The Bicycle and the Future of Mobility: What To Expect by 2030
More than 200-years after the bicycle was invented, we would argue its importance and effect on the future of mobility has never been more poised to make an impact. With global warming, urbanization and our growing car problem pushing us towards change, the bicycle is an effective and proven solution for moving forward.
For the past 30-years, MODYN has been a small part of that history, helping companies create city bikes, electric bikes, leisure bikes, cargo bikes, child seat carriers and share bikes. We have always believed in the power of bikes to promote more accessible, easy and sustainable movement in our world. Now, with a lot of experience under our belt and our gaze fixed on the future, we see the bike as one of the major drivers for change in our cities and our ability to reach global sustainability goals.
Mobility Drivers Today: Global Warming, Our Car Problem & Urbanization
Before we dive into why the bike is so perfectly positioned to create a positive impact on the future of mobility, we have to examine what’s driving it. The first major driver is the climate crisis and the attempts to halt and reverse the most damaging impacts. Just last year in Glasgow, Scotland, at the COP26 Summit, member states of the United Nations Climate Change conference agreed to reach global net-zero by mid-century, with a major focus on increasing the use of net-zero vehicles (NEV’s).
As explained by the COP26 summit, “Road transport accounts for over 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the total emissions are rising faster than any other sector.” In order to meet their other major goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C degrees, doubling down on these NEV transportation methods will be imperative.
According to COP26, there are already 8.5 million zero-emission passenger vehicles worldwide, but our car problem is still a problem. Not only do we need to greatly increase the number of electric, net-zero cars on the road, but we also need to address the greater problems that cars cause. Here in the European Union, 25% of all emissions are caused by transport, 60% of that caused by passenger cars that are impacting people’s daily lives and health. In fact, according to The European Environment Agency, 98% of city dwellers face air pollution. Here in the Netherlands where we’re based, Dutch people spend an average of 40 hours a year (an entire extra workweek) in traffic jams that spew emissions into the air while they sit idle.
These problems are especially impactful in urban areas around the world, and their impacts will only be made worse as cities continue to grow. Today, a staggering 3.3 billion people already live in cities, but by 2030, the UNDP expects that number will climb to 5-billion — 60-percent of the world’s population. Urban infrastructure not only can’t keep up with population growth, but it needs to be restructured to accommodate global warming initiatives.
It is here, in cities, that we can see the huge impact that sustainable personal transportation vehicles, like bicycles, could have on not only global warming initiatives but quality of life. In cities of the future, space traditionally siphoned off for highways and car parks can be freed up for green space and housing, still leaving plenty of room for bike lanes and storage. But in order to get there, we have to continue to innovate and embrace the trends and technology shaping the future.
Why The Bike: It Has Proven Potential
Here at MODYN, we see the bike playing a major role in modern, sustainable transportation. But we also see the future fostering some essential trends that allow the bike to become a smarter, more accessible option.
1. The Future is Electric
By 2030, 3x more e-bikes will be sold than passenger cars. Electric bikes are the future — transforming not only personal transportation and commutes, but last-mile delivery.
There are some things we already know — like that electric bikes have been great equalizers, allowing women and the elderly to travel further and more freely. But, their power is also being leveraged for more diverse transportation needs, like last-mile delivery, bringing everything from groceries to goods from brick and mortar stores and warehouses directly to consumers’ homes. Today, e-bikes are even used to transport other essential forms of micro-mobility, like e-scooters, between locations. What’s evident is that the ways we are using the e-bike today will only become more important and common in the future.
According to the European Cyclists Federation:
• In 2019 Dutch women made 85% more e-bike trips than men
• In 2019, women drove 14% more km than men
• 80% of the e-bikes sold in NL are to people who are over 50 years
• From 2010-2017, people aged 70+ drove 33% more km on e-bikes
But, by 2030, the most surprising thing about the electric bike will be its shape. The e-bike is market is quite literally transforming — taking on new and exciting shapes that push your perception of the bike altogether. Not only will we have traditional e-bikes, but we will have bikes that look like scooters, mopeds and motorcycles and even e-bikes that have roofs and look like cars.
This imperative adaption is what’s going to make the e-bike ubiquitous, giving consumers the option to choose the e-bike that makes sense for their needs. Mobility design will play a major role in this, researching and identifying consumer needs and designing for them. If mobility designers and brands can make transitioning the e-bike as comfortable as possible, we can get closer to realizing net-zero goals.
However, in the future, we will also have to have a better battery recycling solution. As of 2020, only 5% of batteries are recycled, with finite minerals for creating new batteries in the first place. For the e-bike (and the rest of mobility electrification) to work, we will need to have a sustainable recycling plan.
2. The Future is Sharing
Share bikes, scooters and ridesharing aren’t just a trend, they’re the growing future of mobility. Right now, these mobility solutions are already being used by commuters, city-dwellers and travelers not only to get around town but to connect to public transit. But, there’s still a lot more adoption to be done.
