Cities around the world face the same question: How to safely reopen in the era of COVID-19. Public transportation systems in places like New York, London, and Paris typically transport millions of people to work and shops every day, making up about 1.5 billion trips per year. Today, no one wants to end up in a crowded metro and risk exposure to the virus if they can avoid it. But if everyone jumps into a car, traffic will stop, emergency vehicles will be stranded, and progress made by many cities in reducing carbon emissions during closed times will be undone. This is why planners and city dwellers consider the humble bicycle to be their means of transportation.
Biking is the perfect form of transportation to get out of quarantine cities, which is all the more interesting as summer approaches in the United States and Europe. They are fast, comfortable, convenient and allow you to get away socially while being active. Combined with an electric motor, e-bikes can make long journeys a relaxing and sweat-free experience. They are also helping to maintain the dramatic improvements in air quality seen in cities around the world since the coronavirus lockdowns began.
In some US cities, multi-lane roads and parking lots can take up 50-60% of real estate space. In addition to depriving residents of parks and other open spaces, this makes social distancing on crowded sidewalks nearly impossible. What better time to rethink transport models and reclaim the space allocated to vehicles that emit CO2 from a bygone era?
If not now, when ?
Now is the perfect time to buy an e-bike
Initially, some companies saw sales of traditional bicycles and e-bikes decline, as the global supply chain was disrupted by shutdown orders and bike shops were forced to close. But today, sales are booming globally, with many buyers opting for e-bikes for the first time.
In Germany, for example, sales fell by 20-30% in the first weeks of April due to the closure of bicycle shops. But now that they've reopened, bike shops are reporting a sudden surge in sales, bike-eu says, with e-bikes overtaking regular bikes, with people shifting from buying for leisure only to using. daily.
The same has happened in the United States, said Ryan Citron, senior research analyst at Guidehouse. “E-bike sales were first hit hard during the closures as many retail stores were closed,” Citron said in an email to The Verge. “However, since the bicycle shops reopened, sales have grown rapidly. "If stores can remain open, Mr Citron expects e-bike sales to remain on line with previous forecasts or slightly exceed them by the end of the year" as consumers seek more options from personal mobility and remote transportation in the era of COVID ”.
Matt Powell, senior industry advisor for the NPD Group, told The Verge that U.S. e-bike retail sales in the first quarter of 2019 were up 90% from a year ago.
Some of the more popular e-bike companies say these trends are reflected in their sales revenue.
Brompton, the London maker of iconic folding bikes, has seen UK online sales, both through authorized retailers and through Brompton.com, grow rapidly - five times more than the previous month - even as global sales plummet over the course of of the last two months compared to the previous year. In the past three weeks, however, the company has seen record sales in China thanks to the lifting of travel restrictions. Traffic to Brompton's website has hit record highs, particularly in the United States where the company has experienced an "incredible boom," according to a statement sent to The Verge.
The British company Gocycle saw its sales increase despite a disruption of its store network. Sales of its fast-folding Gocycle GX electronic bicycle have increased 65% in the past six weeks compared to the same period in 2019, the company told The Verge, traffic to its gocycle website .com having increased by 90%. The company attributes this growth to changing commuter habits in response to the pandemic.
“COVID is moving the e-bicycle adoption curve forward.
“Smart commuters are investing for the long term and going for e-bikes,” said Gocycle founder Richard Thorpe. “We have seen sales of our rapidly folding Gocycle GX line up over the past few weeks - literally at a rate 4 times the rate in urban areas than around this time last year. COVID is pushing the adoption curve forward ”.
Dutch e-bike maker VanMoof sells bikes online and in its own stores, bypassing traditional bike shops altogether. He says sales from February to April have increased dramatically compared to the same period last year. Sales increased in all of its major markets, notably in Germany (+ 226%), the United Kingdom (+ 184%), the Netherlands (+ 140%), the United States (+ 138%) and France (+ 92%). This increase is due, at least in part, to discounts given before the launch of the S3 and X3 e-bikes in April.
