Boom of the bicycle: an acceleration of uses thanks to digital?

Boom of the bicycle: an acceleration of uses thanks to digital?


With more than 3 billion euros in turnover in 2020, the French bicycle market has made an unprecedented leap of 25% in one year. Almost 2.7 million bicycles were sold, including 500,000 electrically assisted bicycles (VAE). With 2 to 3% modal share in daily journeys and 5% of regular cyclists, France has significant room for improvement vis-à-vis the countries of Northern Europe where the modal share of cycling is around 50% in cities such as Amsterdam or Copenhagen.

Cycling has steadily increased since the start of the pandemic : a real “barrier gesture” and an alternative to public transport, the bicycle has benefited from the emergence of “coronapistes”, financial aid for acquisition and / or repair, but also from the ecological awareness that encourages uses a mode of travel that generates 30 times less GHGs than a fossil fuel vehicle.

In this article, we will present the 4 major catalysts for cycling, then we will see how digital technology can help lift the brakes and thus speed up use.

The 4 major catalysts for cycling

Cycling is encouraged by the following 4 catalysts: technological developments, infrastructure, physical services and financing solutions.

# 1 – Technological developments

Among the 30 million cyclists in France (all use included), the use is above all based on full ownership with the boom of the VAE. By 2025, the world pedelec market could expect an average of 36 billion euros, with a current average price estimated at 1,750 €. But service mobility is gaining ground with shared vehicles and rental vehicles. About the shared vehicles, we differentiate between “loop” offers such as Vélib ‘and its 13,000 bikes, and “free floating” offers without stations. The latter are particularly attractive for their ease of use via a mobile application: after only one year of deployment in France, free-floating bicycles represented 20% of the self-service bicycle offer in the country. Of short or long term rental solutions also encourage use with, for example, the Veligo Location IDFM service offering 20,000 VAE for rent for 6 or 9 months.

# 2 Infrastructures

In France, the role of communities in the development of uses is key, most large cities have Self-Service Bicycles (VLS) and / or Long-Term Rental Bikes (VLLD). The provision of suitable infrastructure to guarantee safe routes is also a major issue. In Paris, the 60 km of provisional cycle paths created for deconfinement will be made permanent, in addition to the 1,000 km of cycle paths that the capital had. In total, we count 49,000 km of cycling facilities on the national territory. In our article on municipal 2020, we noted the wish of the candidates to expand the network of major cycle routes to link the centers, suburbs and cities of metropolitan areas, employment basins and administrative establishments.

# 3 physical services

  • In addition to buying a new bike, the bicycle repair already owned is a real challenge for developing uses. Thanks to the operation ” Bike boost »Launched at the end of 1is confinement, 2 million bicycles could be repaired according to the French Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB). This financial aid of € 50 granted by the State until March 31, 2021 has enabled many French people to get back in the saddle. Concerning parking, underground car parks are emerging as at Montparnasse station (357 spaces). Actors such as 12.5 (in reference to the size of a standard parking space (12.5 m²)) offer to recycle unused spaces in underground car parks and to rent them, for an annual subscription from € 12 / month.

# 4 – Funding

The legal context is favorable to the development of practices, in particular with the entry into force of the sustainable mobility package (LOM), the ceiling of which has been raised from € 400 to € 500 to encourage employees to come to work by bicycle or via other sustainable mobility. The future Climate Law also contains several financial aids for the purchase of bicycles, including the extension of the premium for conversion to VAE. Concretely, people wishing to replace their old vehicle with an VAE will benefit from assistance covering up to 40-50% of the total price.

Digital technology, by lifting the brakes on cycling, supports its development

There are still some important brakes to remove in order to develop the practice of cycling: theft, security and especially cyclability, that is to say the deployment of adapted infrastructures. Numerous digital solutions are emerging and responding to these limits and accelerating uses such as mapping applications, route finding (RI) and on-board IOT to acquire and retain cyclists.

Brake # 1 – Theft

Each year, more than 300,000 households are victims of theft or attempted theft of bicycles. Since January 1, 2021, bicycles sold in stores must have a unique identifier to which the owner’s contact details are associated. Actors like eBikeLabs offer digital solutions to fight theft. “The software is capable of detecting when an unauthorized person is on a two-wheeler and“ immobilizes the bike directly via its motor ”, explains Maël Bosson, the co-founder of eBikeLabs. Likewise, the bicycles of the French company Voltaire are equipped with a NFC badge for locking and unlocking the bike. A alarm is triggered if the locked bicycle is moved. Finally, a geolocation system allows you to find the stolen bike.

Brake # 2 – Road safety

In order to allow cyclists to ride in complete safety, there are three main types of solutions: connected equipment, digital solutions for good orientation and connected maintenance for fleet managers. Regarding the equipment, the connected bike helmet, in addition to protecting the cyclist, is able to flash thanks to its LEDs, to broadcast music via Bluetooth or to alert favorite contacts in the event of an accident. The growing popularity of search for “bike route” on Google is a flagrant indicator of the bike – web link and leads more and more Internet users to apps. 250 free bike GPS apps were listed on Android and are the subject of rankings and 49% of cyclists regularly use a mobile application (mapping, finding routes, etc.). According to the Daily mobility barometer, the use of digital technologies in mobility practices is on the rise but still depends on age, cultural capital … Finally, players like It’s suspicious, in charge of BtoB bike maintenance, offer connected maintenance tools :

  • Vélocare, a maintenance platform allowing to know the state of the fleet in real time in order to optimize management
  • Vélocenter, a networking and booking platform for individuals wishing to have their bikes repaired.

brake # 3 – Cyclability

Whether through connected objects or digital solutions, the data is generated and some players such as Géovélo will clean and analyze this data in order to better understand the uses (which path to use, how to avoid traffic jams, etc.). These data, if brought to the attention of Cities and AOMs, will improve infrastructure and encourage cycling. Ultimately, the representation of cycle path networks will resemble that of collective transport networks.

All the elements are in place to see the regular use of the bicycle continue to develop over the next few years in France, and its modal share in daily journeys should logically increase. This last point will however depend on the ability of decision-makers to make the link between the digital developments that support the evolution of cycling and the growing digitization of urban infrastructures within the framework of the smart city, to meet the challenge of intermodality and the fluctuation of uses according to occasional phenomena such as seasonality or pollution peaks.

An article written by Minh Nguyen-Dac, Jessica Giorno and Kevin Leman



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