The three big things to make me wonder this week are,
- The rise of electric bikes
- Dockless Bike share schemes
- The big fixie court case of Charlie Alliston
The three things may seem unconnected but they have all made me consider where the cycle industry is headed in 10-15 years or even sooner.
E’s are good, Ebenezer good!
Electric bikes are arguably the fastest growing section of the bike industry. And this growth will continue as battery technology becomes cheaper and more advanced. This must be in part because the industry has tapped into a section of the market that previous bikes could not. The person who couldn’t have imagined themselves riding a bike is stepping over a frame when they would likely have spent the same money on fuel or a bus pass. Yes! I know that electric mountain bikes are being purchased by avid cyclists but their money would have been spent in the industry anyway. It’s the new injection that is interesting. What’s more is that those who cannot afford the shiny £3k bike that overtakes them are doing what comes naturally. Buying a cheap E-bike conversion system and DIY e biking.
The big issue here is that soon we will see these cheaper systems for sale here in the U.K. We will have hundreds of unskilled people cycling potentially unrestricted e-bikes. (not just pedal assist either!) Where will this lead? To government legislation of course. One high-profile case and we will all be registering our e-bikes and have yearly MOTs just like we do with our cars.
Finally a use for QR codes.
Which nicely leads me to the rise of the bike share industry. Far from taking away from the cycling industry these large numbers of bikes will all need servicing and will all need PDI (pre-delivery inspection) to make sure that the companies controlling them are not liable for their own high-profile injury case. That’s money in the pockets of the mechanics and shops, And more people trying out cycling on their own terms without needing the capital investment to buy. Let’s hope that bike share kills the BSO (Bike shaped object) from the likes of Halfords! By reducing the need for cheap transportation perhaps we will see those customers that usually spend £69.99 on a BSO using the money to signup for 2 years of bike share instead. The benefits are that the casual user doesn’t need to service or store the bike.
The recent launch of 4 different bike share companies into the capital can only lead one way. Government laws and sanctions demanding a code of practice to govern these systems are already being written. Where will that lead? Well, likely to the same place as the e-bikes do. Bike share companies will be forced to put each bike forward for a yearly checkup (MOT) and regular interim servicing. These bikes have already paved the way for numbers to be printed on the sides (number plates anyone?) and for the paperwork to be in place proving their roadworthiness. What’s good for one may become good for everyone leaving us all with roadworthy checks on our personal fleets. Yes, my Orange patriot is SORN right now.
In rolls Charlie Alliston, the case that had been waiting to happen. A cyclist with an unroadworthy bike kills a pedestrian. Brakeless BMX And fixed wheel bikes have been commonplace for a long time now and we all know how it works. It’s a real thrill because we know that it is inherently dangerous, we never consider that the danger may not be to us but to an innocent pedestrian.
What has this case done? Made the government realize that there may be a need for bikes to be checked for roadworthiness. Sure the shops check the bikes carefully at the point of sale but after that initial check, anything can happen. When that bike is an e-bike capable of 45 kph and weighing more than a small moped, I kind of agree, it should be checked yearly and a record kept for safety. Check this link if you think I’m joking. The thought of riding an e-bike which has under-tensioned spokes (capable of a catastrophic failure) terrifies me.
Who will lead the way in this mass change? Well, it’s already started, the generally unprofessional attitude of most bicycle mechanics and the failure of the industry to recognize the good ones as a skilled and valued staff member has been keeping it at bay. Not for much longer though. Take note of the three-copy sign-off sheet that comes with a new Specialized E-bike and its hefty service manual with mileage checks. Sounds like a car doesn’t it. Where does the tax disk go?
Bike shops are going to have to up their game as their mechanics will get no work if they can’t service and sign a bike off to the new government’s standards. This paves the way for the cycle mechanics (good ones) to become the professional body that they should be. Just as car mechanics are tested and trained and paid in accordance to skill the cycling industry may be on the verge of reform.
It’s already started, check this article posted on Bikebiz today.