When you think about the future, do you imagine us all whizzing around in flying cars? When I was growing up, that’s how we all expected to be getting around by now.
I’m still waiting for my flying car (though it may not actually be that far off).
But one analyst believes that cars are not our future, flying or otherwise. Instead, he predicts a surprising vehicle will take over our transportation: the humble bicycle.
What better time than this National Bike Month to look forward to a brilliant future for two-wheeled transit?
The analyst in question, Horace Dediu, has been researching the future of transportation for the last three and a half years. As he explained to CNNTech, “Bikes have a tremendous disruptive advantage over cars. Bikes will eat cars.”
That’s a bold pronouncement, but hear him — and us — out. We agree with him that bikes could soon become more popular then ever.
What about the coming boom in ride sharing and autonomous cars?
You may be thinking the future is all about self-driving, or autonomous, cars. My own hope is that most of us will forego car ownership and opt for self-driving vehicles we can call up when we need them. Going for a quick trip by yourself? You can get a Smart Car, like the one I drive now (though preferably electric). Taking a trip with the family? You can pick a bigger car for that occasion.
I look forward to relaxing while my ride drives itself, with far less worry about accidents or traffic. If we forego ownership, traffic congestion could go way down. Plus, 30% – 60% of the cars currently driving around a downtown area are circling for parking, which increases pollution. That would also go down with self-driving cars. And imagine not having to take up over 40% of our central city space for parking!
There’s a lot to be said for electric, autonomous shared cars.
The trick is, how soon will that transition happen? Estimates vary, but there’s no doubt that it’s going to take some time.
Bikes have some advantages over cars
That’s where bikes have an edge, says Dediu. We already have plenty of bikes, including new-fangled electric bikes, that anyone can start riding now. Unlike with self-driving cars or even electric cars, there’s no need to wait to perfect a new technology.
Bikes have some other important advantages:
- They give you more versatility than cars. You can take a bike almost anywhere. Not only can you take paths and trails not available to cars, but you can even carry your bike on a bus or train. Think about how smart phones have displaced cameras — and for many people, even computers — because of their ready accessibility. Dediu thinks the same thing will happen with bikes.
- They can get you places faster. In most cities, commutes of 6 miles or less are faster on a bike than in a car or on public transit.
- Parking is a breeze! You can bring a bike into your home or office. If you have to park it on the street, there’s plenty of room. And many places have secure bike parking.
- They’re cheaper. You’ll save a lot riding a bike, even if you buy an electric bike.
- They’re good for your health — and stress levels! You probably know that you can up your fitness by riding a bike. But did you know that one study actually concluded that you’re 40% less likely to be tense in the hour after arriving at work on a bike than if you drive or take public transit?
With so many e-bikes on the market now, it’s much easier for anyone to get around on a bike — even if you’re facing hills or a long commute. And many cities have started popular bike-sharing programs.
Surmounting the challenges
Increasing bike ridership is not without some challenges.
Bike-share programs are popping up around the country, but they’re still under capacity. Bad weather can be a major deterrent to bike riding. And it can be scary riding in traffic. More and more cities are adding bike lanes, but there’s still not enough good infrastructure to make riders feel really safe.
Still, people love bikes — especially electric bikes! The top reason that people ride them is that they’re fun. If you can have some fun and get fit while getting where you have to go, why not bike?