Ludwigsburger Kreiszeitung, 2024/04/30
Reading time 4:00 minutes

Economic factor on two wheels

The cycle industry is growing, becoming more self-confident and wants a better lobby now. The German industry association Zukunft Fahrrad meets in Ludwigsburg and forges plans.

Wasilis von Rauch (from left), Guenter Riemer, Silke Gericke and Dirk Zedler at the cycle industry meeting at the premises of Zedler-Institut. In the background some exhibits from the bicycle museum at the premises of the institute: from unicycles to high

Ludwigsburg. A new self-confidence arises in the cycle industry. That is hardly surprising: Between 2019 and 2022, the industry increased its turnover to 28 billion euros, i.e. an increase by no less than 70 per cent. That’s what concluded a study of the Transportation Think Tank T3. Over the same period of time, the number of employees increased from 48,200 to 62,800. And this figure not even includes the 263,000 employees in cycle tourism.

The problem with this is, however: For the taste of the cycle industry, this importance as an economic factor and aspect of the transition in transportation has not yet been recognised sufficiently by politicians in Berlin. Manufacturers, retailers and bike lessors are convinced that the thing needed now is lobby work. Five years ago, they therefore joined forces in the industry association “Zukunft Fahrrad”. Now, representatives of the German association met in Ludwigsburg. At the premises of Zedler institute for bicycle testing technology they came together for their “Spring Reception”. Dirk Zedler, founder and managing director of the Ludwigsburg institute that tests bicycle parts, also acts as an expert witness appointed by the courts and is deputy chairman of Zukunft Fahrrad. And that’s why Ludwigsburg is one of the heart chambers of the new bicycle lobby work. The industry association Zukunft Fahrrad counts meanwhile 101 members: manufacturers, retailers, rental companies and lessors as well as further service companies.

An industry in motion
“80 per cent of people can cover 80 per cent of their daily distances by using the bicycle,” says Wasilis von Rauch, CEO of Zukunft Fahrrad in his welcoming address. “We are not getting enough attention from politicians in Berlin,” he says, addressing the dissatisfaction with the fact that the cycle industry's concerns are still not sufficiently recognised. And there is another aspect to be considered: “With the e-bike we have a completely new means of transport.”

E-bikes change everything
What needs to be done as lobby work for the cycle industry? During the meeting in Ludwigsburg, France was repeatedly mentioned as a model. There, the government has set up an investment fund for the cycle industry, wants to invest two billion euros in cycle infrastructure, for example cycle paths, and ensure that every citizen has a bicycle repair shop within 15 minutes of their home. If it were up to Zukunft Fahrrad, this would be a model for Germany, as well.

In economic terms, the cycle industry is also in constant motion. According to the German two-wheeler industry association, more e-bikes than classic bikes were sold in 2023 for the first time: 2.1 compared to 1.9 million. Does this make a bicycle fan’s heart bleed, because for them the classic bike is the only real thing? Not at all, states Gerd Klose from bicycle manufacturer Merida & Centurion Deutschland. “I have no regrets; both will continue to exist. And from the economic point of view, it is a positive thing.” But also in terms of riding culture Klose has absolutely nothing against the trend towards e-bikes and EPACs: “I’m a convinced e-bike rider on my own. The light support”, i.e. the limited assistance with an electric drive unit, “is a cool thing. It’s great how subtle the motor provides assistance and cuts off.”

In general, there is a trend towards rather expensive bicycles, says Dirk Zedler. “Inexpensive bicycles are on the decline and I'm glad about that, because a cheap bike can spoil people's fun of riding a bike.”

Now, it is up to Zukunft Fahrrad to tackle the challenging task of traffic policy. “We want the bike to be taken seriously as a means of transport,” says Guenter Riemer, Chairman of the Work Group Bicycle-Friendly Communities (AGFK) in Baden-Wuerttemberg. Riemer is Mayor in Kirchheim (Teck), and when it recently came to planning a diversion, he realised once again how much still needs to be done. “I got really mad, when someone said: ‘Then you have to push your bike.’ That made me reply: We do neither pull cars by ropes through the city.” Riemer claims: “We have to come out of the bicycle bubble, need other circles,” where the bicycle lobby has the right to take their views.

Christoph Erdmenger, Head of the Sustainable Mobility Department at Baden-Wuerttemberg’s Ministry of Transport, described five goals at the Ludwigsburg meeting: less car traffic whereas he indicated 20 per cent less in cities and ten per cent less in rural areas as a reference, an “enormous expansion of local public transport”, more electric cars and, fifthly, more electric trucks in goods traffic.

It is necessary to build “attractive cycle paths” to make more people switch to the bicycle, says Silke Gericke, member of the Green Party in Ludwigsburg. She also sees France as an example: “In Paris, the bicycle has replaced the car as the most popular means of transport.”

It’s better to cooperate

Ludwigsburg’s City Councillor for Building and Construction, Andrea Schwarz, described one of the goals of urban planning as taking cycling issues also into account, both when building cycle paths and when constructing parking spaces that also offer enough space for cargo bikes and bikes with trailers.

According to Schwarz, also the car region Stuttgart has to “lead and handle” these discussions. In Schwarz’ opinion, the following question must serve as a guide: “How can we ensure that there is no working against cars, but cooperation?”

Author: Eike Brunhoeber
Photo: Holm Wolschendorf