World Bicycle Day Special: E-cycles emerging as new commuting solution 

by Aditya Munjal, Director, Hero Cycles and Lectro 03 Jun 2020


After the prolonged lockdown, the world is now gradually returning to work even as the threat of coronavirus continues to linger. In India, state governments are putting in place different strategies to allow resumption of businesses while ensuring social distancing. However, public transport remains a matter of concern with restrictions in place to adapt to the new normal.

In Delhi, for example, the Metro – a critical lifeline of the city – has not been started, public buses are now allowed with just 20 passengers. The question many people – particularly the non car-owning populace -- are asking now is ‘how do we commute to work’ with limited availability of public transport? 

A Survey conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says the use of public transport is expected to reduce for six months post the lockdown as health safety becomes a priority among people in the capital. Hereby, electric cycles can emerge as the new transport solution that will redefine commuting in the times of Covid-19 and beyond.

An e-cycle is basically a bicycle with a motor that helps propel it much faster than a normal bicycle. It can reach a speed of up to 25kph which is good enough to travel short and medium distances. It allows you to turn to pedal assist mode once the charge is low, freeing it of the concerns of range anxiety associated with other electric vehicles. Swift and light, e-cycles can easily maneuver narrow lanes and buzz past traffic. It can be used without a license, making it all the more convenient for owners to hit the road with it. Added benefit is the moderate-intensity exercise it provides.

E cycles demand surge globally as ‘Cycle to Work’ strategy gains traction
As the Covid-19 threat continues to loom over the world, governments are devising strategic approaches to contain crowding on public transport systems. ‘Cycle to work’ is one strategy that has gained traction across the world, particularly after the World Health Organisation recommended cycling and walking to work over using public transport. In several cities across the world, authorities are reallocating road space from cars to bicycles so that more and more people are able to ride the eco-friendly two wheeler to work. Consequently, the demand for electric cycles is showing a rising graph.

In many European countries, particularly the Nordic Europe, e-cycles are already a big draw. About 40 percent of bikes sold in the Netherlands are e-bikes. Reports suggest the demand for e-bikes is up in the UK as well. In the US, such is the spike in demand for bicycles that the market is facing a severe supply shortage. According to market research, sales of all kinds of bicycles equipment and repair services nearly doubled in March compared with the same period last year. The sale of electric bikes particularly rose by a whopping 85 percent as people started avoiding subways and public transport systems.

Restricted use of public transport to spur e-cycle usage
Delhi has a daily bus ridership of over 3 million while over 5 million people use the Delhi Metro every day. This section of the population is actively looking for alternative modes of transport which are not as expensive as cars but are efficient and allow them to complete the commute while maintaining the much needed social distance. This might be an opportunity in disguise to push for a behavioural change in the population. The CSE perception survey in the capital also senses a positive shift in attitude towards contact-free walking and cycling and lifestyle adjustments to reduce unnecessary travel trips in the longer term.  Delhi, or for that matter any other Indian city, cannot afford to have thousands of more car users added to their roads as public transport stays restricted. If these restrictions are accompanied by a quick re-designing of roads to give preference to cyclists, the capital’s urban transport will change positively for good. Reallocating road space from cars to cycles, creating dedicated cycling lanes for safety, establishing functioning public bicycle sharing systems are the way forward as we re-open our cities under the shadow of Covid-19. 

For commuters who travel up to 20 km per day, electric cycles are a safe and economical mode of transportation. 

E-cycles for the online delivery segment
As people stay home and resist going to markets, the online delivery space is bound to witness another surge. From groceries to medicines, more and more people are now ordering online to curtail the need of stepping out. E-commerce brands are already scaling up their delivery and courier logistics to meet the increased need during this time of restriction. E-cycles become a viable choice for delivery agents and strategic partnerships between e-cycle brands and e-commerce brands can help augment their usage. At Hero Cycles we have already been promoting the use of e cycles by delivery boys as a way of adopting clean mobility. We have also adapted two of our existing e cycles brands to customise them for the needs of delivery boys. 

So, can e-cycles become the solution to your commuting needs during Covid-19? If you are one of those people who are considering buying a vehicle to avoid public transport usage, you may consider e-cycles as a viable choice. 


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