Bikes, e-bikes to alter urban mobility & planning

‘Bike to the Future’ forum at the Taipei Cycle Show focuses on bikes’ effects on urban life

Giant's Dirt E+ hybrid bike

Giant's Dirt E+ hybrid bike (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The Taipei International Cycle Show, which opened on Tuesday, hosted a forum titled “Bike to the Future” at which panelists discussed the development of e-bikes and biking initiatives that could alter urban life.

The majority of the forum was intended to focus on the impact of e-bikes on urban life and development, but speaker Rich Conroy, education director at Bike New York, had more to say on public outreach for urban bicycle programs and how they are changing city attitudes and landscapes.

In his opening remarks to introduce the panel of Conroy and Mo-hua Yang, general manager of Taiwanese battery pack manufacturer TD HiTech Energy, European Cyclists' Federation President Manfred Neun said that the e-bike “is stabilizing business” as the bicycle industry moves from a sports business to a mobility business. Neun added that e-bikes are “for consumers to cycle with a smile.”

Yang emphasized Neun’s point about e-bikes improving business as the technology behind them develops to allow riders to go farther and move more freely. He noted that marketing has also changed from simply e-bikes to personal e-mobility, which breaks out of the confines of preconceived definitions of the products.

Yang showed a variety of e-mobility products, of which e-bikes are a large portion. He also said that not all e-bikes are the same, as some are pure electric scooters while others are pedelec, or pedal-assist, bikes.

(From left) Mo-hua Yang, Hannes Neupert of ExtraEnergy and Rich Conroy

However, hybridization and personalization allow manufacturers to now look beyond the e-bike or electric scooter to develop multifunctional products that could even interact with mobile devices. He added that e-bike design is still in the early stages and there is significant room for growth in the industry.

Conroy shifted the conversation to traditional bikes and efforts to make cities more bicycle friendly. He discussed improvements in bike lanes in New York City, particularly the establishment of protected bike lanes as a part of Vision Zero, which is an effort by cities worldwide to reduce bicycle fatalities to zero.

He said that engineering safer streets is the main focus of Bike New York, but that the organization has emphasized education programs mainly for cyclists but also for drivers to ensure everyone’s safety on the road.

Conroy also mentioned the establishment of CitiBike, a privately-owned public bike-share program that was launched in 2013, and its popularity in the city, which now boasts daily ridership of more than 38,000. The problem, however, is that it is not as widespread as Taiwan’s YouBike system and there is less space for expansion. He hopes that such bike-sharing programs can expand in the future to alleviate the need for other forms of transportation and free up space for bicycle parking.

Both Conroy and Yang agreed that cities need better infrastructure for bicycle and e-bike parking, such as pay parking facilities that they noted are used in Tokyo and some European cities.

Bike-sharing programs can also reduce the chaos that comes with free bicycle parking in urban environments, they noted. Yang said, on average, one shared bike is used 12 times per day, which means each docking station can be used as many times, reducing the amount of space needed if people traded personal bikes for bike-sharing programs for the purpose of commuting. He added that e-bike sharing is still in development and he doesn’t expect the trend to catch on until 2020.

Both panelists agreed that there is room for development in the industry with opportunities to improve products as well as lives.

They also both touched on the differences in marketing around the world, particularly as New York City has a diverse population with the American car mindset. Yang added that, especially for e-bikes, the selling point in Europe, the U.S., Japan and even Taiwan is that they are environmentally friendly, while for China it’s about convenience and economics.
eFlow pedelec bike

Taiwan Bicycle Association statistics show that while Taiwan’s bicycle export value decreased more than more than 21 percent last year, its e-bike exports surged 150 percent. Taiwan exported 132,000 e-bikes in 2016, up 58.6 percent from 2015. Worldwide sales of e-bikes totaled 36 million units, according to statistics presented by Yang.

Yang believes that e-bike and other e-mobility product sales will increase as batteries become more efficient to provide consumers with longer rides and as the products become better integrated with other mobile technology. Design, he said, will also attract customers.

The Taipei International Cycle Show, which is celebrating its 30th year, runs through Saturday at Nangang Exhibition Center.