U.S. bicycle retailer Lectric eBikes announced a 140% increase in sales since March 15. “Our customers tell us e-bikes are a great option for the new lifestyle of the coronavirus era,” co-founder Levi Conlow told Electrek. "The dramatic increase in sales shows that nationally, people are looking to change the way they travel."
Seattle-based Rad Power Bikes said its April sales were up 297% from a year earlier, far exceeding the company's expectations. The company's sales to professional customers in the delivery industry also rose 191% from March to April this year, a spokesperson said.
Aventon Bikes, based in Ontario, Calif., Says it is inundated with orders, with sales rising in Massachusetts (+ 298%), California (+ 85%) and New York (+ 164%). "We're busier than ever, literally breaking daily records for orders and sales," Adele Nasr, Aventon's chief marketing officer, said in an email.
Globally, Google notes a spike in the search for the "best electric bike" from March 22, less than two weeks after the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic. During the same period, more and more people began to search for the “best bike”.
An influx of new bikes will require infrastructure to keep cyclists safe. It won't happen overnight, but even cycling-friendly cities like Amsterdam - where about half of all trips are made by bicycle - had to start somewhere.
The UK is leading the transformation by committing hundreds of millions of pounds to make cities more bike-friendly while pushing the public to avoid public transport. An emergency fund of £ 250m (around $ 300m) was taken from a £ 2bn cycling and walking package to create new bike lanes and safer crossroads "in just a few clicks. weeks ”. Cities have already been asked to reallocate road space "for a significantly higher number of cyclists and pedestrians". Electric scooters are currently illegal in the UK, but testing is accelerated from next year to next month to possibly change that.
UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps says alternative modes of transport will have short- and long-term benefits long after the pandemic has subsided:
During this crisis, millions of people discovered the bicycle - whether for exercise or as a safe and socially remote form of transportation. Although the message “stay home” remains unchanged today, when the country returns to work, we need these people to stay on their bikes and be joined by many more.
Otherwise, with currently severely limited public transport capacity, our trains and buses could be overloaded and our roads blocked, delaying emergency services, essential workers and vital supplies.
We know cars will continue to play a vital role for many, but looking to the future, we must build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities.
♀ So excited to see the new cycle path entering Park Lane last night.
♀ In collaboration with city councils, we are rapidly creating new cycle paths and spaces for pedestrians throughout the city. #StreetspaceLDN pic.twitter.com/Nd1oAQKJzV - Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) May 14, 2020 Last week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London (TfL) launched the Streetspace program which will transform the streets of London to help increase the number of cyclists and quintuple the number of pedestrians, thanks to relaxation of lockout restrictions. Most of the work is temporary but could become permanent, according to TfL.
Other European cities have launched similar initiatives. Milan, one of the most polluted cities in Europe, plans to convert 35 km of streets into spaces for cyclists and pedestrians over the summer, when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. The city plan includes temporary cycle lanes, new wider sidewalks, speed limits below 30 km / h, and streets where cyclists and pedestrians have priority over cars.
“We have worked for years to reduce car use. If everyone is driving a car, there is no place for people, there is no place to move around, there is no place for commercial activities outside the shops ”, Milan deputy mayor Marco Granelli said in comments reported by The Guardian. "Of course, we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis than before."
France will see more than 1000 km of temporary cycle paths being put in place in the coming weeks! Even in rural areas! @jen_keesmaat @RobinMazumder https://t.co/5Ypn5sHAj3 - Tudor ALEXIS (@ tudoralexis1) May 10, 2020 France is installing temporary cycle paths in cities across the country. Paris plans to open 400 miles of cycle paths and turn its largest city crossing into a bicycle-only highway. Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who championed the cause of cyclists long before the pandemic, said the idea of Paris returning to a car-dominated city was "out of the question".