At the moment, a ‘superuser’ is considered someone who has used at least three modes of shared transport (car sharing, bike sharing, scooter sharing etc.) in the last three months. But if share mobility is to become mainstream and totally integrated, we’ll need people to design solutions that allow people to use them much more often.
To achieve that and get people to actually give up their cars so we can make more space in our cities, we will have to create accessible and extensive share mobility networks that allow people to seamlessly commute from home to work, get around town to run errands and travel.
This not only requires erecting bike sharing hubs in locations where they’re most central but creating space that is multi-functional and gives people options. To do this, we need to create convenience — like adding grocery stores to mobility hubs and providing e-cargo bikes for parents who need to transport children and those groceries. By designing solutions for people’s real needs and challenges, we give them the incentive to ditch their cars and switch to sustainable sharing models.
What’s more, the entire process of hiring a share bike (or any shared transport) needs to be seamless. Intertwining the digital and physical experience, finding the bike needs to be easy, as does unlocking it, riding it and returning it. But, more than just ease of use, seamless integration is imperative to real integration in consumers’ lives.
Up until now, people have been used to owning their own products and having autonomy. If we’re going to ask them to share, we need to prove it’s not only easy but a valuable experience. There’s a lot we can learn from Gen Z, the generation who believes experiences provide more value than just owning a product in itself. Creating a seamless process for them and future generations who will share the same values is also important for the future of sharing.
So why is the bike best positioned for the future of sharing? Well, it’s sheer accessibility. Many people know how to ride bikes, and they’re generally safe. Plus, e-bikes level the playing field, allowing people to travel easier and go further. What’s more, like we mentioned above, the bike will continue to change shape, adapting to people’s needs. Students can hop on a simple city bike, parents can grab cargo bikes, and one day, commuters can hop into covered e-bikes.
The scooter, while small and agile, doesn’t provide the same sense of safety or flexibility. And if we’re already trying to move away from cars — especially in our urban centers — our reliance on the shared car will need to be much more limited. The share bike is going to be the mobility solution that helps us transform our cities and achieve our sustainability goals.
3. The Future is Local
Over the past two years, the pandemic only highlighted existing problems in the bike supply chain, like lack of scalability and sustainability. But with growing demand, global supply chains were already under pressure, and in the future, we will close the gap by bringing production much closer to the end customer.
The bike supply chain is under pressure.
• Demand for e-bikes is increasing worldwide
• Lockdowns in Asia certainly play a role
• Manufacturers cannot easily scale up
• Focus on cost and efficiency
• New production techniques in Europe
Bikes are also a prime example of how local production can have a positive impact on everything from sustainability to jobs. Today, many bikes are produced abroad in Asia, largely using unstainable aluminum mining that has an immense carbon footprint. In fact, what many people don’t know is that the mining of aluminum has a huge impact on the environment — from disrupting ecosystems to the pollution that comes from dig sites.
You also have to consider all the factors that go into manufacturing, from the excavation equipment to the trains, long-haul trucks, cargo ships, and oil tankers that move the raw material to processing plants. Plus, there’s the condition of the workers who make the bikes to consider, too. And while aluminum is recyclable, a huge amount of energy goes into creating it in the first place.
This is a problem innovative companies have already been exploring — working on bringing production to their consumer’s backyards by leveraging additive manufacturing technologies.
4. The Future is Smart
If you think we’re well connected now, just wait for the future. Of course bikes – especially share bikes — will need smart integrations. Apps will allow riders to easily find, book and return their bikes like they do now. But, they’ll also have to do better. We think integrations with local public transportation apps, for example, will allow for more seamless use. Or, a general marketplace where riders can easily choose between what’s available in a certain area rather than switching between apps to find a bike.
Apps that allow users to easily request fixes or tell the company when the bike has been damaged will also be key in the future. For example, this will be key for companies that lease bikes and want to maintain a healthy fleet. Additionally, more and better technology is going to be needed for bike-sharing companies to track and distribute their bikes to meet consumer needs.
However, we think one of the most exciting smart innovations of the future will be the integration of 5G. This network will not only power our cellphones but be widely used by smart cars of the future, especially those powered by autonomous driving. Just think, that smart car on the road could have the power to detect the signal in your bike, helping the car identify your bike and avoid it on the road. Future technology like this has the opportunity to make our roads safer, encouraging use and helping us integrate bikes more seamlessly.
As we touched on above, this smarter future is also key to user experience. Gen Z is already focused on the experience a product can provide, but if we’re ever going to win over other consumers, we need to make the process as easy and pleasurable as possible. Smart integrations are one of the biggest factors in that. But, we also think of a real and attainable one. We’re already seeing this technology being integrated alongside bikes today, and in the future, this will only become smarter and more embedded.
Want to discuss the future of the bicycle further?
Not only do we have a great outlook on the future, but a rich, 30-year history of bicycle design. Let’s talk about what we can create, together. Get in touch with our Managing Director Gert-Jan directly to discuss at firstname.lastname@example.org