By Romain Erny, Director of Mobility at Choose Paris Region

Today, the growth potential of the bicycle industry in Paris Region is significant. The reasons for this strong growth are primarily due to the fact that environmental issues are now among the top three concerns in France. It is also a market where regional action is very strong, as shown by the various investments and public policies aimed at promoting cycling in the Region. Finally, it is a sector where private B2B and B2C players are heavily involved.

Growing Environmental Awareness in Paris Region

The shift towards cycling as the preferred means of transport in Paris and the Region had already been bolstered by the rise in environmental concerns. A trend, which has accelerated over the last two years to become the number one priority – this according to the latest edition of the Ipsos Sopra-Steria survey for Le Monde, the Fondation Jean-Jaurès, and the Institut Montaigne.

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In just a few recent months, cycling throughout France – and particularly, in Paris Region – has strongly increased compared to previous years. According to the figures published on Wednesday, September 2, 2020 by the association of local authorities Vélo et Territoires in conjunction with the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Solidarity, the use of cycling paths in the first eight months of the year jumped by around 29% in France compared to the same period in 2019. This assessment was made based on a national sample of 182 representative counters. In Paris, the number of journeys recorded on the cycle paths thus climbed by 67% between the end of the lockdown (mid-May) and the end of August compared with the corresponding period in 2019.  

According to Jean-Sébastien Catier, President of Paris en Selle, « the dynamic existed before [the pandemic], » and the end of confinement measures only « accelerated it, with the addition of new infrastructure, which was a determining factor » for cycle uptake.

Paris Region: A Leading French Region For Cycling

To follow this trend, Paris Region has adopted a Bicycle Plan to encourage the daily use of bicycles through the development of infrastructure, parking, and services for cyclists. As the number of bicycle trips in Paris Region has doubled in the past 10 years, many factors have had to be adjusted to keep up with the pace.

For instance, “RER Velo,” a network of more than 650 kilometers of bicycle lanes and nine lines across Paris Region, was supported with a sum of 300 million euros. This will make it possible to reach Paris from all angles by bike.  The first five lines of the RER V, « bicycle pipes, » should be completed by 2024-2025, with the first sections from 2022. Next year, work on the standards for these routes – bidirectional structure, width, type of material, signage, etc. – is to be carried out.

Furthermore, on September 11, 2019, Véligo Location, a public service providing electrically assisted bicycle rentals, was inaugurated with the objective of becoming the largest of its kind. The aim is to encourage the use of bicycles for home-to-work trips. The recent installation of secure Véligo spaces in Paris Region has also allowed cycling to become a real mode of transport that complements the metro or train.

While electric bicycles rented under the Véligo Location service are now part of the Parisian landscape, Île-de-France Mobilités, a body that brings together all the mobility players in the Region to organize and finance public transport for all inhabitants, is now thinking about those who prefer to buy. Therefore, as part of its policy to develop cycling throughout the Region, Île-de-France Mobilités is setting up a purchase subsidy for various types of bicycles. Since December 1, 2019, Île-de-France Mobilités has been granting €500-€600 to residents who buy an electric bike.

Private Players Fully Embrace This High-Potential Market

If both consumers and the Region have chosen to go green, it is also a choice that private actors have favored. Today, more and more companies are offering their employees company bicycles. This is the case of Veolia, which intends to provide a company bicycle to each of its French employees. The company, which employs some 50 000 people in France, has just signed a framework agreement with Zenride, a pioneer in bicycle rental for companies.

The initiative of providing their employees a functional bike has also been carried out by other corporates such as Microsoft, Havas, and Kaufman & Broad.

Additionally, more and more start-ups have entered the functional bike market in recent months. Alongside Zenride, there is Tim Sports, Bee.cycle and Azfalte, which all operate on more or less the same model: a rental over several years to the employer and a contribution from the employee that is deducted directly from their pay slip.

At the same time, although self-service has been particularly developed in recent years, rentals continue to exist with the emergence of companies offering individuals the opportunity to rent a bicycle for a monthly fee. For instance, the Dutch company Swapfiets is currently offering the possibility of obtaining a bike for personal use for a monthly subscription.

The same is true for PURE ELECTRIC, a chain of stores specializing in electric scooters and electrically assisted bicycles with 15 outlets in the United Kingdom, which entered the French market by opening several locations in the third quarter of 2020.

In view of this positive dynamic and the growth potential of bicycles in Paris Region, it is the right time for foreign investors to come and invest in this market.

To find out more about what is happening in terms of micro mobility, join Choose Paris Region’s talk on May 19 at 9:30 CEST at Autonomy Digital 2.0: How to participate in the micro mobility revolution in Paris Region?”.