Brompton Bicycle & The Future of Britain’s Urban Mobility
How this UK manufacturer is helping us cycle our way back to work.
Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Sunday address, cities across the UK are facing an unprecedented dilemma. While encouraging people to return to work if they are unable to work from home, the PM has actively discouraged the use of public transport, urging commuters to use other methods such as driving, walking and cycling. An attempt to maintain social distancing, and decrease the spread of COVID-19, TFL’s capacity has now been limited to 15%, making these alternative methods of transportation not an option, but a necessity in Britain’s capital.
For many, this represents a significant challenge. For those who have vehicular access, this method of movement is both expensive, and environmentally damaging, with parking also remaining a major concern. For those who do not, walking and cycling are their only option, leaving them searching for the best ways to travel across the city space.
To prevent a regression to the commuting trends of the past, mobility providers such as Brompton Bicycle are stepping up to the plate, filling this yawning gap in transportation without the environmental cost.
In an interview with CleanTech News, Chief Commercial Officer at Brompton Bicycle Stephen Loftus tells us more.
“We want to transform the ways in which people live in cities and create happier and healthier urban lives. For us, that’s through providing a bike and everything associated with Brompton which encourages and enables that across global cities.” Loftus begins.
Beginning with their classic folding bicycle, since their foundation in 1976, Brompton’s dedication to improving urban lives for the better has seen them diversify, with Williams Advanced engineering unlocking the potential to create Brompton’s first e-bike. Combining the traditional folding Brompton with electric assistance, the Brompton E-bike features a 300Wh battery, a lightweight and powerful front hub motor, intelligent sensors and connectivity, helping customers travel more efficiently.
“It’s about urban planning at a macro scale – a simple tool for a big challenge,” Loftus explains. “Electrification is a big part of that because it makes it more accessible and means you can go further and longer.”
In light of the current pandemic, this accessibility has only become more important. Despite a short-term drop, with Loftus reporting sales in April to be down around 10%, and capacity around 30%, demand has begun to pick up.
“People are getting back to work and our public transport can’t cope,” Loftus says, explaining the 80% increase in web traffic Brompton have seen compared to the same time last year. Although retail outlets remain closed, their factory remains operational, working with the Bicycle Association to ensure they can continue to enable public mobility.
With Brompton adapting quickly to work within current constraints, Loftus says “We’ve launched a direct-to-home service and that’s been hugely successful in giving the customer what they want and need.”
In addition, as it “became obvious that for key workers Brompton was a great solution,” Brompton has now committed to delivering 800 bikes to NHS key workers, supporting their heroic work in this time of crisis.
Looking to the future, Loftus is hopeful that the current transportation challenges represent a chance for the UK to catch up with the wave of electrification experienced within European countries such as the Netherlands, harnessing cycling technologies to move towards a greener model of transport.
“Politically it’s always quite tough to make such dramatic shifts but COVID is creating an opportunity…to make those changes” Loftus says, referencing U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’s recent unveiling of a £2 billion funding package dedicated to ‘active travel’.
Marking a tipping point in UK transportation, Loftus says:
“We believe this is going to be a paradigm shift in terms of urban planning and transportation and the bicycle is going to be the centre of quite a lot of that. So, we’re trying to prepare for a time when we’re likely going to produce a few more bikes, and provide that solution people need.”
Alongside an increase in product purchasing, Loftus sees potential for growth in both Brompton’s leasing, and corporate services.
“A lot like an electric car the technologies evolve quite quickly, so particularly with e-bikes leasing is a channel we see developing quite quickly over the next few years,” he says.
Meanwhile, with previous fleet provision for Deloitte, as well as HSBC, Loftus hopes rather than company cars, corporations will invest in cycling to help their employees get around. He emphasises that while practically facilitating employee movement, bicycles provide the added health benefits of exercise, meaning companies “will have happier and healthier employees, who will work better.”
With the UK still far behind its European peers, Brompton remains active in encouraging the government to put more real investment into cycling infrastructure. Loftus says of Brompton “we will take a level of responsibility above our own business, encouraging change at a macro level.”
At CleanTech News, this is a change we hope will happen very soon indeed, as we continue to move towards an active, carbon net zero transportation system.