The Future of Cities

Areas in Europe are providing us a glimpse of how an automobile-light city of the future may look.

The world’s eye is currently on a town in Germany called Heidelberg as it becomes the first city to vow fossil fuel abstinence. Heidelberg is at the forefront of a movement that is strongest in Europe but has a presence in plenty of communities around the world, including American cities like Austin, Texas, and Portland, OR. The pandemic has given many citizens a taste of what densely packed urban areas would be like without so much traffic, and they like it.

This may be the first place, but it certainly will not be the last. Dozens of cities in Europe, including Rome, London and Paris, plan to limit center city traffic to emission-free vehicles during the next decade. Some, like Stockholm and Stuttgart, the German home of Mercedes-Benz, already ban older diesel vehicles.

National governments are adding to the pressure. Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Slovenia say they will ban sales of internal combustion cars after 2030. Britain and Denmark say they will do so in 2035, allowing only hybrids after 2030, and Spain and France in 2040.

So, what does this mean for us in the United States? Simply put, these world-wide statements of intent push vehicle manufacturers to phase out internal combustion engines. Furthermore, there is the increasing popularity of environmentally-conscious urban planning that we are seeing all around the globe.

Groundwork is being laid on an international scale for cities to not only be less reliant on fossil fuels, but on the personal automobile altogether. Cities are building networks of bicycle “superhighways” to the suburbs. Pedestrian tourists are flocking to cities that aren’t congested with traffic. Bikes are going to be the commuter vehicle of the future, and we at eBike Central are calling it now: Electric bikes will be at the forefront of bike ownership because of their ease of use.

“In the past 12 to 18 months, you have seen a lot of new brands come into the electric bike market,” said Andrew Engelmann, an e-bike sales and marketing manager at Yamaha, which has been in the electric bike business since 1993 and claims sales of two million worldwide. “We in the U.S. have not seen this new energy toward cycling since Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France.”