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Active travel innovation with purpose: delivering more cycling and walking

Innovation – in policy, design, products and services – is a key part of delivering an industrial strategy, positive economic impact and new mobility futures.

Juliana O'Rourke
20 October 2021
Kevin Mayne, Chief Executive Designate, Cycling Industries Europe, is promoting cycle industry innovation
Kevin Mayne, Chief Executive Designate, Cycling Industries Europe, is promoting cycle industry innovation


The fourth Cycling and Walking Innovations event will highlight why boosting cycling and walking is a win-win, because it is politically more supported than ever and the benefits are visible in quality of life, the environment and local economies.

The 2017 DfT Innovation Challenge Fund was the catalyst for the first Cycling and Walking Innovations event in 2018, which was launched to celebrate the innovators – from the private and public sectors – who are driving the active travel sector.

And now, at the end of 2021 and as we face up to future challenges, we need an even deeper focus on accelerating the popularity, convenience and safety of active travel for everyday short trips, and for the short legs of longer multi-modal journeys.

Government needs to take the lead on investing in active travel infrastructure, as committed to in Gear Change and CWIS2, but businesses and innovators can fill the missing chapter in Gear Change: the role of the private sector.

Last month, Cycling Industries Europe (CIE) Chief Executive Kevin Mayne gave a rousing keynote address at the recent Velocity event around Innovation with Purpose – tools that actually deliver more cycling. He called on cycling innovators, especially in digital sectors, to come together and create a critical mass of companies that maximise the strengths of the sector.

He contrasted it with old-fashioned thinking in Intelligent Transport Systems that attracts a lot of attention and funding but is still trying to make cars more efficient. What we need now is to think about about coming together and supporting the huge changes in the active travel sector that we need to help with decongesting cities and mitigating climate change, rather than focusing on narrow aspects of each business in isolation.

It's worth looking back to 2018 and the ambition that launched both Cycling and Walking Innovations and Cycling Industries Europe (CIE), as Kevin Mayne, soon to become CIE Chief Executive in 2019, talked to me as he planned to speak at the inaugural Cycling and Walking Innovations event in 2018.

How much has changed since this was written four years ago?

Imagine the sums that have gone into the various Catapults and into autonomous and connected vehicle research. Think of the monies that are going into electric charging infrastructure and compare this to the peanuts given to the bicycle industry. Yet cycling, and especially bike share and e-bikes, are central to the success of future mobility in cities and towns

In a week that General Motors reveals two innovative, integrated and connected eBikes – one folding and one compact – without a brand, inviting customers from around the globe to help name its eBike brand in a global challenge – it's clear that the cycling industry is set to become a much bigger global player in the shared mobility markets, and is finally demanding a level playing field in terms of government and EU support for industry innovation and R+D.

The new Brussels-based Cycling Industries Europe (CIE) is 'redefining the cycle industry' in its new business model.

It has been created to enable European cycling businesses of all sizes and from all sectors to make their contribution to business and society. Kevin Mayne, who will become CIE Chief Executive in 2019, has big plans for the new organisation: 'What's completely new is that we can act as an industrial body, supporting thriving SMEs, research and development and innovation.

The bike industry is very innovative, coming up with e-bikes and shared bike technologies, but it's all self-funded. In comparison, industries such as the auto industry expect to get substantial subsidies from government and from the European Union. We provide shared mobility to every country in Europe.

The European cycle industry has not been ready to stand up and shout that it can be central to future mobility platforms and patterns,' he says, and aims to change that. 'We are no longer the people who just make bikes. We're interested in new technologies, services and data platforms.'

The CIE will, says Mayne, include bicycle and parts makers, bike share operators, financial services, insurance, health, bicycle logistics, construction, tourism, technology and digital services, and will capture all the lobbying power of cycling companies in a united voice.

Working collaborations are being established with ECF and the Confederation European Bicycle Industry (CONEBI) to ensure that the work of the entire cycling lobby at EU level is coordinated and works to deliver the goals of the EU Cycling Strategy.

The EU strategy plans for a 50 percent growth in cycling. 'We have released over 1.5 billion euro in EU funds for cycling investments, mainly in infrastructure which will grow the market further. We represent 650,000 jobs in Europe today, that’s bigger than coal, steel or mining,' says Mayne.

'Our tourism economy is 44 billion euros – bigger than the cruise ship industry. Our biggest sporting event is broadcast in 130 countries, followed by 3.5 billion viewers. Imagine how much power we could bring to cycling if we unite all the private sector and commercial voices in cycling behind one vision and in one structure?'

Imagine also, he adds, the sums that have gone into the various Catapults and into autonomous and connected vehicle research. 'Think of the monies that are going into electric charging infrastructure and compare this to the peanuts given to the bicycle industry,' he laments. 'Yet cycling, and especially bike share and e-bikes, are central to the success of future mobility in cities and towns. A company recently told me that including bike share on their MaaS platform added 100,000 trips in three months, he says. 'Uber and other ride-sharing services have announced that they are adding bike share to their mixes.

Part of what the CIE is about is taking existing and future members into this mobility space and to educate the industry about the potential of cycling and cycling innovation.'

One key recent EU research study into future funding needs identified likely future scenarios with disruptive implications and associated priority directions for EU research and innovation; programmes that the UK is expected to continue to buy into, post Brexit, in the same way as the US, Switzerland and Norway do. 'Horizon Europe is the largest open research funding platform in the world, and not to be part of it would be a brutal blow to UK research,' says Mayne.

One of the study's key mobility scenarios looks forward to 2040, when a new cultural and business model has emerged: half of EU citizens do not own a car but rely on seamless intermodal mobility services, including cycling. 

'We need to be part of this wider multimodal mobility debate and this research programme,' stresses Mayne. 'In the MaaS  context things are changing fast: two or three years ago everybody was waiting for the private sector to move forward on innovation and getting things going, but now many public authorities are questioning commercially-driven models and insisting that MaaS includes policy choices like promoting cycling and walking. European cities may be taking the lead on this, but there is an equally strong chorus of voices asking for much more public sector involvement in future mobility provision across the UK, he notes. 

Working with partners such as the European Cycle Logistics Foundation and ECF, CIE is already delivering EU-funded schemes such as the €4-million funded “City Changer Cargo Bike” which will increase the use of cycle logistics in 100 European cities.

CIE members think this sort of funding will grow through partnerships and the forming of new consortia. 'We're also going to act as a kind of “clearing house” that can point people towards a single point of negotiation on behalf of the cycling business sector around bike-share, MaaS and future mobility options,' says Mayne. At the city level, there's a need to talk to an industry body that can consolidate the contacts and can have the big picture on who's doing what, where and when, across the wider cycle industry at European Union level, he adds. 'That will cascade nationally too.

'I hope our work will also help to define and structure the wide range of business actors in the world of cycling at all levels, and bring them together with a much clearer, stronger voice.'


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