Erik Bronsvoort, director of Shift Cycling Culture:

Uniting bicycle industry CEOs on sustainability issues

The Shift Cycling Culture initiative motivated the industry to start talking about sustainability. In the meantime, a long list of CEOs and company owners have signed the industry-wide climate commitment. “Also the bicycle industry has a responsibility to cut CO2 emissions,” says Erik Bronsvoort, director of Shift Cycling Culture.

As part of the ‘Sustainable moves’ series, Bike Europe, spoke to prominent people in the e-bike and bicycle industry whose ideas are shaping the industry for the future. Here Erik Bronsvoort, Director Shift Cycling Culture, explains what steps need to taken in the bicycle industry.

Shift Cycling Culture was launched in late 2020. What progress have you made?

CO2 emissions are still rising instead of falling. That's why we launched Shift Cycling Culture about two years ago to get the cycling industry to understand that they too, have more of a responsibility to cut CO2 emissions in the industry next to getting more people on bikes to reduce transport emissions. So in two years' time, we've been able to motivate the cycling industry to start talking about the subject and raise awareness. One of the most, I think, important things that we've been able to do is get a group of CEOs together who together learnt as well, but also said that we need to commit to an action mode. And they set up this climate commitment in which they said, we are going to measure and report on our CO2 emissions, make a reduction plan, how we can reduce them by 55% in 2030. In the last year, we've had over 80 CEOs in the cycling industry sign this climate commitment, most of them making their first steps into getting an understanding of their impacts on the climate through CO2 emissions in their own industry. 

Why do you think sustainability in production is important to the bicycle industry?

The cycling industry has always been telling itself the bike is the sustainable alternative to the car. And of course that is true and we should really try to get as many people riding bikes as possible. But we seem to forget that a lot of bikes are more like toys. We never use them to replace cars, but we even use our cars to ride to the trailhead to go mountain biking, for example. So the cycling industry has never taken any action on climate change until a few years ago. And just like any other industry, if we want to make sure that the CO2 emissions actually go down, it is up to the industry to make a change. So the cycling industry, too, has to take its responsibility. If we want to provide clean transport, we also need to provide clean products.

Erik Bronsvoort: “The bicycle industry can become a leader instead of a laggard when it comes to sustainable production”

“The bicycle industry can become a leader instead of a laggard when it comes to sustainable production”

The Shift Cycling Culture mission is to accelerate the shift to responsible production. How quickly is this transformation taking place now?

When we started circular cycling five years ago, we felt really lonely on the subject. Like there was no brands talking about sustainability. There was hardly any media writing about the subject. But we see that a lot more companies are taking on this subject.  I'm really surprised to see that in just two years time so many companies have stepped up their efforts, are starting to work on sustainable products and we see media writing way more articles about this subject than ever before. It makes me very optimistic that this industry can become one of the leaders instead of one of the laggards when it comes to sustainable production. 

What technical elements are still missing today to make a fully circular bicycle and e-bike on a mass scale possible today?

So if we want to transition from our linear economic system to a circular economic system this means we do not use any virgin materials anymore, we do not cause any pollution anywhere in the life cycle and we cause no waste. Then we've got three things to cover. First is where do we get our materials from? They should be renewable, meaning from either recycled sources or bio-based sources. Secondly, stop causing any pollution anywhere in the lifecycle. This is not something the cycling industry can do on its own due to transport emissions related to shipping from Asia to Europe, for example, but still worth focussing on. And the most important thing is probably look at waste at the end of a lifetime. So how can you design a product now to make sure that at the end of the lifetime, this product can be reused, remanufactured, refurbished or recycled or even brought back into the biosphere? Bike shops should not only be the place where you buy your bike and the bike will never come back. But at the end of the lifetime, ideally they come back to the bike shop and from there back to the manufacturer so the bike can become another bike in the future.