S1E4: eBikes

May 13, 2021

Andy Keeton

VP Global Strategy

Between the Lines S1E4: eBikes

with Tom Kips


Why will eBikes save the planet?

Join us for this week's episode of Between the Lines, as we speak with Tom Kips, Head of B2B at VanMoof, about the active transportation mode that's taking the world by storm.

And check out Tom's favorite commuting songs on our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify.

  • Texas Sun - Khruangbin and Leon Bridges


Episode Transcript:

-(Voiceover) Commutifi presents Between The Lines with Andy Keeton. Each week we explore the challenging issues transportation demand management professionals face on their journey to transition commuters from driving alone to more sustainable, shared, and active commuting habits. Be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode and check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify. This is Between The Lines with Andy Keeton.

-(Andy Keeton) Everyone, Thanks for being on board with us today. This episode we are talking to Tom Kips. Tom is the head of b2b at VanMoof, an Amsterdam-based e-bike company taking the world by storm. I’m really excited to be talking with Tom today. Tom, sent me over his bio. I really liked what Tom sent me over for about because it was short and sweet just like this podcast. They liked it. So he says growing up in different parts of the world. He's always had an interest in international business and at VanMoof, he's globally responsible for getting people riding through partnerships with the world's coolest companies. So we're gonna be talking today with Tom about this mission, about everything he's been doing, and more generally about e-bikes and why e-bikes are going to save the planet. So Tom, can you tell me first...Can you tell me what is an e-bike in VanMoof eyes? What does that mean?

-(Tom Kips) All right. Andy, Thanks for having me on first of all. Super excited to be here and talk to you all about e-bikes. So yeah, I think when it comes to e-bikes we've got two types. We've got the pedal assisted e-bikes where you actually have to pedal before the engine kicks in and gives you that extra boost. It's like...It's you know, you're riding with the wind in your back that gives you the extra power to move forward and you have the e-bikes with a throttle which is basically like you're driving a motorbike but then it's yeah... It's powered by an electric engine. So we at the VanMoof, we make e-bikes which are pedal assisted because we still believe in the experience of actually riding a normal bicycle that we all know is when we were growing up as kids. Right. Everyone loves that feeling of cycling when you were a little kid.

-(Andy Keeton) That's great. Yeah. Okay. Okay, so this is good because we're on the same page here. These are the kind of bikes I think that are really going to make a difference here. Moving forward with the goals of reducing emissions worldwide. So one of the things I really like about e-bikes and then most bikes in particular is they're a really great emission-free alternative to personally owned vehicles to single occupancy vehicles. Really to any vehicles because you know they are emissions free. So can you tell me in your own words here, why do you think e-bikes are so great? Why are they such a good alternative to cars?

-(Tom Kips) Well, I think there's a couple of reasons. One is obviously the emissions free reason. That's one. That's super important. The other one is that if you look at the cities we live in today, Right? Usually, all the trips that you make in a city... Look at the city of San Francisco. Even a city like New York or I personally live in Amsterdam which is a reasonably small city. A bike is a great way to get around. You'll beat traffic. You'll be quicker plus you're outside. You know it gives you a bit of exercise. It's nice to have the wind through your hair. It makes you feel nicer, better about yourself. There's actually tons of research that shows that if you wake up, you jump on your bike to ride to work, to start your day, you actually start your day more refreshed than using public transport or locking yourself in a box and getting completely frustrated because of all the traffic you encounter on your way to work. So I think bikes and e-bikes are an awesome way to get around instead of a small metal box on wheels.

-(Andy Keeton) I love that a small metal box on wheels. Yeah, this is one of the things I love about the kind of emerging technology in the emerging tdm space is not only I mean study after study... Study have shown cars have more negative kind of outputs here and then positive ones and these kind of solutions. Like e-bikes, they don't just save missions but they make your life easier. They make your life happier and healthier and I really like that and it's just...It's really great because you can actually encourage people to improve their own well-being while also improving the planet and saving the planet here. So I love that. I think that's a...It's a great solution. So can you tell me, I know you're working obviously in for a company that's selling e-bikes. Can you tell me a bit more about some of the kind of stories of working with corporations or with people and kind of helping to create these programs that actually have shifted people out of cars and into into e-bikes?

