In our arsenal of anti-virus weapons, a powerful force is emerging. It’s one of the most hygienic alternatives for the prevention of the virus and it’s changing the world before our eyes. This not-so-secret weapon is cheap and promotes cleaner air. It’s healthy. It allows us to move about. It contributes powerfully to the fight against climate change, yet effortlessly delivers social distancing. It’s also allowing us to re-imagine our “after Coronavirus” world. In this Episode 35, The Angry Clean Energy Guy sets out future trends that you can already bank on across the real estate, transportation, consumer, healthcare and energy sectors, all of which are driven by the humble bicycle.
Photo by Assaad W. Razzouk
In our arsenal of anti-virus weapons, a powerful, but secret, weapon is emerging.
Notwithstanding all the secrecy, I am going to reveal it today.
Are you ready?
It’s the humble, simple, cheap and clean bicycle and its twin, the electric bicycle.
In short, it’s one of the most hygienic alternatives for the prevention of the Coronavirus, and it’s changing the world before our eyes. It’s also making it cleaner and faster than we expected.
In Episode 34, the one just before this one, I focused on some future trends we can already see emerging post-Coronavirus, but I want to come back to that today and talk about a few more in this Episode 35 because what the humble bicycle is doing in a virus-mobilized world is it’s allowing us to re-imagine it. That’s exactly what I discovered, when I saw what some of our cities were doing with the bicycle. And given that 60% of us live in cities, that’s big and potentially it’s very, very big.
Welcome to Episode 35 of The Angry Clean Energy Guy with me, Assaad Razzouk.
Recently, so that AC (or After Coronavirus), I started seeing bicycles pop up all around me.
My millennial son bought one to increase his mobility, but he bought it only AC, or After Coronavirus.
I fixed a bicycle to get it back on the road.
Friends of mine bought one in cities around the world, and I thought to myself, clearly, there’s something going on with bicycles, I want to take a slightly deeper dive into what that is.
But let me come back to that in a bit of a roundabout way.
So, in the previous episode of the Angry Clean Energy Guy, I talked about how the great plague of 1666 led to a science re-awakening, which in sort of a straight line led to the industrial revolution.
So, to be slightly more specific on this episode, AC, so After Coronavirus, today’s industrial revolution will increasingly be motored, it looks like, by the biotech industry, with the wings of the biotech industry being carried by big tech, big data, robotics and AI.
Now, that’s great because any reawakening of science with today’s industrial revolution motored by biotech will have a strong spill-over into climate and the environment.
In other words, health will lead and a cleaner world will follow.
As the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said in a recent interview with The Financial Times, when we get out of this crisis, that’s the Coronavirus crisis, people will no longer accept breathing dirty air: He likened the fear of suffocating that comes with Covid-19 to the effects of air pollution. And he’s right. People around the world will no longer accept to breathe the enormous quantities of dirty air that they were subjected to, through the actions of the big oil companies and the inaction and irresponsibility of governments around the world.
If you want to know more about the actions of Big Oil, you can browse back through some of my previous podcasts where what they’ve done to hide climate change evidence for decades, lobby governments accordingly and stop climate action, is laid out.
And then, if you want to focus a bit more on government inaction, that’s also all there.
And the result of the combination of Big Oil’s deceit with the collusion of governments around the world meant that we created a climate change problem which may not be controllable anymore, and which is putting, existentially speaking, our entire species at risk.
Along the way, while putting our entire species at risk, it’s also destroying eco-systems, oceans, insects, animals, their habitats, all the while affecting the most vulnerable of us.
I’m not going to dig deeper today on the topic of climate change. You can browse back all the way to Episode One and hear the evidence for yourself.
So, expect a lot of changes in health care driven by a reinvigorated, stronger and much better capitalized biotech industry.
Biotech has always been the disruptor to an incumbent, which is Big pharma, which has a lot of behavioral characteristics that are similar to Big Oil. So, they’re monopolists and they want to control the roll-out of medicines by focusing on profit before people and the biotech industry has been fought by Big Pharma. Expect that to change, driven by a much more laser focus on our health and on innovation in medicine and health care and, more broadly, on science.
Now let’s take a more micro look at this.
SOCIAL DISTANCING AND THE HUMBLE BICYCLE
What I can already see is that responsible city governments around the world have started being led by science, and that’s led them straight to the humble bicycle.
