For those of us born in what is seemingly another era – pre-digital times – the world has time-warped into a wacky and wonder-filled place in which we exist and have to try to navigate. Almost daily, we witness the ever-accelerating emergence of new technologies.
New tech is affecting almost every aspect of human (and non-human) life including everyday transportation. Whether it’s Uber, self-driving cars, taxi drones, hyper loop tunnels, new technologies are driving the frontiers of transportation down entirely new roads.
Still, old adages die hard for a reason. Old adages resonate through the ages because they contain truth and wisdom. One of those wise sayings is ‘everything old is new again’ and it makes me think of transportation.
In this day of hi-tech transportation trends, it seems that bicycles, the 200 year-old marvellous invention that harmoniously and beautifully blends mechanical science with human power to provide an efficient solution to personal transportation, might again be the way to go.
That’s right, a metal frame, two narrow wheels, a pedal mechanism, handle bars attached to a steering post and a seat, and once again planners of major cities are looking at this most pure invention as the solution to road congestion.
Of course, the ensuing 200 years of cycling has brought its own technical developments, and more recently, hi-tech has entered the bicycle arena just like all other aspects of life.
Bikes are made of lighter metals; with the addition of gears, they go faster and are able to be pedalled up hills; brakes make them safer; bright headlights and piercing taillights make nighttime cycling safer, and in every way, bicycles are a reliable modern-day vehicle for transportation, leisure, sport and fitness.
New tech is also making the two-wheeled wonder more available to more people through the advent of smaller more efficient electric motor pedal-assisted
systems. The cycle industry has fully embraced this new direction, and has created pedal-assist e-bikes in virtually every bike category that exist. Both cycle enthusiasts and people who have not been on a bike in years are realizing the value of adding an e-bike into their lives to accomplish their goals.
Along with lighter, less expensive batteries and smaller motors, further pushing the adoption of e-bikes is the plethora of companies venturing into the bike- share market. The idea is made viable because of hi-tech developments in smartphones, mobile-payment, Bluetooth, GPS tracking and RFID.
The latest major piece of news in this area was from Uber and their purchase of Jump, a big player in the bike share business. From early markets tests in Washington and San Francisco featuring dockless e-bikes, it was found that a much broader demographic made use of the service.
Dockless bike share works similarly to car share programs where you locate the nearest vehicle on your phone app, book it, unlock it, ride it, and leave it locked up at your destination. This is Jump’s business model and e-bikes will be their future. “The number of people willing to ride e-bikes is probably ten times that of those willing to ride a regular one” rationalizes CEO Ryan Rzepecki.
Now we find ourselves almost 1/5 into the increasingly hi-tech 21st Century where in cities, things are flying overhead, self-driving over ground and following tunnels under ground, and a 200 year-old simple machine is made ‘new again’.
Of course, the bicycle is new again because another old adage has fallen by the wayside; you know, the one that says you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Well in the case of dockless e-bike sharing and the increase of personal e-bike ownership, it has taken almost a total overhaul of the ‘wheel’ to elevate the humble bicycle to the prominence it is enjoying once again.
Cycling The 6ix
See you out there!