Bicycles can play (are playing) a great part in the decarbonizing of our cities. Their affordability and repairability, and the way they allow a closer, more intimate way of traveling neighbourhoods, are all greatly aligned with the values and investigations around Fab Cities. As great as they are though, in our context they’re not that original, so instead of spending multiple posts on the topic, here’s a quick roundup of three recent articles on bikes and micromobility.
Horace Dediu, one of the leaders and best informed people concerning the movement and research around micromobility (small electric vehicles of all forms) was interviewed on Azeem Azhar’s Exponential View podcast. They discuss “how the micromobility industry has grown so fast, how an urbanizing population will further boost the market, and how big tech firms like Apple and Alphabet might claim a piece of the pie.”
A fast growing segment of micromobility, cargo bikes are spreading around the world and going through a mini Cambrian explosion of shapes and forms.
There are roughly four types of cargo bike in common use today, although none of these terms are official and there’s plenty of blurring on the edges. Cargo Bikes, for instance, are stretch limousine versions of regular two-wheeled bikes, with a small cargo section behind the front wheel and in front of the rider. Then there are Box Trikes, with two wheels up front and a much larger box between them, while the rider steers from behind. Now, both of these can be described as Bakfiets, from the Dutch “box bike,” but there’s a world between the two and three-wheeled versions.
A more nebulous category is the Longtail, a regular bicycle with a longer, load-bearing frame behind the rider. Instead of a pannier rack, the frame can hold a small cargo box, or a bench seat that can hold an adult or two children. … Finally there are Cargo Trikes and Cargo Quad Cycles, where the rider sits up front and there’s a hefty box mounted on the two rear wheels.
Another, perhaps less “mini,” Cambrian explosion is happening with e-bikes. Adam Satariano at The New York Times looks at VanMoof, a “Dutch e-bike company taking inspiration from Apple and Tesla, [and] is one of the world’s hottest brands in a bike market remade by the pandemic.”
Once seen by consumers as unreliable, expensive and ugly, battery-powered bikes are now one of the fastest growing forms of urban transportation. With simplified designs, new corporate and government incentive policies and more awareness about the environmental benefits of cycling versus driving, VanMoof estimates industry sales will hit $46 billion by 2026, double prepandemic predictions.
Image: Maja Hitij for Getty Images.