The World Cycling Forum – held on 4-5 June – in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, saw around 140 registrants debate a number of issues. According to the organising team at the WFSGI (World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry), a ‘perfect storm is coming for cycling’, particularly for electric bikes. Yet, it was noted that the bike sector also urgently needs to take action to make that storm happen.
Established in 2017 by WFSGI, the goal of the forum is to attract bicycle manufacturers, retailers, brands and interest groups from around the world to exchange views on the latest trends, share their knowledge as well network with people from around the industry.
This year’s forum took place under the theme ‘Putting the bicycle industry at the centre of sustainable development’.
The 2019 World Cycling Forum, organized by WFSGI and the international trade publication Bike Europe made clear that bicycles and e-bikes can take a leadership role in the fight against climate change. Cycling is seen as a ‘win/win/win’, as a high ranking official from the World Health Organization pointed out in her presentation at the forum.
Another expert concluded that cycling is currently the fastest growing mobility modality in Europe. What was also determined is that cities must be created for cycling and people, and not for cars.
Various expert speakers strongly advocated that the bicycle industry must do more than sell its products to consumers… ‘It has to raise awareness for cycling, to get people out of their cars and to take on a more active lifestyle by using bicycles to commute and/or for leisure.’
It was noted that the industry needs to create the atmosphere and the experience. A prioritizing of safety around cycling and bikes was also called for. One speaker noted, “That’s the main concern of consumers; and that goes beyond the fact that more cycle paths are needed in cities. It’s about the safety of children for having them cycle to schools. They have to be trained and the industry needs to get actively involved in that.”
Another safety aspect concerns bicycles and e-bikes. Adding features such as ABS to electric bicycles was recognised. In addition, the work of Pon Bike Group’s Gazelle operation was cited. This is working in cooperation with the Delft Technical University. Its Cycling Lab is developing a steer-assistant function. It is being developed in order to minimise the increasing number of accidents occurring in the Netherlands with (in particular front-wheel driven) e-bikes.
One of the striking conclusions from the second World Cycling Forum was that the bicycle sector should avoid producing carbon products because they are not recyclable… unless those carbon parts are designed in such a way that they can be re-used.
The speakers on the topic of sustainability – ranging from specialists employed by bike retailer Decathlon, to professors from TU Delft and Cambridge University – came up with some wide-ranging recommendations.
Steve Evans, Professor at Cambridge University, said “Sustainability will be a greater disruption than technology.” He made it clear to the audience that short term action can be taken in two ways. The first is… “Look around in your factories; talk to your production engineers as they know how to treat waste and what can be re-used. And closely inspect ways to save energy, water and materials.” His second recommendation was “Visit each other’s facilities. Share knowledge and learn from each other.”
The two sustainability experts from Decathlon explained how the world’s biggest sports and bike retailer is working on its transformation to become sustainable. This is not a minor operation. Over 2,000 Decathlon employees in 10 countries are involved in this initiative, which also includes the more than 1,000 Tier 1 suppliers of Decathlon.
The company operates over 1,500 sports superstores worldwide, and has worked out a program that entails four targets. These are: social compliance; tackling modern slavery; preventing local pollution and fighting climate change.
Decathlon’s specialists explained to the participants at the World Cycling Forum (which included various Decathlon suppliers) that in order to achieve the sustainability goals that the company has set itself, their cooperation is required as well as knowledge sharing.
The World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) was founded in 1978 and is the world authoritative body for the sports industry officially recognized by the IOC as the industry representative within the Olympic Family. The WFSGI is an independent, non-profit and non-governmental association formed by sports brands, manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, national federations and other sporting goods industry related businesses.
The WFSGI plays a strategic role in the support and promotion of the sporting goods industry worldwide. The WFSGI promotes free and fair trade and provides platforms for the intergovernmental cooperation with regards to the international organizations interested or affected by sports. Its aim is also to expand the cooperation on the protection of intellectual property rights and improve human rights issues related to working conditions.
All this can be done through contacts with International Organizations such as the ILO, WTO, WHO, UN but also through International Sports Federations (FIFA, IAAF, FIVB, etc.) and the IOC, via the exchange of information and clearing house on issues and topics developed by WFSGI’s various committees.