Cycling Industries Europe (CIE) is continuing its relentless approach to advocacy as the publication of the European Declaration on Cycling makes this year a historic one for Europe.
Published by the European Commission, the declaration elevates cycling to a strategic priority across the EU and recognises its potential to achieve environmental and mobility objectives.
One particular focus of CIE is channelled through its Bike Share Expert Group which met in Brussels at the start of December. For this group, advocacy means promoting the inclusion of bike sharing in EU policies and funding strategies.
The push for bike sharing
“We believe that bike sharing will resume its leader position of micromobility next year,” President of the CIE’s Bike Share Expert Group Kristian Brink tells Zag Daily.
To achieve this, the group is working closely with the EU and national policy makers to drive the sector forward. Through its series of webinars and workshops, the group has made itself the go-to reference point for many European Cities looking to promote bike sharing.
Advised by the Bike Share Expert Group, the CIE in 2023 was successful in seeing the first ever mention of bike sharing in the European Declaration of Cycling.
But the work is far from over.
“We are pushing the bike share directive as an integral part of transport that needs funding,” said Urban Sharing’s Head of Business Development Tom Nutley.
Global micromobility software platform Urban Sharing is one of the CIE’s 14 Bike Share Experts which represent leading bike share operators and service providers.
Urban Sharing assists micromobility fleets in improving efficiency and increasing revenue in cities across Norway, Canada, Spain, France and more.
“Bike sharing is key to decarbonising our cities and helping the EU in its green transition. Enabling access to affordable bikes for everyone is imperative to enhancing the modal shift and moving people away from private car use,” said CIE Policy Director Lauha Fried.
Understanding sustainability as a whole
Tom Nutley argues that sustainability goes far beyond the materials that are used in a bike share system.
While cities have become increasingly concerned with the environmental impact of sourcing decisions made by operators and suppliers, there’s also the sustainability of the entire industry to consider.
“The whole industry is a bubble waiting to burst,” says Tom.
Nutley advocates for a standardised framework that cities use to grant tenders which is continually updated to create a level playing field for bike sharing operators.
“We need cities to understand that bikesharing is a transport.
“Instead, operators are expected to scale at the speed of a software company, but they’re not a software company. Because of this, they dive into every contract just to stay alive and then struggle to deliver, maybe because of a backlog in the supply chain or maybe because they didn’t have the money in the first place. Then the industry gets a black market.”
Urban Sharing has seen tenders where up to 80% of the conditions are dependent on price. This includes how much the operator is charging the city, the price of the bike and how much it costs to run. The result of such a price-focused approach is compromised quality, Tom says.
“Price and value are directly aligned. As some industries proliferate, you can get cheap products for better quality, but this industry hasn’t matured enough for that yet. All that happens is you get the cheapest option in the city rather than the best because the award points are all being pushed towards price.
“Cities aren’t looking for the best solution in the city. They’re just looking for the cheapest, or the easiest to implement. The issue with this is there’s little room for innovation and the way the tender point system is geared reflects that.”
Taking advocacy into 2024
“The advocacy towards the European Commission and relevant EU institutions will continue in 2024,” Kristian says.
Following a study by CIE’s Bike Share Expert Group, the team expects policy-making and further engagement from the European Parliament next year. This is hoped to drive the funding the group has been advocating for since before the European Declaration on Cycling was published.
Titled ‘Shared Ambition’, the study is the first of its kind which benchmarks bike sharing services in 148 European cities and acts as a tool to support the EU’s aims for active and shared transport.
“The EU Member States, regions and cities can see what could be delivered if comprehensive bike sharing schemes were adopted and considered a fully integrated mode of public transport in all EU cities which have a population of over 100,000 population,” Lauha says.
One plan that the Bike Share Expert Group has in the coming years is to increase the volume of bikes per capita.
“Whether it’s e-bikes, mechanical bikes, free-floating or station-based, bike share is back and has a stronger presence than ever,” Kristian says.
2024 is already looking positive for the bike sharing industry after records have already been broken in a number of European cities.
“Paris has taken the lead with 6.5 million trips made by bike sharing in just one month,” Lauha says.
“These figures show how powerful change can be and how fast it can happen.”