A lot of us are aware that our carbon footprint is terrible and that we have to change our habits. For some of us, this means leaving the car behind and starting to bike. It is, itself, a wonderful commitment – feel free to be inspired by this and turn it into a new year’s resolution – but unfortunately, the way we “consume” biking is can also be an ecological issue. Before actually converting to biking, some of us have a “trial phase” where we rent a bike. As this phenomenon became an economic boom in some countries, it ended up being an ecological and economic debacle. To resume, as said Benjamin Haas, “There are too many bikes, and not enough demand.”
As bike-sharing went viral and trendy, several companies tried to take the lead in the Chinese market. In a short period of time, multiple bicycle start-ups were born and soon would be worth a seven-figure number. As a result, more start-ups were created, seeing a good investment. Also, bicycles appeared like a great alternative to politicians and citizens who want to make a difference when it comes to tackling climate change, especially the polluted air in China. Today, 23 million shared bikes are said to be for use in the streets across big Chinese cities.
Eventually, most of the start-ups went bankrupt, after ordering lots and lots of bikes while still charging the user little for their rides (around 0,20€/30 min). A couple of years later, the consequences have been disastrous; you can find football pitch sized bike graveyards all over China. Thousands of what once was meant to be shared bikes are aligned or grossly thrown illegally in sport fields, along roads, next to rivers, etc. It has become part of the scenery for many families in China. Playing in the street, going to work, taking a walk on the river’s banks, you can’t miss them – they’re everywhere. Dumping them this way, companies created “bicycle towns”, where “residents are dealing with the mess they left behind”. Municipal authorities try to solve this problem mainly with new laws, while searching for a way to deal with the bikes already disposed of. Whatever they decide to do, it will take years before bike cemeteries vanish due to the extent of the situation.
Reuse of old bikes
Closer to us, in France, Laurent Durrieu had an idea to easily upgrade your grandma’s old bike and turn it into a brand-new electric bike! Interesting, isn’t it? But how you will ask. Well, Durrieu created “Teebike” an electric wheel that can adapt to any bike. With it, you can have an electric bike and can quickly stop feeling like you are dying when biking on a big slope!
Teebike is at the crossroads between recycling and electric expansion. According to Durrieu, your bike can last forever, as long as you change tyres, brakes and derailleur once in a while. His idea is to make electric bikes accessible for everyone while being sustainable and reusing already manufactured bikes.
But, even if the concept meets the sustainable requirements, including by collaborating with battery recycling organisations, access to everyone can be debated because of the wheel’s price: 750€. Even though a complete electric bike will cost you more, still, I don’t think that Teebike is affordable for everyone.
Let’s hope that the price falls over the next number of years because I believe it’s a really well conceived alternative. In addition to being connected to your phone, the wheel has an anti-theft device that starts screaming and sets the wheel in reverse whenever it detects suspect movement.
Photo by Queena Deng
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