Things are about to get really interesting for those of us who believe in the power of bicycles to transform the places we live, work and play and how we move about between them. I say this because something dramatic is happening just out of sight. After years of cautiously watching us from afar, the big boys and girls of transportation and human mobility have decided to join the party.
Bicycling is about to get much larger than even the industry’s most ardent proponents can imagine. Ford Motor announced on Friday that the company’s focus is now much greater than cars and trucks. It wants to be a mobility partner to cities around the world and deliver innovative transportation solutions including car share and bicycles. Ford timed the announcement to coincide with the firm’s purchase of Chariot, a San Francisco based vanshare company that shuttles employees from the city to nearby Silicon Valley.
Multi billion dollar companies like Ford don’t casually rebrand and change their focus overnight. This has been in the works for some time. Bill Ford was pushing an eBike several years ago. I remember people in transportation telling me at the time that Bill was kind of left alone to do his own thing by the Ford hierarchy and that nobody took him seriously. Well, I did. It was a gorgeous bicycle. Apparently somebody who matters did, too.
It’s not just Ford, either. Polaris, the maker of snowmobiles, ATVs and other off road vehicles is now pumping out eBikes as well. And it won’t stop here. Look for Toyota, Honda, Mercedes and Tata to embrace bicycles as a mobility solution very soon.
Ford Smart Mobility, the subsidiary Ford created to look at alternative transportation technologies, is based in Detroit and Palo Alto. That’s no accident. Silicon Valley is the epicenter of the autonomous car industry. Ford has tipped its hand. It sees a future where people will use a combination of app-driven technology solutions including shared autonomous cars and bicycles to get where they’re going. Stay tuned. It’s about to get very exciting.