City governments saw that if they are to lift the lock down, car traffic and pollution and therefore dirty air will increase because people initially, but maybe for a while, will avoid public transport. They don’t want to be crowded on subways, and they don’t want to be crowded on buses.
Now many may not have any other choice, so their commuting journeys would probably get longer because of the application of social distancing rules to buses and subways. However, a majority can instead simply cycle to work.
So, they would save money, they would effortlessly achieve social distancing, they would promote a healthier living, and it allows the bicycle, the humble bicycle, allows everyone to keep moving. And, as I said, city governments are starting to get it.
Let me give you some examples.
There’s been new wider bike lanes installed in Berlin on roads and streets where cars had previously been dominant.
By the way, all these examples that I’m giving you are all from the last two months, so they’re all AC, or After Coronavirus.
Mexico City has a temporary lane running throughout the day along one of its major highways, and it’s proposing 130 kilometers of additional bicycle lanes in the city.
Bogota, in Colombia ,has been very ambitious and is in the process of turning a 100 kilometers of traffic streets into emergency bike lanes, for now using pop up cones to separate cyclists from drivers.
Budapest city officials just planned a cycling network on main roads.
Central Brussels is giving full priority to pedestrians and cyclists everywhere in its historic heart.
In the US, cities like Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Denver and Auckland have all closed key roads to cars and they’ve given those key roads over to bicycles.
Vancouver in Canada is turning some of its areas into cycling and walking only. And in Winnipeg, streets are being restricted to cycling and walking. In Calgary, traffic lanes are being re allocated to cycling as well.
Sidney, Perth and Adelaide in Australia, as well as Chapel Hill in the US and Calgary in Canada are among many cities that made pedestrian crossings automatic in order for people not to have to press a button and therefore touch something which potentially has a virus on.
Paris and Madrid are preparing a long-term strategy and analyzing how to support bicycles further as the first or premier mean of transportation after the lockdown.
Australia re opened its bike shops recently, and so did Germany.
In countries like Denmark or the Netherlands or Britain, bike repair shops and bike shops were deemed essential services and never closed.
And finally, Milan in Italy is implementing an extraordinary plan to boost walking and cycling after the lock down eases. So that’s temporary cycle lanes that may turn into permanent ones, new widened pavements, pedestrian and cyclist priority streets, reduced speed limits in the city centre, the full Monty basically. And that’s across at least 35 kilometers.
So, in no particular order, bicycles are on their way to take over Vancouver, Budapest, Mexico City, Berlin, Bogota, Milan, Brussels, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Denver, Oakland, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Paris and Madrid. In my mind, there’s no question that many other cities will wake up soon. Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, London, hopefully Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro.
Many of them will become far more friendly to bicycles because they will wake up to the fact that in our arsenal of antivirus weapons the humble and simple and cheap and clean bicycle is a critical secret weapon.
Come on, City mayors everywhere. Come on, do your thing and get those bike lanes going and think that through for just a minute.
Bicycles will effortlessly deliver social distancing.
They’re also good for you.
It’s healthy to bike.
Bicycles also promote cleaner air because they crowd out dirty cars until we have 100% electric everything on the roads.
Bicycles also allow many to keep moving.
And for longer city commutes, electric bicycles do an amazing job.
Today, some 60% of us live in an urban area or city, invariably incredibly polluted, invariably crowded out. We are crowded out by cars and the space that they take up. That is really something, I hope, that is over. Because, remember, cars taken enormous, gigantic amount of space in cities.
There is, first, the actual space that a car occupies. The average car is pretty empty when it’s being driven by a single person, which is a lot of the time. And most of the day that very same car sits totally empty, unused, taking up space on our roads that requires, of course, space for parking.
There are some four parking spaces for every car in existence or more.
Imagine the waste.
Plus, you’ve got all the paved roads crisscrossing our cities everywhere.
And if you add it all up, many cities devote 40 to 60% of their entire area to vehicles. That’s 40 to 60%.
So, let’s re-imagine our cities as we gradually start lifting the lockdown around the world.
And as we do, and as you heard from me earlier on this podcast, many cities have started to, so, as we do, there are a few future trends that you can bank on emerging as a result, and I will list some of them.
PARKING COMPANIES IN TROUBLE
So, less cars, more bikes mean parking companies are in trouble.
