The Future is here, the future is e-Rides
The movie “Back to the Future” did not get all the 2015 predictions right. You may however be surprised to learn that 11 future technologies were predicted. The impressive list includes predicting wireless games, voice activation, 3D movies, tablets, video conferencing, virtual reality, drones, sleek cameras, flat screen TVs, mobile phone credit cards and biometrics. Not bad for a movie made in 1985!
When we think of the future for commuters, it is almost universally agreed that electric bikes and scooters will play an important role in the changing landscape. People want the freedom to move but are also realising that traditional modes of transport are perhaps not the best solution as we become more environmentally aware. People know that there are better alternatives to driving to work and are looking to change their commuting habits on a permanent basis.
The rise of the electric ride
Year on year sales of electric bikes and scooters have increased. If a pandemic has not slowed down people’s appetite for electric rides it is unlikely anything else will. Electric rides offer a greener solution than the car, bus, or train. Ultimately, they also provide a feeling of freedom and connectivity with nature that other modes of transport fail to deliver.
The electric scooter has had the advantage of being thrust into our consciousness for longer due to early ride share adopters of the technology like Lime (in Australia and NZ) and Byrd in the US. The scooter has the slight advantage of being more portable and lighter than bikes which appeals greatly to urban commuters. Even the smallest of electric folding bikes cannot compete with scooter weight and compactness. Additionally, scooters offer riders a more agile and less energy intensive mode of commuting.
The expansion of the cycle lane
In my hometown city of Brisbane, we are starting to invest in bikeway upgrades to improve the safety for bike riders. Brisbane has a 25-year transport plan which is looking at ways to improve commuting in the city. Unfortunately, in the last 20 years there has been a 60% increase in car use in Brisbane. This is not sustainable. One of the transport directives is to deliver more walking and cycling pathways and deliver infrastructure to better support alternatives to car use. The Brisbane City Council report acknowledges the role electric bikes will make in finding a better solution:
“Cycling is attracting a growing proportion of commuter trips, even for distances over 10km. Attractive, direct, safe and easily understood pathways to major activity centres along key commuter corridors and the provision of end-of-trip facilities in many workplaces has supported this change. Electric bikes are also making cycling a viable option for some in the community, making travelling longer distances possible.”
More still needs to be done to improve cycle lane infrastructure but we are definitely moving in the right direction. If governments are serious about reducing emissions then travelling to work by car needs to be discouraged but not at the safety of citizens. The safer it is to travel by bike then the more that people will choose this as an alternative. Electric rides mean that a wider cross-section of the public can now use this mode of transport as a viable option. The key though is to make cycle lanes more connected to key working hubs rather than the sporadic and inconsistent way they are currently designed. By incorporating cycle lanes into town planning we will see a more effective and coherent infrastructure for future riders.
Safer riding conditions will also lift the number of female electric riders which currently sits far below that of men (around 27% female versus 83% male). This will have an added flow on effect of designers and manufacturers paying more attention to this key demographic. This will lead to more exciting design that will cater more to this largely untapped market. This can only be a good thing. Designers should be inclusive and electric rides must cater to all tastes and demographics.
Hopefully we can continue to move towards a future that will take care of the next generation and not leave them to deal with a world of road congestion, high pollution and poor road infrastructure. The future can be so much better, greener, safer and more electric. We just need to make sure that we accept nothing less from our elected officials. Nothing less than positive change is acceptable.