By Jana Hrčková
Working in Europe, probably the most cycling-friendly continent of the world, I have been intrigued to oversee the meteoric rise of the e-bikes in the past years. Only in 2021, more than 5 million e-bikes were sold in Europe. People love their e-bikes and we can expect the market to grow even further. Evidence suggests that e-bikes are an excellent tool in getting people out of their cars, replacing car journeys and changing the way people move around. This aligns with the climate and environmental efforts of the European Union that pledged to be climate neutral by 2050; e-bikes and cycling in general can help us make such ambitious goals a reality.
Importantly, one of the reasons why e-bikes are so popular is they are just as safe, if not safer than classical bikes. As CONEBI — Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry — we put safety at the very top of our priorities. It is a fact that fear of accidents is one of the top reasons keeping people from taking up cycling. It is also a fact that while the road safety for the car drivers has been swiftly improving in the past years, the positive trend has not been so clear for the cyclists as vulnerable road users. In 2019, 2,035 cyclists pointlessly died on European roads. This needs to change. Vulnerable road users must be protected and all efforts must be taken to ensure that they are safe on the roads — via improved infrastructure, policy changes (such as speed limits) and better technological solutions.
And here’s what makes e-bikes special — they themselves could make a difference here, too, by becoming active participants on the road thanks to the opportunities provided by the V2X technologies. With every meeting and presentation on connected bicycles and safety that I attend, I am more and more confident that amazing things will soon be possible in the field of road safety for the cyclists that decide to embrace the new technological solutions.
However, the bicycle industry won’t succeed if acting alone — we need to build wide coalitions, thinking together about the next safety and smart mobility revolutions in the streets. That’s why in the European Union, CONEBI became an active member of the EU CCAM Partnership — a consortium of automotive, technological and telecommunications companies as well as the representatives of municipalities and the civil society that worked on the elaboration of the funding framework developed by the European Union.
This will support the development of connected, cooperative and automated mobility in Europe and beyond. And right now, the new funding programme 2023/2024 created within the EU CCAM Partnership for future European Union funding was released — for the first time with the bicycle industry at the table. Overall, the funding allocated to the CCAM research by the European Union reaches 500 million euros.
We are excited that years of advocacy are finally paying off. The bicycle industry is considered a key player that can deliver positive changes in the mobility ecosystem. I am very hopeful that the major projects rolled out with European Union support will contribute to making mobility safer for vulnerable road users with the use of intelligent transport systems technologies. Cycling is the solution and I don’t know what future will bring, but with the smart deployment of new technologies, the sky seems to be the limit.
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