LONG RIDESHARING AND SELF-DRIVING CARS
Less cars, more bikes also means that you can be long ridesharing because cars will be used more efficiently and take up less room.
Plus, we now have self driving cars on the way.
All these will strength the transportation footprint of cities. So shared, electric, maybe even autonomous vehicles will get cheaper. And when you’re not on your bicycle, you would just simply buy a ride instead of buying a car. That is around the corner now, and that shift has the potential to revolutionize our streets. And when we revolutionize our streets, we revolutionize our health.
But going long ridesharing doesn’t mean I would go long Uber or Lyft or their competitors. Because if we bike more, they will lose a lot of their projected growth, as they should if we don’t all want more respiratory diseases. Once their car fleets – and I mean 100% of their car fleets – are 100% electric, they would be more clean air friendly. But don’t underestimate how long social distancing is going to stay with us. I am really not sure exactly when people are going to be comfortable using Uber as much as they were BC, so Before Coronavirus. But I am pretty sure it won’t be any time soon.
SHORT OFFICE SPACE, LONG FARM LAND
Here’s another future trend: Short office space.
Because simply put, if I have a bicycle and it’s raining, I would like to work from home, please.
In addition, at the moment we’ve got a global social experiment going on with working from home. If only 10% of us decide that actually, you know what, I’m not going to go back to a commercial office space, then the entire forward curve of commercial office spaces would shift downward.
That means real estate investment trusts, for example, that are long commercial properties would be losing value. But it also means that we are going to have potentially a glut of office space. And, you know, in relative terms I would go short city real estate and long farm land instead. We’ve learned through this pandemic again the value of farmland and that goes a long way to increasing our collective resilience.
Now clearly, less cars, given that the majority, the overwhelming majority of cars today, are gas guzzling cars, clearly, if you short cars because your cities are going big on bicycles, then you’d be short oil as well, because oil companies would suffer from a permanent loss off demand.
And that’s on top of every other problem that they have at the moment.
LONG SERVICE TO THE HOME
I would also be long service to the home or office. All of us are discovering that it’s actually very easy to replace all sorts of trips that we used to take by car with a delivery, and that it’s only marginally more expensive. And in some cases, because of the ability of delivery companies to tap a much broader range of choices, it’s actually not even more expensive. It can be cheaper. And so companies that deliver on electric scooters, for example, are likely to be winners.
What these big moves by cities around the world towards bicycles also mean is that all car companies, electric car companies included, will probably sell a lot less cars than they think.
Re-imagine the future by projecting from the move by some 10 cities so far – but I’m confident they’re going to be 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 soon – towards bicycles, which means we will be able to reclaim so much land in our cities. Think just about the underground and over-ground parking spaces that are out there and think about what you would do with that space if you didn’t have to reserve it for all these cars. Think then about ridesharing and think about clean air and health. Add on social distancing, and you get a lot less future demand for cars, even perhaps, buses than we have been projecting.
So that’s less office space, less cars, more service to the home, less parking companies, less oil – a lot less oil – because oil companies derive a significant percentage of their revenues selling you that gasoline for your gas guzzling car, more parks, perhaps, I hope, and a lot more bicycles and electric bicycles and also electric scooters and electric two wheelers and three wheelers that are perfectly fine substitute for cars in most cities around the world.
These are some pretty major trends that have all sorts of consequences on the value of companies and businesses and entire sectors around the world. And you know what? All these trends are right in front of us, and they are happening.
I hope this episode has opened your eyes as it did mine, indeed, to some of the future trends that we can bank on that are emerging, all of which are driven by our little secret weapon against viruses: The humble, simple, cheap, clean but so mighty bicycle and its twin – let’s not forget about the twin – the electric bicycle.
Thank you so much for listening to this Episode 35 of The Angry Clean Energy Guy with me, Assaad Razzouk, and have a great couple of weeks.
There is so much to be angry about, if you are a clean energy guy.
Every day, so many things that happen around the world make me angry when I look at them with lenses colored by the climate change chaos unfolding everywhere around us. And I am especially angry because I know we can solve the climate change crisis if we were only trying.
Each week, I will share with you a few topics that struck me and that I was very angry about – and this will generally have to do with climate change, solar or wind power, plastic pollution, environmental degradation, wildlife, the oceans and other related topics.