-(Tom Kips) Yeah, of course. Like I think an awesome statistic that I like to use when speaking to people in general about biking. Right? I think if you look at the US is that 80% of all trips made in the USA are kind of up to 10 miles and I think like 50% of trips is up to 5 miles while you know that's an awesome range to use a bike for. So what we like to do is that I think that when it comes to getting more people cycling or e-biking, there are kind of three forces that are at play. There is obviously us. Us the individual and a bit of culture on how we travel and move around then we've got the governmental side which is all about infrastructure and I think what has happened in this the biking sphere is that...It's always been these individuals and the government talking about. Yeah. We need more bike lanes. We need more infrastructure and then there was the other side saying, Okay! there's this cultural thing where... Yeah, we don't cycle in this country or you know in this city or the weather is bad. I think COVID has completely told us that's a bunch of...Well, you can beat me out but nonsense because if you looked at London, for example. At some point, a few days after the first lockdowns there people were like taking over the city and cycling everywhere. It turns out that if we put bike lanes in place, people will use them. So I think the whole cultural thing is a less of an argument and I think there is another force at play there. So we've got the culture. We've got the infrastructure from a governmental side but we also have companies where I believe in cities...where in my opinion cycling is more relevant because your trips are a little bit shorter. You have corporations that play a role. That need to play a role as well. They're like the corporate citizens. Right? In Syria, a lot of people work for them. They should be stimulating in my opinion their employees as well to say, Hey! you know, think about how you commute? Should you use your car to come to work? Why not try a bike? Why not try an e-bike? So I believe if we can work together, us the industry and us the individuals together with governments and infrastructure and corporations saying, hey! actually you know, we need to think about what we're doing with co2 emissions with making this world a better place, making this city a better place, and stimulating our people. I think if those three parties really start working together very well, Man! that we can make a massive massive impact on how much emissions we can save just by even reducing your car trips by 50%. You make a massive impact and that's possible. It's possible with e-bikes. It's there's. No excuse. Almost no excuse.

-(Andy Keeton) Yeah Yeah, I know. I mean obviously, if bike is an accessible form of transportation for you then it really is a good solution and I like you brought up a few things that I think we're going to dive in a bit more deeply into. The first being this kind of personal cultural piece of things about how you know...people actually do like biking and it's been shown and COVID has helped show that biking is a legitimate alternative to driving especially in cities. I agree with that and I’m gonna...In just a second, I’m gonna ask you a little bit more about that because I think it's an important piece of the puzzle. The other thing is people listening to us here, we're watching or watching our video. Strangers you know. If corporations really start to think about this, they can be a catalyst for change to get people on to e-bikes and it's really only a positive side of things for them because if you think about... I mean stuff that we do on a day-to-day basis. Kind of quantifying the cost of commuting. You know an e-bike is far less expensive than getting a parking space for your employee or getting a shuttle or something of the like. Plus all the other benefits that you've talked about. About all the health benefits that come from it, for your employees but there's really a positive to this and from the city side as well. There's a positive to building that infrastructure, getting people on bikes. I’ve seen studies before about how people are more likely to shop at stores and go to restaurants in the community if they bike in because they're seeing it. They can just park their bike, lock it up, and walk-in. They don't have to go find a parking space in a city, pay the parking fee, and then go to where they need to go. So it makes everything more accessible. So there's so many benefits outside of just the kind of core commuting. Benefits of cost and of co2 here. There's a lot of extra benefits. I think that's a really exciting thing about e-bikes in particular but one of the things that I think sets e-bikes kind of apart from bikes or walking which are all great is that they really are more accessible form of active transportation than bikes or scooters or anything like. One of the things I am excited about with e-bikes and I like personally is that you can go further. You talk about something like five miles. Well, you probably aren't gonna walk up walk five miles. That's a pretty long walk and you could bike but it depends. You know I’ve been in...I’ve lived in Berkeley and in boulder. Both are very hilly cities. A bike is tough you know. I get sweaty by the time I get to work and then it's like, oh, man! One time I walked into a meeting just sweating. It was so hot outside and I biked up this hill. Oh! it was embarrassing but e-bikes though. I love e-bikes because they might not actually be able to get that sweaty. Can you tell me a bit more about that why are they better than bikes in this case? And kind of just, what is the mechanism there? How does that work? How does that help make it more accessible for folks?

