Rise of the Bicycle
(Beach Bike from #tofinobikecompany)
As the coronavirus pandemic shrinks life in major Canadian and American cities — limiting familiar pastimes and discouraging use of buses and subways and — hundreds of thousands of us are flocking to one of the most basic forms of mobility: the bicycle.
The first verifiable claim for a practically used bicycle belongs to German Baron Karl von Drais, a civil servant to the Grand Duke of Baden in Germany. Drais invented his Laufmaschine (German for "running machine") in 1817, that was called Draisine (English) or draisienne (French) by the press. Karl von Drais patented this design in 1818, which was the first commercially successful two-wheeled, steerable, human-propelled machine, commonly called a velocipede, and nicknamed hobby-horse or dandy horse. It was initially manufactured in Germany and France.
New York Times
In March, nationwide sales of bicycles, equipment and repair services nearly doubled compared with the same period last year, according to the N.P.D. Group, a market research company. Sales of commuter and fitness bikes in the same month increased 66 percent, leisure bikes jumped 121 percent, children’s bikes went up 59 percent and electric bikes rose 85 percent.
By the end of April, many stores and distributors had sold out of low-end consumer bikes. Now, the United States is facing a severe bicycle shortage as global supply chains, disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, scramble to meet the surge in demand.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Vancouver bike shops say demand for bikes is higher than ever as new customers flock to their stores, wanting to stay active and get around amid COVID-19 restrictions.
Since B.C. health officials issued advice to physically distance from others, biking has become a popular alternative to crowded public transportation.
Shops like Giant Vancouver and Bicycle Sports Pacific say most days they have lineups outside their doors before they open.
During the pandemic, Vancouver has already closed iconic Stanley Park off from vehicle traffic, as well as part of Beach Avenue.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said her city's plans to boost active transportation had been underway since 2015 and have faced a "significant amount of push back from the community in some cases," but they're now being expanded due to the pandemic.
"We've got a bike network under construction so that people can move safely from their homes into the downtown," said Helps. "In response to COVID we've removed some parking spaces in village centres."
With the warmer weather and people venturing outside for some fresh air amid the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are out walking — or out for a bike ride.
It’s created an unprecedented problem: Canada is running out of bikes.
PORTLAND, MAINE — Fitness junkies locked out of gyms, commuters fearful of public transit, and families going stir crazy inside their homes during the coronavirus pandemic have created a boom in bicycle sales unseen in decades. In the United States, bicycle aisles at mass merchandisers like Walmart and Target have been swept clean, and independent shops are doing a brisk business and are selling out of affordable “family” bikes.
Bicycle sales over the past two months saw their biggest spike in the U.S. since the oil crisis of the 1970s, said Jay Townley, who analyzes cycling industry trends at Human Powered Solutions.
“People quite frankly have panicked, and they’re buying bikes like toilet paper,” Townley said, referring to the rush to buy essentials like toilet paper and hand sanitizer that stores saw at the beginning of the pandemic.
VanMoof, a Dutch e-bike maker, is seeing “unlimited demand” since the pandemic began, resulting in a 10-week order backlog for its commuter electric bikes, compared with typical one-day delivery time, said co-founder Taco Carlier.
The company's sales surged 138% in the U.S. and rocketed 184% in Britain in the February-April period over last year, with big gains in other European countries. The company is scrambling to ramp up production as fast as it can, but it will take two to three months to meet the demand, Carlier said.
Cities around the world are grappling with the same issue: how to safely reopen in the COVID-19 era. Public transportation systems in places like New York, London, and Paris typically carry millions of people to work and to shops each day, amounting to roughly 1.5 billion trips each year. Now, nobody wants to be on a crowded subway and risk exposure to the virus if they can avoid it. But if everyone jumps into cars instead, traffic will grind to a halt, interfere with emergency vehicles, and reverse advances many cities made toward reducing carbon emissions during lockdown. That’s why city planners and residents alike are looking at the humble bicycle as their way out.
CBC - June 7/2020
Public transportation, which many Canadians depend on to commute, has been hit hard across the country. B.C.'s TransLink said in April it was losing $75 million a month due to decreased ridership, while ridership on the Toronto Transit Commission has dipped to less than 20 per cent of the norm. At the same time, leaders in both Ontario and Quebec have recommended riders wear masks as physical distancing becomes difficult or impossible.
Darnel Harris, an urban planner and executive director of Toronto-based mobility advocacy group Our Greenway, believes there are alternatives to both public transit and travelling in high-emission vehicles: electric bikes.
According to a recent study by the U.K.-based Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, e-bikes have the potential to help people return to work — especially those who are hesitant to use public transport or live in areas with little to no service.
E-bikes, which are electrically assisted bicycles that range in price from roughly $1,500 to $9,000, are a cheaper alternative to car travel — not to mention a greener one when they're charged using clean power. They can often hit speeds of 25 km/h, and give people a way to avoid crowded buses and trains.
"Crucially, it allows people to go further, easier, and expands their access to things in an efficient way," Harris said, "especially within a suburban area, where things are more spread out."
E-bikes have gained a foothold abroad. In the Netherlands, roughly 40 per cent of bikes sold last year were electric, according to Dutch industry organizations RAI and BOVAG, while in China they have been a popular replacement for motorcycles for more than a decade.
But Harris sees demand surging in North America: U.S. sales increased by 85 per cent in March, according to the New York Times, while he said Canadian businesses are struggling to keep e-bikes in stock.
Even so, the possibility of e-bikes becoming commonplace in Canada continues to face significant hurdles. Harris said the federal government currently has insufficient safety standards in place, while Transport Canada proposed dropping all regulation of them in 2018.
Harris said rules are necessary to regulate the vastly different kinds of e-bikes on the market, including the much larger cargo bikes often used in place of delivery trucks.
Confusing or contradictory definitions of "e-bike" have led to legal troubles for some riders. In B.C., a Supreme Court judge recently upheld charges against a man who rode an e-bike without insurance, even though the man argued the law doesn't require it.
"When people are unclear … about the law and how it applies, then of course they run the risk of offending the law," said David Hay, a Vancouver lawyer who specializes in bike-related cases. For example, to be able to ride without road insurance or a license in B.C., it's required that the bicycle have limited power and that it turns off when the rider stops pedalling — a feature many e-bike models don't have.
Hays and Harris think that definitions and regulations around e-bikes need to be updated before they'll be widely adopted in this country.
"Whenever you get any kind of technological innovation, the law struggles to keep up," Hays said.
— Jackson Weaver
Bicycles are the ideal mode of transportation as cities emerge from quarantine, made even more appealing now that summer is approaching in the US and Europe. They’re fast, comfortable, convenient, and allow you to socially distance while being active. When paired with an electric motor, e-bikes can make even long commutes a relaxing and sweat-free experience. They also help maintain the dramatic air quality improvements seen in cities around the world since coronavirus confinements began.
In some US cities, multi-lane roads and car parking can take up 50 to 60 percent of all real estate. In addition to robbing residents of parks and other open areas, it makes social distancing on congested sidewalks nearly impossible. What better time to rethink transportation models and reclaim space allocated to CO2-belching vehicles from a bygone age?