The Wild World of Bikes in 2019

Our predictions.

Hi, we’re Bikes Make Life Better. We’re a staff of 70 bike nerds who spend most of our days thinking about bikes, biking, bike infrastructure, bike products, and oh, generally how to move people around better.

We’ve been following all types of bike and transportation happenings in 2018—everything from the electric bike boom, to bikeshare’s nationwide proliferation, to bikes that growl at thieves. Our bike antena indicate that 2019 is going to be a really wild ride—here’s what we think will come to pass:

No more one trick transpo ponies

Uber is probably the most extreme—but far from the only—example of a single company trying to wear all the transportation hats. It all started last spring when Uber acquired Jump (formerly Social Bicycles) and launched a 250 electric bike program in San Francisco. The car-cum-bikeshare operator then brokered a sweet deal with the city to gain exclusive rights to pilot dockless bikeshare for 18 month. It’s currently deploying another 250 bikes in SF.

JUMP Bikes – San Francisco
Image Source: The San Francisco Examiner

Keep in mind: Before these developments, Uber had been playing around with all kinds of stuff, like self-driving technology, multi-modal transportation platforms, food delivery, the list goes on. In December, Uber ventured into the world of transit, by launching its first bus in Egypt.

At a recent gathering of the tech elite, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi mused: “We want to be the Amazon of transportation… and hopefully, 10 years from now no one in the audience is going to own a car.”

When it comes to diversifying offerings in the transportation sector, Uber’s not alone. Even car companies are scrambling for a piece of the mobility pie—and bikes are turning out to be a desirable slice. Some examples:

We predict 2019 will see many more corporations delivering you your transportation options.

“Micro mobility” will continue to expand outside of bikes; infrastructure will need to play catch up

In 2018, we lived through the “scooterpacalypse,” the spewing of (mainly) Lime, Bird, and Spin scooters all over our sidewalks. In a panic, cities booted these renegades out of town so they could take time to craft regulations. San Francisco now has an exclusive pilot with Scoot and Skip to test 625 scooters. New York has yet to pony up its public right-of-ways to any operator, but it’s only a matter of time before scootershare comes to the five boroughs.

BIRD Scooters
Image Source: Curbed LA

Lyft Scooters
Image Source: The Verge

The arrival and departure and then (in some places) the re-emergence of e-scootershare is causing us some deja-vu. When dockless bikeshare blazed on to the U.S. scene, cities had similar gripes, but eventually gave way to the new technology. Given that cities are still growing, that door-to-door urban transportation is appealing, and that the last mile will continue to be a challenge, we predict that micro-mobility options will continue to expand.

Were we surprised that in October Uber launched its first scootershare? Not really. We were surprised Uber’s fleet left out the rest of the micromobility cast of characters.

More and more in the cities and on college campuses, we’re seeing all kinds of electrified contraptions built for one: e-skateboards, solowheels, hoverboards, e-rollerskates. We predict these small yet effective modes will continue to innovate and spread through urban and dense areas. Eventually they’ll be monetized and managed by a company (see above).

Planners and those in charge of managing these spaces, will need to make room for them. Currently, scooters and other micro-mobility users breeze by in the bike lane. That may be ok for now, but eventually they will need more dedicated space, parking, and accessible charging facilities. The question will be: who will pay for them? Maybe Bird?

Employees will be rewarded for leaving the car at home

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an uptick in organizations paying their workers not to drive. And those who don’t offer cash are offering other carrots—like free bike repairs or bike shop gift certificates—to nudge employees into the bike lane.

Sometimes these rewards are necessary to reduce parking on an oversubscribed corporate campus. Other times companies or agencies are responding to car trip caps mandated by the city (or state, in the case of Washington) where they’ve plunked down their headquarters. Many are acting to impact their bottom line since parking a bike at work costs way less; biking to work makes for a healthier workforce; and bike amenities act as recruiting tools.

Here are two inspiring incentive programs we’ve seen crop up this year alone:

  • New Zealand-based Make Collective decided to pay employees $5 a day to ride to work or double that amount if employees rode in more than half their annual work days.
  • The City of Austin granted employees PTO in exchange for non-drive alone commute trips during a pilot period. At the end of the pilot, the city found that 53 percent of participants made a positive shift to change their drive-alone habit.

The list of employers who pay cash for the employees not to drive includes: Stanford University, Google Boulder, Genentech, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Sonos Inc., Sunpower, Clif Bar, Quality Bicycle Products, and likely many others. Check out our incentive program roundup and best practices for more. And be on the lookout for generous and innovative employer incentives in 2019.

Corporate spaces are more bike-forward than ever

Most of our clients are large companies located in either urban areas or suburban office parks. In 2018, we had more inquiries and project requests around End of Trip (EOT) facilities, bike parking and general infrastructure than ever before. And these requests for help are coming at the early stage of development. Companies, as well as developers, cities, and governments, are starting to think about how to accommodate bikers before beginning construction.

We’re seeing this at places like Stanford, where the the Assistant Director of Active Mobility reports that she is routinely asked to weigh in on bike parking and amenities during the design phase of new projects. In the past, bike parking had been an afterthought (if a thought at all).

Facebook is a great example of a company that’s intentional about including bike parking and amenities in design plans. In Seattle, Facebook built a gorgeous bike shop on the ground floor. A front and center location like this one signals to us that Facebook really cares about its bikers. Just outside the shop is state-of-the-art secure bike room, a drying room for damp gear, showers, lockers, everything a daily cyclist would need to feel the love.

Facebook’s Westlake Wheelhouse
Image Source: The League of American Bicyclists

The HUB – Facebook
Image Source: Momentum Mag

Corporate and city planners alike are prioritizing bikes. Expedia’s initial plans for a Seattle HQ include parking for 400 bikes and an on-site mechanic. This is the first time we’ve seen an on-site mechanic advertised so early in the planning process. The Golden State Warriors’ new mega stadium will include a valet bike parking area for 300 bikes. Way to go Warriors!

The de-prioritization of cars is a hopeful ancillary development. Recently San Francisco joined other cities in doing away with parking minimums for new developments. And in one of our favorite moves, an apartment building in Miami is paying residents $100 a month to ditch their cars.

We predict that 2019 will see a renaissance of sorts when it comes to places for bikes. And we’re happy to play a role!

Need help bringing bikes to your company? Bikes Make Life Better is dedicated to helping large organizations use bikes for healthy sustainable transportation. We’ve designed and run bike programs for Airbnb, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Netflix, Salesforce, Stanford University, and many others.