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World Cycling Forum Concludes: Perfect Storm Coming for Bikes

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ROTTERDAM, the Netherlands – The World Cycling Forum that took place Tuesday and yesterday in Rotterdam, the Netherlands unmasked myths like the one that predicts the end of the bicycle sector due to the rise of bike and/or e-step-scooter sharing systems in all major cities. On the contrary. In fact, all keynote speakers of the 2nd World Cycling Forum held on 4 and 5 June were very united in their conclusions; there’s a perfect storm coming for (electric) bikes as the fight against climate change will be intensifying in the next years. However, the bike sector also urgently needs to take action to make that ‘storm’ happen.

World Cycling Forum Concludes: Perfect Storm Coming for Bikes
Making the bike sector more sustainable, as well as its products and production processes, was THE topic at the 2019 World Cycling Forum. – Photo WFSGI

What the 2019 World Cycling Forum, organized by the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) and the international trade publication Bike Europe especially made clear is that bicycles and e-bikes can take a leadership role in the fight against climate change. In particular as cycling is a win/win/win, as a high-ranking official from the World Health Organization pointed out in her presentation at the World Cycling Forum. Another expert concluded that cycling is currently the fastest growing mobility modality in Europe. What was also determined is that cities must be created for cycling and people and not for cars.

These declarations underline the theme of the 2019 World Cycling Forum which was “Putting the bicycle industry at the core of sustainable development.” However, to reach that center point, the bicycle sector cannot lean back. Action will have to be taken. And fast. The experts who spoke at the 2-day conference for the bicycle industry also explained in detail what such actions should look like. And from very different angles.

The bicycle sector cannot lean back. Action will have to be taken. And fast.

Engagement needed

Various expert speakers strongly advocated that the bicycle industry must do more than sell its products to consumers. It has to raise awareness for cycling to get people out of their cars and to take on a more active lifestyle by using bicycles to commute and/or for leisure. “The industry needs to create the atmosphere, the experience.”

What they also called for is prioritizing safety around cycling and bikes. “That’s the main concern of consumers and that goes beyond the fact that more cycle paths are needed in cities. It’s about the safety of children for having them cycle to schools. They have to be trained and the industry needs to get actively involved in that.”

Another safety aspect concerns bicycles and e-bikes itself. Like by adding features like ABS to electric bicycles. Or like what Pon Bike Group’s Gazelle is working on in cooperation with the Delft Technical University. It’s Cycling Lab is developing asteer-assistant function. It is being developed with a view to an increasing number of accidents occurring in the Netherlands with (in particular front-wheel driven) e-bikes. By the way, about 30 of the close to 170 participant of the 2019 World Cycling Forum are visiting TU Delft Cycling Lab today as the optional 3rdday of the Conference.

Making bike industry sustainable

Of course, this 2ndWorld Cycling Forum was also about making the bike sector more sustainable; about making more sustainable products and making them in more sustainable manufacturing processes. One of the striking conclusions here was that the bicycle sector should avoid producing carbon products because they are not recyclable. Unless those carbon parts are designed in such a way that they can be re-used.

The speakers – ranging from sustainability specialists employed by Decathlon to professors from TU Delft and Cambridge University – who dealt with this subject in their presentations, came up with wide ranging recommendations. The two sustainability experts from Decathlon explained how the world’s biggest sports and bike retailer is working on its transformation to become sustainable. And that’s not a minor operation. Over two-thousand Decathlon employees in ten countries are involved in this operation which was started already years ago and which includes the over 1,000 Tier 1 suppliers of Decathlon. The company that operates over 1,500 sports stores worldwide has worked out a program that entails 4 targets. They are: social compliance; tackling modern slavery; preventing local pollution and fight climate change. The two Decathlon specialists explained to the participants of the World Cycling Forum (including many Decathlon suppliers) that in order to achieve the sustainability goals that the company has set itself, their cooperation is required as well as knowledge sharing.

Steve Evans, professor of the Cambridge University, came to this astonishing conclusion: “Sustainability will be a greater disruption than technology.” He made it clear to the audience that short term action can be taken in two ways. The first is “Look around in your factories; talk to your production engineers as they know how to treat waste and what can be re-used. And closely inspect ways to save energy, water and materials.” His second recommendation was “Visit each other facilities. Share knowledge and learn from each other.”

This and much more was what the World Cycling Forum addressed in detail. With that the close to 170 participants were directed to a future which must become far more sustainable.

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