-(Tom Kips) Yeah. Now, I think that's a great example you gave thereof walking into a meeting completely drenched in sweat. It's embarrassing and it's not maybe not the best first impression you want to make. Right? So I think for everybody that's listening this, ever tried an e-bike or hasn't tried an e-bike and should try an e-bike. The fact that you have this extra power at your disposal that you can utilize for example, to ride up a hill and arrive at a meeting on time and not sweaty or to just go for a longer commute. This I literally have noticed that a city becomes a lot smaller because distances are easier traversed just because you've got a little bit of assistance with our VanMoof bikes and with a lot of other e-bikes. You've got difficult different levels of assistance which means that in the morning, you're driving to work or you need to go somewhere quick. You put it on full blast. You need to pedal still but you can weave through and reach a top speed of 20 miles an hour. Getting somewhere that gets you somewhere quick. And you're still been active, however, on the way back you might have a little bit more time. You might be interested in a slower ride and a little bit more of workouts that put a little bit more muscle power in there. Then you just turn the level of assistance down. I think that's...Yeah, that's of the great versatility that an e-bike has there.

-(Andy Keeton) Yeah, That's really good. I like the ability to adjust because yeah I think everyone knows here. You, I’m almost always running late to work in the morning. Especially, if I got an early meeting and I want to be able to yeah just cruise on in. Don't have to worry about pedaling too much but then on the way back yeah I get my workout. I turn it all the way down and go up that hill on my own. I mean that sounds good to me. I like that. So okay but apart from that, you've talked about kind of five miles. You mentioned some 10-mile trips. What is the characteristic of a commute? Where an e-bike is a perfect alternative, the perfect solution? Is there a certain distance? What kind of characteristics of...? Who could adopt it? And when do you see adoption the highest?

-(Tom Kips) Yeah, well, I’m a bit biased but I do think that everybody is that the e-bike is for everybody. Right? People that are gonna answer yeah well. Well, 100% because if you're not as fit or you can use it to to get fit because you've got that power assistance, you can start cycling. Start building up your stamina. Start building up your power and it will still get you around. It will still get you up that super steep hill. You can still go on super nice rides on the weekend for 10, 15, 20 miles or until your battery runs out. Now, most great e-bikes they have. They have pretty pro. Pretty decent size batteries these days. So you can go up to 30-40 miles on a charge with full power assistance. So that's a lovely ride on a weekend. So even if you're my parent's age...I could go on on a decent ride with my dad. He'll be on an e-bike. I'll be on my bike and we and he can still keep up with me, how awesome is that. But on the other hand, people of mine are our age. Right? And he can use a bike an e-bike as well just to go that little bit far farther to work or to do your groceries around town or meet your friends for a couple of drinks on the other side of town where you don't need to take a tube or a polluting expensive cab or things like that. I think it's the ultimate versatile city vehicle in my book.

- (Andy Keeton) Yeah. I like that. The more we talk about this, the more we're tooting the horn. No pun intended here of the e-bike. I like it because I said this a lot...I like it because but I like the e-bike solution for commuting because it's also a solution for all the other trips like you just said. So if you're a commute manager and you're providing a subsidy for these e-bikes or even providing them specific directly to your employees, not only are you helping them get to work get from work but also picking up lunch during the middle of the day or going to go use it as their to work out after work or go you know go shopping or just meet people for happy hour. So it's really! You're solving a bunch of different transportation issues with just that single solution. So it's really...It's really good. I like that a lot. Yeah, and it really does. I like how it does make it more accessible. I know in certainly. I mean you're in Amsterdam, they've got some of the best biking infrastructure in the world and it's amazing. I wish it was like that here but there's certainly cities here in the US that the biking infrastructure is not great. We'll put it nicely but an e-bike gives you a better feeling of safety and security. When you're riding on a bike lane next to a busy road, you're going a bit faster. You feel like you have more control. I know I feel a bit better when I’m having to ride on bike lanes versus bike paths. When I’m on an e-bike versus a regular bike. So I like that piece too. So it's not just a solution in cities. I agree best. I mean this is the ultimate solution for cities but it's definitely a solution outside of the city to just getting people to and from just work is. It's really a pretty good solution.

