Folding bikes were once the province of a few die-hard cyclists and hipsters that were intent on riding a unique vehicle through urban landscapes.
As those landscapes have become clogged with more traffic than they were ever designed to handle, commuters have sought alternatives to ease their trips to and from their offices.
Trends suggest that folding bike commuters are stealing a page from the hipster community and are turning to these bikes as the ideal solution for their urban travels.
History of Folding Bikes
Cycling historians credit the Danish machinist, Mikael Pedersen, with the development of the first folding bike. The British army used his folding bike both in the Boer Wars and during World War II to transport infantry and airborne troops around war theaters and command posts.
The British bicycle manufacturers, Raleigh and Bickerton, each introduced versions of folding bikes after World War II, but folding bikes remained more of a novelty than a serious contender until the U.S Company, Dahon, introduced a patented, single-hinge folding bike design in 1982.
The British company, Brompton, offered its own folding bike technology to the European markets around that time. Since then, multiple companies have tweaked folding bike designs and technology to cater to different cycling tastes and needs. Britain’s Just eBikes pushed the envelope even further with a folding electric bike.
Growth of Folding Bike Market
The growth of the folding bike market suggests that these bikes are becoming a vehicle of choice for urban commuters, yet few statistics are available on folding bike usage. Incentives for the bicycle commuting typically come primarily from the top down.
Management at RJ Metrics, a Philadelphia tech company, encourages all of its more than one hundred employees to ride or walk to work rather than driving, and it accommodates that incentive with looser hours and on-site shower and changing facilities.
The Push to Use Bikes as Alternate Work Transportation
The U.S. federal government added its own support for alternative transportation for commuters when it allocated almost $3 billion for bicycle and pedestrian projects in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.
As these incentives increase and both government and corporate management gain a better understanding and appreciation for the benefits of bicycle commuting, it is likely that professionals, clerical workers, technicians, and service employees will leave their cars behind and increasingly rely on bicycles.
More often than not, objections to bicycle commuting are based on misconceptions and urban myths than on hard facts, particularly where folding bikes are the recommended option. Yet even hardcore skeptics have been convinced of the value that a folding bike can offer.
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Why Folding Bikes Are a Great Way to Commute to Work
Folding bikes, for example, are as safe as their rigid counterparts. Although they are compact and lightweight, folding bikes are generally manufactured in accordance with rigorous standards that ensure the integrity of their frames and components.
Cities that accommodate cyclists with dedicated lanes are also enhancing those safety considerations. Folding bikes further remove all theft and other security concerns, as they can be brought into offices and even stored under desks, rather than leaving them locked to an outside rack or light pole.
Improvements in technology have led to folding bikes that are lightweight and small, allowing them to be easily transported in cars and on trains and subways. Most new folding bikes are available for less than $1,000, and that amount is easily recouped in gasoline and other transportation cost savings after a few months or weeks of use. Unlike cars, they are easy and inexpensive to maintain, and they hold their value well.
In addition, folding bikes are practical and they save space. Once a commuter arrives at work, she can fold her bike and take it inside with her. Its compact design doesn’t take up a lot of space and it and can stored under a desk in a cubicle until the end of the day.
The Bike Industry Evolves
Clothing designers are beginning to market gear that is specific to urban commuting. Employees often leave a few changes of clothing in their offices and simply swap cycling gear for work apparel when they get to their offices.
Cycling aficionados are also joining forces to share ideas for cycle commuting, including safety and riding tips to handle heavier urban traffic.
Bicycles in general, and folding bikes in particular, might never supplant automobiles as the transportation option of choice for most urban commuters.
Advances in folding bike technology and a larger number of folding bike alternatives, however, will keep them on the radar screens of commuters who are willing to leave their cars behind.