According to Brompton CEO Will Butler-Adams, the bike industry is about to see a ‘mega transformation’ of the bicycle and its role in society going forwards.
In an interview with CIN after a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG), Butler-Adams revealed that e-Bikes could be pivotal in increasing the number of people taking up cycling.
“All these things are colliding; our awareness of our own mental and physical health, the fact we have an urbanised society and we’re all living in cities and so on,” he said. “We came up with this mad idea of using a giant metal box to get us across the city, but we can’t do that because it’s too busy. So, we stuff ourselves underground into metal tubes where it’s dark and the air sucks. Now, we’re suddenly thinking, ‘this doesn’t make sense, it’s not making us happy.'”
Butler-Adams’ solution: the e-Bike. “Here’s the bicycle reinvented in the form of an e-Bike which is so delightful that it will deliver health and it will deliver a better environment for us to live with our families in cities,” he enthused. “We just need our government to get a bit of a move on and stop being so slow to encourage it because the evidence is there, we don’t even have to guess at it; just go to Northern Europe and it’s there for all to see.”
Many in the bike industry and government are also singing the e-Bikes’ praises as a form of transport in cities, such as APPCG co-chair Ruth Cadbury MP, the Bicycle Association (BA), and the likes of Tern Bicycles.
“It’s all about the consumer,” said Butler-Adams. “If a customer loves it, it makes them happy, makes their lives better and they enjoy it and use it then of course it’s good for the industry. And the main reason why the e-Bike is so good for the industry is you put someone on it and they flipping love it!”
“99% of us know how to ride a bike, but only four percent of us are doing it regularly. We need to stop worrying about the four percent and start piling in to the 95% who all know how to ride a bike but for some reason aren’t.”
According to the Brompton boss, in order to increase the number of people on both pedal-powered and e-Bikes, the industry needs to start looking outside of itself and tap into communities further afield. “We need to engage with the community that doesn’t see themselves as cyclists and find ways to put our bikes where non-cyclists are. We need to put our bikes into businesses, put our bikes into shopping malls, put our bikes into schools, so people can experience the fun of an e-Bike.”
Embracing the evolution of e-Bikes seems to be key in the cycle industry reaching out to a broader range of communities, appealing to groups of people that a traditional bicycle perhaps wouldn’t. In Butler-Adams’ eyes, it is equally important for the government to invest in cycling initiatives, incentive schemes and infrastructure to encourage people to get out on their bikes.
“We know the Government can affect the habits of the nation, particularly in the early stages. Once it’s embedded, and once it’s normalised then that support isn’t needed,” he offered. “So you’re looking at a three to five year focused investment from government in terms of communication, subsidy, such as the Cycle to Work scheme, although not everybody is covered by that.”
As Butler-Adams aptly put it, “It’s happening, not fast enough, but it’s definitely happening.”