The world of bike ecosystems is vast and varied. Across Europe, it is difficult to place this world under one hat as the way people use their bikes is highly variable, majorly dependent on the local environment. While in Copenhagen there is a dedicated bike infrastructure, London faces a fragmented bicycle system. Nevertheless, in recent years, the European Union has prioritised making cities more multimodal and cycle-friendly. Governments are recognising that micro-mobility (which involves bikes and e-bikes) is the future of urban transport and that it is in their interest to continually foster. From reducing vehicle storage space to a positive environmental impact, many states have introduced subsidies to encourage people to use these micro-mobility options.
A prevalent theme across the continent is reducing our environmental impact. A key benefit to micro-mobility is its positive effect on the environment. Unsurprisingly, with many European governments renewing their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint, they are encouraging people to use bikes to commute. As well as improving air quality, from a health perspective, micro-mobility also encourages physical activity. Cycling or using an e-bike could improve people’s health, leading to a potential reduction in healthcare costs.
There are a variety of factors that encompass the bike ecosystem, which we explore below:
The Future of Mobility
Bikes have become a key part of every future (urban) mobility system. Powered by changing consumer behaviour, technological innovation, and policy changes, there is no denying the surge in bike usage. This increase has mainly been following a multimodal approach which indirectly also drives demand for bike-based solutions to go ahead with other modes of transportation like e-scooters and public transport. The future of mobility is also focused on improving the environment. Accordingly, with many European governments renewing their commitment to reducing Co2 emissions, this promise is also increasing bike mobility through higher motivation for redesigned streets. More recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has also increased the general demand for bikes. With so many factors driving bike usage, it is unsurprising that in Europe especially, the need is currently surpassing supply, and people are experiencing a long wait time for availability.
Buy, rent or share?
Just as there is a range of micro-mobility choices like a bike or scooter, the same applies to (bike) ownership models. The three main options (sharing, subscribing, or owning a bicycle) have different levels of popularity across Europe. For cyclists looking to purchase a bike, components to consider include distance of travel, regularity of use, and availability of public infrastructure. Meanwhile, many individuals in high-density geographies, with smaller living spaces, are opting for bike-sharing schemes over private ownership. Where there is a strong network of dedicated cycle infrastructure such as bike lanes, private bike ownership is higher than in cities that are without. With so many variables, it is no wonder that bike-sharing in Europe is currently a highly fragmented market with a lot of competition.
Like with any key mode of transport, safety is also an important topic to address. As there is an increased focus and commitment to cycling and micro-mobility safety, cities that lack adequate cycle infrastructure will need to become better equipped. To meet the increasing demands for cycling, this will also provide a clear opportunity for bike-sharing, subscription, and private sales providers to market their products as superior with respect to safety and life preservation on still traffic-busy roads. Nevertheless, this market is still limited as cities without dedicated cycle networks are likely to follow those with such a system as Utrecht, who according to Wired, benefits from world-class cycling infrastructure. Indeed, in this Dutch city, there is in fact reduced concern for safety as users feel secure cycling on the established, widespread cycling system. Therefore, sales of safety equipment like bicycle helmets are lower compared to less “structured” or in other words less secure cities.
It is clear that the biking ecosystem is evolving at a rapid speed. The numbers truly speak for themselves - within the EU, bikes are expected to reach 30 million bikes sold per year, which would be a 47 % increase in comparison to the year 2030. This exponential growth is the result of a multitude of factors from an increase in government funding to changes in buying behaviour to the impact of the recent pandemic. With this in mind, it is important that countries continue to provide the right conditions and support to encourage the further growth of micro-mobility solutions. Baloise recognises the importance of this market and is continually looking for opportunities in the biking space.