We Need Weatherproof Bikes, Boards, Scooters and Skates

We know that cars are on the way out, at least in terms of local trips. We know that the climate has changed significantly already (we’re already above 1.5c compared to 1750) and it’s only going to continue getting worse for a long time to come. And that means more rain.

So therefore it stands to reason that people are going to be riding bikes and scooters much more for commuting and fun. And they’ll almost certainly be skating, skateboarding and long-boarding more as well. Every time you get rid of cars, everyone’s out on the streets with the skates or boards they found at the back of the cupboard and dusted off.

The problem is that all of these wheeled objects are incredibly badly suited to riding in wet conditions. There are some bikes that are much better suited to riding in rain and on wet roads, but even they are not perfect. Skateboards, skates and scooters are not even close to weather resistant. Ride any of them on a wet day once and your bearings will be shot. Now is the time for innovation from these industries. You could argue that people won’t skate on rainy days, but I think they will. Dry ground days are going to be few and far between in the wetter months. But even if that were true, people will be commuting on e-scooters, and many of them are currently not designed for wet weather riding either.

As far as cycling, this challenge means a rapid move away from exposed chain and derailleur systems and towards belts or chain cases (which I’ve argued for many times already). But there are many other parts on even the most protected Dutch bike that will still rust and go wrong very quickly when used in the rain a lot and kept in less-than-ideal conditions.

At the moment it’s hard to really see this change happening, especially for the more leisure equipment. But as the demise of the car becomes more obvious in the next year or two, we will start to see something happen. Sales of skates and boards will increase as people get inspired by empty streets, and that will lead to a bigger R&D spend, and hopefully the innovation we’re looking for.

It can’t continue to be the case that products are being sold that aren’t designed to be used in the way the manufacturers know people are going to use them. Just from a pure sustainability point of view this needs to change very quickly.

What’s the Actual Solution for Sustainable Suburban Travel?

Considering most people’s commutes and daily errands are easily eBike compatible distances, even in big countries like the US. It’s quite obvious that we’re utterly failing in tackling our desperate climate and air pollution crises.

Not only would it be far cheaper to incentivise cycling and eBikes, electric kick scooters etc, but we would get rid of traffic, be healthier and happier. We’d take an immense amount of strain off of health services (who as we’ve heard, are overstretched and struggling).

It’s so bloody obvious, and yet we’re having to campaign for segregated bike routes. Why should we campaign for common sense? Why the fuck should anyone do that?

It’s becoming clear to me that electric vehicles of the non-autonomous variety are not going to solve much. We can’t get them into widespread use quickly enough when we consider how quickly the climate crisis is accelerating.

We can’t wait until 2025 for the other manufacturers to make EVs in significant volumes. Tesla are different because every car they’re building can instantly transition into being a RoboTaxi. No other car can, so they are effectively useless. And that’s new EVs. Let alone new fossil cars (including hybrids).

We also have a ridiculous situation with the sizes of cars ever increasing, the roads staying them same, while still encouraging people to cycle. Anyone think that makes sense? I talked to people at work about commuting by bike. They thought I was mad. When I asked if they would do it if there were traffic free routes, they said they would. It doesn’t get more clear than that.

The British Cycling survey that I participated in and that was just released showed that even ‘hardcore’ road cyclists don’t feel safe on the roads. How can you expect people to take up cycling for the first time in that kind of environment? I took several years off from cycling when I was younger. When I returned to cycling, I remember I was scared and had to slowly build my confidence back, starting on quiet roads. And I was an experienced rider with years of road riding in my past. So I can’t even imagine how it would feel to a complete novice.

So what do we do? For a start, instantly transition into spending all money that would be allocated to new roads into new or upgraded micro mobility infrastructure. Instead of simply patching up potholes so they can quickly wear out again, use the opportunity to redesign the entire road layout and incorporate cycling into areas previously thought too narrow. Make more one way systems in towns and cities. If the cars are autonomous, they’re not going to get confused and annoyed like us stupid humans anyway (if you’re anything like me). And if you’ve got half the road dedicated to micro mobility, then chances are we’re going to choose bike or scooter anyway.

We also need to improve public transport with electric buses. We need good quality cycle hire schemes for when you’re not at home and don’t have your own bike with you. Then of course there’s trains, trams, subways, high speed trains built alongside motorways (so they don’t destroy the countryside further).

Something you see in Denmark and Japan especially are bicycle “multi storey car parks”. Secure, paid bike parks in all urban areas, business parks etc that treat bicycles as real vehicles. Not cheap, disposable, rusty pieces of junk. These are essential in my view. People will probably scoff, but like I said, why should you campaign for common sense? When things have been proven in other countries, you just go ahead and implement it yourself.

We also need to reduce our populations to sustainable levels with common sense proposals to do so. We need to build up rather than out in our cities. We can’t all live in big, detached houses filled with crap we don’t need. We need to embrace tunnels more than we do now. I don’t agree with everything The Boring Company is doing but generally they are on the right track. Hyperloop is the holy grail when it comes to allowing us a way to continue global tourism into the long term without destroying the planet. But we don’t know how far away that is, and I’m getting away from the suburban focus of this post.

There are so many aspects of sustainability that go far beyond just transport. Maybe I’ll get into them in another post. But for now, please let me know if you have any other ideas for local transport. I might have missed something obvious.