CYCLING

New Standards for Cycle Security and Access Needed to Support Micromobility - Expert

Monday 29 March 2021, 7:26AM
By Impact PR
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A lack of cycle access and security at public transportation hubs is hampering the growth of sustainable micromobility in urban areas - according to industry experts.

New insurance data shows nationwide theft of e-bikes has surged more than 115% in the first quarter of this year - causing some insurance providers to review whether bike owners can continue to be automatically covered under their home contents policy.

Maurice Wells managing director of the Electric Bike Team says while millions of dollars are being spent building new roads for cars through subdivisions, new public transport stations are still being designed with no adjacent cycle access or dedicated secure bike storage facilities.

He says, as a result, their retail data shows most new e-bikes sold are being used for recreational purposes - rather than to commute to work.

The use of small, lightweight personal transportation devices such as electric bikes, known as ‘micromobility’, provides an environmentally sustainable alternative to vehicles with internal combustion engines when commuting over short distances.

A surge in the popularity of e-bikes has seen almost 50,000 battery-powered cycles worth $62.3m imported in the past year[1]. The growth in imports is up around 67%, despite global supply constraints as a result of the pandemic[2]. In comparison, there were 87,374 new cars sold during the same period - a figure set to be dwarfed by e-bike sales based on its rate of growth[3].

Wells says prices for some new e-bikes can be on par with entry-level cars however they are significantly easier to steal and onsell.

“Unlike cars, cycles carry no registration plates, don't usually have an alarm and at just over 20kg are light enough to be carried away if needed.

“Currently, one of the primary barriers to purchasing e-bikes for commuting is the lack of secure bike storage facilities at public transport stations.

“When you are spending $5,000-$15,000 or more on a cycle, you want to know that when you step off the train at the end of the day it is going to be where you left it.

“International best practice for supporting micromobility includes a range of secure cycle storage options as well as charging stations for e-bikes, however on a local level transport planners have not kept up with a trend towards the purchase of high-value cycles and are failing to help commuters adequately secure their asset,” he says.

According to latest statistics from NZ Police, a bike is reported stolen in New Zealand every three hours, however, less than 100 offenders are charged with theft of a bicycle annually[4].

Adam Smith, director of Velo Consulting, an insurance assessor specialising in bicycles and e-bikes says a spike in the number of cycles stolen over the past year may see insurance companies prevent high-value bikes from being covered under a standard house and contents policy.

He says the average value of claims for e-bikes is $4,800 - around $2,000 more than the standard claim for a non-battery powered cycle, and closer to the cost of a low value car.

“With the rise in e-bike thefts, the sheer number of these claims over the past year is now causing insurance companies to sit up and notice - to the point where they are looking at doing things differently now.

“What this could mean for owners is they may need to get specialised e-bike insurance - which may also have policy conditions which require it to be adequately secured when not in use.

“We’re advising e-bike owners who are leaving their bikes in public places to invest in a decent lock - it is concerning to see people spending $7,000 on a new bike and then just $30 on a cheap lock,” he says.

Wells who has a postgraduate degree in engineering specialising in e-bikes and has owned cycle retail outlets across both sides of the Tasman for over 10 years says there is a significant disparity between the investment made in developing urban roadways and the provision of security infrastructure to protect the bikes at public train and bus stations.

He says while the number of electric bike imports is increasing rapidly, a disproportionately high number of these are sold for recreational purposes - not for urban commuting.

“Our retail customer data shows around 75 out of every 100 electric bikes sold through our store is primarily for recreational use.

“Most of the customers coming through are purchasing an e-bike which they might put on the back of their car and use on the new rail-trail network around NZ or on some of the recreational cycle trails in the city.

“While this is positive for the industry, what is conspicuously absent is a larger market for urban commuters who might use a bike to reach a train station which they then take into work.

“If we are to get more cars off our roads, we need to close all the gaps in this model and make it easier for cyclists to get safely into a public transport hub and protect their investment.

“This could be achieved through the creation of new standards which make the design of cycleways around public transport infrastructure mandatory,” he says.

Auckland Council figures suggest secure cycle lockers or a cycle cage could cost $1,350-$4,000 per cycle while the cost to provide parking for a single vehicle could range from $3,600-$112,000 per car[5].

Wells says international technology which allows remote tracking of a bike’s location is not usually enabled for the New Zealand market.

“We know that there is a significant gap in the local market at the moment as GPS tracking of bikes.

“We are currently working with a local company to develop cycle tracking technology that can be installed on bikes in this market and we expect to be able to have this ready in the coming weeks,” he says.

Wells says the current health pandemic has impacted the global supply of electric bikes and parts, there is evidence of a partial recovery in stock levels in this market.

“While our wholesale supplier warehouses are no longer full with stock as they were before COVID, we are starting signs of a supply recovery in New Zealand - even to the point where we are able to resume promotional sales at a retail level, “ he says.

ENDS

[1] Statistics NZ data for year ended Sept 2020. 

[2] Statistics NZ data for 2018. 

[3] MIA industry data. 

[4] NZ Police data. 

[5] Auckland City Council.