"I say in all firmness that it is out of the question that we allow ourselves to be invaded by cars, and by pollution," Hidalgo said, according to CityLab. “This will only worsen the health crisis. Pollution is itself a health crisis and danger in itself - and the pollution associated with coronaviruses is a particularly dangerous cocktail. It is therefore out of the question to think that arriving in the heart of the city by car is any solution, when it could in fact make the situation worse ”.
Installation of a provisional cycle path in Brussels
You notice the speed with which they are drawn and delimited ... impressive! Pic.twitter.com/XaNwnuTDgg - Mathieu Chassignet (@M_Chassignet) April 24, 2020 Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union, adds some 40 km of cycle paths. “We know that two thirds of trips made in Brussels are less than three miles. We therefore want to encourage healthy people to walk or cycle, ”Transport Minister Elke Van den Brandt told Belgian newspaper Le Soir. "And for that, it is our responsibility to have secure infrastructures".
In the United States, a number of major cities have developed plans to close the streets to vehicular traffic to provide a safe space for walking and cycling at a social distance. And some even go further by making them permanent.
Seattle recently announced that it would permanently close 30 km of streets to most vehicles. “[The pedestrian streets] are an important tool for families in our neighborhoods to get out, exercise and enjoy the beautiful weather,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. “In the long term, these streets will become valuable assets in our neighborhoods”.
“In the long term, these streets will become valuable assets in our neighborhoods. "
In April, Oakland said it would begin to gradually trample the roads, with the goal of closing 74 miles to most vehicles, or about 10% of the cityscape. Denver has designated 13 miles of open streets, while Minneapolis has reserved 18 miles for pedestrians and cyclists. Boston plans to use street space for bike paths, wider sidewalks, and faster bus routes.
New York, which has seen a dramatic drop in car traffic, this week opened 12 miles of pedestrian roads and added 9 miles of protected cycle lanes. This is 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 a city SUV, said his goal is to reach a total of 100 miles of open streets.
New York recently legalized e-bikes, which has been a boon to immigrant workers who deliver food and heavily rely on e-bikes for work. New York City has yet to define a regulatory scheme for newly legalized vehicles, but e-bike makers expect sales in the city to skyrocket for city dwellers looking for quick ways to get around without use public transport or carpooling vehicles.
According to recent data, cycling has already exploded in the United States since the ban took effect. The Eco-counter, which collects data on bicycles, indicates that the number of bicycles has increased by 5% in North America compared to normal. In several parts of the United States, the increase exceeds 100% on weekends alone.
During this time, car traffic has dropped and the air becomes easier to breathe. According to federal data, the number of vehicle miles traveled on all roads and streets in the United States fell nearly 19% in March compared to the same month last year. As transportation researcher Yonah Freemark points out, that's 50.6 billion vehicle miles less in March compared to the baseline. And with an average fuel economy of 22.3 mpg in the United States, that's about 45 billion pounds of unemitted CO2, according to Freemark.
It's a remarkable transformation, but it could all be undone if cities aren't bold in the way they reimagine their streetscapes.
Amsterdam hasn't always been a world-class cycling city. In the early 1970s, cars dominated the streets. It took years of fierce activism and enlightened policymakers, freed from the desires of entrenched auto interests, for the city to realize that the car was not the future of urban transportation.
Today bikes permeate culture, making them as Dutch as wooden shoes and tulips. Everyone from toddlers to the elderly enjoys the freedom and security that comes with protected bike lanes and the by-product of smog-free air. Yes Amsterdam is flat, which makes it ideal for cycling. But e-bikes can flatten a hill in San Francisco, just like stay-at-home orders can flatten an infection curve.
Sadly, many of the COVID-19-era transport measures cities have put in place are timidly, often under the guise of temporary change - assuming, perhaps, that the world will quickly come back to life. normal after lifting of the immobilization measures. Verge readers know, however, that this is wishful thinking.
Or perhaps it is an underhanded policy, which facilitates the integration of the inhabitants in a new reality of urban transport.
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