-(Tom Kips) It would be a great solution where you could either use your e-bike to cycle to the station and then take the train into your place of work or other types of commuting like that but I wanted to jump on a point where you were talking about infrastructure because I live in Amsterdam. So yes. Sorry. I’m blessed with a pretty decent biking infrastructure here but that wasn't always the case. But people always think that we've been cycling since I don't know the 1800s but that wasn't always the case because we were... If you look at Amsterdam. My city where I’m living right now. In the 70s there was cars everywhere and everything was built around cars but at that time city council and city government, they decided, hey, you know! we're kind of...This is becoming a bit of an issue. We can build more roads and break down these old houses and make more room for cars but that's not the way forward. So they started from a very early. Well, earlier in the 70s already to kind of put these bike lanes in, and then what happened, a lot of people started using bikes and as a result right now for me from where I live to go into the center of town or for me from where I live to go to work, the most efficient, fastest, easiest way of getting around is using a bike. So even if you own a car and love a car, you would probably still take your bike because it's the quickest way to get the work. So yeah. It's a plea for city governments to kind of think about putting more bike lanes in place because people will start using them and that's one of the starts of this massive shift and I hope at some point corporations who are very powerful and who have a role to play in this shift can also use their clouds to kind of say, hey, why don't we tackle these problems together!

-(Andy Keeton) Yeah. No, I agree. I like that. I love that plea. Also, I think I might have learned this fact before but I’ve forgotten that Amsterdam has not always been biking. I imagine. I think of Amsterdam back with people riding around with their bikes with the huge wheel on the front. That wasn't I guess. Probably they're driving just like everyone else. So you know look at this 250 years and you're. I mean a bike mecca. It's doable from the city side of things. So you know it's never too late to start. Now, we've got the technology certainly to make it even more accessible.

-(Tom Kips) So for sure.

-(Andy Keeton) Yeah. I appreciate that. I think that's a good way to think about it. So we are right now...we're running out of time here. We like to keep these episodes nice and quick so everyone can get back to what they're doing and hopefully you have a quick commute. So you don't even have to. You're already at work at this point, you rode your e-bike in and you were having a great time.

-(Tom Kips) Well, you're not sweaty. You're not sweaty because you're riding your e-bike in.

-(Andy Keeton) That's true. Exactly! Yeah, you're just relaxing. You got there early. You have a nice cup of coffee. It's perfect. So okay. So Tom in a couple sentences here, can you just finish this off and tell us why will e-bikes save the planet? Why are they such a great solution for the TDM industry?

-(Tom Kips) Oh wow! in one sentence. Right? So I think the numbers speak for themselves. I think the e-bike industry is set to grow to. I think 40-46 billion us dollars by 2026. So this train has already left the station. Everybody is in love. Any bikes from older people to younger people and as I said, I cannot think of a better alternative to move around cities. So yeah, let's just not use cars in cities anymore and we can reduce about 50% of our carbon emissions right there easy.

-(Andy Keeton) Wow!

-(Tom Kips) That one sentence. I think so it's close enough.

-(Andy Keeton) It was close enough. I think that's a good end and everyone jump on the e-bike train here. Like Tom said, it's a growing industry. There's a lot of solutions out there. This is really something to be looking into for your commuters, for your employees, and for yourself as you get into the office. So Tom thanks for being on. We've done with our other guests. We like to have each of our guests tell us a little bit about their favorite song. We're building a commuter playlist so just in case you do have a slightly longer commute and you have to still fill it up with some extra time something else to listen to we've got this great playlist on Spotify of all the best songs that our guests have recommended. So Tom can you tell me what are you listening to these days? What do you want to add to the playlist?

-(Tom Kips) It's a song called Texas Sun by... I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing it right. Khruangbin and Leon Bridges. Yeah. I love it. It's got this awesome road trippy feel about it and I’m a big fan of leon bridges music. So yeah it's awesome for just gliding through that city.

-(Andy Keeton) Perfect. All right Tom. Well, I think that's all the time we have today. Everyone go and listen to Texas Sun. It's a good song. I agree I hadn't heard it before. I listened to it when you sent it over to me. So all right. Perfect. Well, everyone have a great rest of your commute. If you aren't there yet hopefully you got the wind blowing through your hair or through your helmet as you're going on into the office. Tom, thanks for having you. Thanks for being on and we'll see everyone in the next episode cool.

-(Tom Kips) Thanks for having me Andy.

-(Voiceover) Thanks for joining us on this week's episode of Between the Lines with Andy Keeton. Be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode and check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify.

Better commuting starts here.

Better commuting starts here.

Better commuting starts here.