have stood too long in sheds being dragged out, dusted off and put to use for trips to the supermarket or to just get some fresh air.  So it was encouraging to hear the WHO announce that cycling is encouraged, both as transport and as a way of staying healthy during this global crisis.

So against this backdrop it was with a somewhat wry smile that I read this year’s Tech Predictions from Deloitte where the impact of the global growth in cycling is made so clear.

We are predicting that tens of billions… (yes billions) more journeys will be made by bike by 2022 over the levels we see in 2019 those are pretty staggering numbers.

But what’s driving this? The growth in ebike sales and usage is certainly part of the puzzle. We expect to see 130 million e-bikes sold globally by 2023, far outpacing the sales of electric vehicles. Driven both by their convenience but also by their reduced cost as manufacturers scale up to meet demand. My son would argue that ebiking is “cheating” but for so many people the benefit of an assisted bike is clear, allowing the older among us to continue cycling for longer, those who see it as a way to get to work without getting a sweat on or just those who want to ride with their partner or friends who are already keen cyclists.

Uptake of ebike sales remains driven by culture and more importantly by infrastructure. Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark - nations where cycling is seen as just a way of getting around have seen a huge growth in ebike sales. In the Netherlands they now account for 50% of all new bike sales. Here in the UK however they account for just 5% of sales where the “MAMIL”* culture is still seen to dominate.

But it’s not just bike sales that are driving this growth. It’s also the spread in spot bike hire, both city led schemes and schemes from the likes of uber. Handily Google maps, now indicates where you can pick up a bike for hire, making it far easier to grab a bike when perhaps you might have taken a taxi in the past.

As I write this, cities all over the globe are looking at their infrastructure and making rapid changes to allow more room for cyclists on the road. In Berlin, dozens of streets have new wider bike lanes. The Mayor of Mexico city has proposed 130km of new temporary bike lanes. In Philadelphia, they have closed roads to motor traffic, giving them over exclusively to cyclists and pedestrians.  Here in the UK a £2bn stimulus package was announced to create a new era for walking and cycling.  Many of these decisions are been driven by data, with consumer apps such as Strava’s data being anonymised to help town planners make better decisions about where this infrastructure is needed and how it might be used.

My personal hope is that what started here driven by the current crisis, will get us all to look at cycling as part of a much bigger ecosystem. One which touches our healthcare system and our ecology. It is a healthier life style choice for us individually, but also collectively saving our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed, a choice that also helps our planet recover from decades of pollution and a choice that through digital platforms and technology has just become that little bit easier to make.

For more on our 2020 predictions, take a look at the latest Tech Trends report here. You can also listen to my latest podcast with Markus Hiemann, sustainability expert at NHS Scotland and James McCallum, Commonwealth Games medallist and Director of Scottish Cycling here.

*middle-aged man in lycra!

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