Kicking off last week’s Eurobike trade show came the Cycling Industry Leaders’ Breakfast, a meet of the trade’s CEOs and influentials and the meet struck a welcome tone with much of the discussion centred on horizon broadening.
The bicycle industry has come under much criticism for its focus on the sport segments in recent times and it appears that has been noted by execs who spent much of the CIL Breakfast mulling over what’s required to attract a wider customer base. The European Cyclists Federation, represented by Adam Bodor, Advocacy Director at ECF and vice chair of EU tourism council, opened with a presentation that caught the eye of many.
“Women, kids and the elderly are finding accessibility difficult. 67% of European population are either interested, or interested but concerned by the safety of cycling,” started Bodor.
Indeed it was a 60% majority who were said to be most able to be converted to cycling and that, said Bodor, could unlock as many as 343 million potential buyers in Europe as a result.
“E-bikes can make cycling easy, whether because of physical condition or otherwise,” said Bodor, hinting at where sales may come from. “If people have the choice to cycle freely sales could reach 30 million by 2030. This means making it a priority to develop our underwhelming cycling infrastructure situation.
At the present rate with existing conditions, Bodor said that the industry has not done so badly; but it could do better than the 22% cycling growth average across Europe between 2015 to 2017.
Are e-bikes replacing conventional bikes?
“Not necessarily, but it could happen,” says Bodor, who rightly says that pedal-power demand has slipped a gear in some markets. “Conventional bike sales can grow moderately between now and 2030, but for conventional bikes it is even more important than for e-Bikes to have quality cycling infrastructure to assist rider confidence.”
Innovation, quality, price and quantity are factors weighing into these forecasts, but it is the cycling environment that is key, says the ECF Advocacy Director.
“The bicycle is not the end of the story; safe infrastructure, service and promotion are strongly influencing sales potential. If motorised transport is prioritised we see a lot less growth, particularly for families and children. Really dedicated spaces – such as those seen in Denmark and the Netherlands – tend to see a good modal share in respect of the population.”
It is a 20% spend of transport budgets which the ECF believe is the necessary level to bring about the required change in a sensible time frame. The ECF believes around 3 billion Euro in spend leading up to 2027 and 6 billion for the period between 2028 and 2034 would be sufficient to change transport habits across Europe.
Subsidy of electric vehicles
“Proposals from the European commission are disappointing in that we have a standard VAT rate for e-Bikes and reduced rate for e-Cars in some markets. This is not a good balance of priority and the same treatment would give the bicycle industry a lift,” said Bodor, indicating where some lobbying weight may be applied.
Other barriers to uptake include the risk of electric bike insurance weighing in and causing a negative effect, alongside helmet laws in 9 EU countries slowing uptake.
Infrastructure directive success
Highlighting successes in recent memory that will help the industry open cycling to new customers, ECF work has seen legislative success in some regions that will see safe infrastructure integrated into major European roads. “In the following years this will bring a major breakthrough,” says Bodor.
For example, Eurovelo network progress has seen hundreds of millions of Euro of investment across Europe; including 150 million in Andalucia, Spain and significant new routes in Poland.
“Cycling infrastructure is the key and of a good quality too. Low quality cycling infrastructure will never unlock the sales the industry seeks,” concludes Bodor.