On 14 and 15 of March 2012, the second GoPedelec! Expert Training took place in Austria. A total of 15 participants attended the first and 55 participants attended the second Training day. Graz is a city which has one of the highest shares of cycling (...)
(...) among Austrian cities (16.1% of all distances). „Already when walking to the Technical University at street temperatures of about -10oC I met at least 40 cyclists across all age classes. There are 123 kilometers of cycle lanes and annually 2 million Euros are budgeted for the urban cycling traffic.
As Gerhard Ablasser from the city of Graz said in the morning results from the Green Party and the Austrian VCö (Verkehrsclub Österreich) have been published that the bicycle traffic in Graz nearly did not decrease during the cold season (the cycle traffic in November was the same as in July in one of the city's counters). I could see the evidence of this also in full winter time. This unexpectedly small decrease in cycle traffic is by the ways also a result of the 'Landrad' project done in 2009/2010. There it resulted that the pedelec traffic did not considerably decrease during winter time.
Discussion on Subsidies for Pedelecs
Unfortunately the presenter from Phylion could not come. However, this was not a major drawback because instead there was space left for an intense discussion about how pedelecs could be promoted better aiming at substituting cars.
Results of this discussion:
Different opinions on the role of subsidies: there seems to be agreement that subsidies have strong short-term impact on sales figures, As soon as subsidies are reduced sales numbers decline.
One retailer said that subsidies are not really necessary. People get a real benefit by pedelecs, once they are aware of it, they will pay for it.
Subsidies should be targeted. They should motivate people to give up their second car. This is in line with the opinion of Martin Strele who managed the Austrian pilot project 'Landrad', however, ideas are needed how to implement this in detail without creating enormous administrative work.
It might be a good idea to try to continue the Go Pedelec! trainings integrating them into the existing 'Fahradgipfel' ('Bicycle summit') such as here in the Austrian province of Salzburg.
Audience: Among the audience in lecture room 2 there is a participant who knows ExtraEnergy since 20 years. He comes from the non profit 'Bicycle' which is one of the oldest cyclist associations in Graz. One participant is from AVL, Austrian largest private research and development organisation within the diesel motor sector. In the later part of the afternoon also C. Seitner, trainer of KTM, listens to the training.
Illuminating talks during lunch
Interesting were the talks during lunch with the retailers. At least three of them say that pedelecs do not substitute cars by any means in the rural area in the Austrian province of Styria. Pedelecs are nearly purely used during leisure time. Not even commuters use them to reach the train or similar. The fear of theft is much too high.
A retailer also said that contacts with municipal decision makers are not well established. If municipalities want to do some project with pedelecs they rather call regional energy agencies than directly retailers.
Gepida - for the first time a presentation was held without translation
We tried this time to translate only the text of the slides to the national language (German) and to hold the presentation in English. We offered the participants however to switch to consecutive translation. This option was not necessary, all were happy with slides in German and spoken text in English. This saved a lot of time compared to the other trainings held so far.
Questions from the audience to Gabor Siska: How many persons work on this? - I do not know exactly, but probably about 10 persons. What is the price position of Gepida with regard to other brands in Austria and Germany with regard to comparable quality? - Gepida may offer lower prices which lead to feasible prices for final customers in the range of 1500 to 2000 Euros.
Talks during Dinner
The evening revealed further interesting aspects during dinner which was offered by the city of Graz. We were joined by Robert Schmied, director of the Energie Graz Holding GmbH and project manager of the 'e-mobility initiative' of the Graz region. The initiative is about establishing 250 electric vehicles and 400 pedelecs around and in Graz. It is one of seven such 'e-regions' in Austria.
Mr. Schmied could get some advice during dinner for his project - be it from two employees of the association Bicycle be it from Hannes Neupert from ExtraEnergy. Moreover he was invited to join the training event during the morning session of the second training day where Hannes Neupert would still say something about the international pedelec market and he was invited to the Austrian workshop for municipal decision makers on April 25, 2012, in Leoben.
Pros and cons of different pedelec products and features with regard to establishing a rental system with pedelecs were discussed on behalf of the experts present during dinner. One detail was that the German Call-a-bike bike system now tends to focus again more on the system where the bikes have to be returned to defined stations instead of the system GPS-based system where you could leave the bike in the street wherever you want (e.g. as currently in Cologne with normal bikes). For this latter 'free approach' turned out to be too difficult to control where the bikes really end up.
At this second day, again as with the training in St. Pölten, the participation rate was significantly higher with some 55 participants. The day started again with a presentation of Hannes Neupert (President ExtraEnergy e.V.), this time on international market aspects of pedelecs.
Before that there was an inaugural speech held by Mr. Dreisiebner from the city council of Graz, member of the Green party. Moreover he was audio-interviewed by T. Lewis on his view on pedelecs and the according role they could play in the urban traffic concept. He is of the opinion that electric cars are over-emphasized in the current discussion on electric mobility. He says that the presence of cars, what ever fuel they may be based on, should significantly decrease in the inner urban areas in the future. Mr. Dreisiebner contributed two significant further potential inputs to the Go Pedelec! project in the talk:
1. Since city counsellor is not a full time job in Graz his other profession is with the Austrian service for unemployed persons (AMS = Arbeitsmarktservice). There they regularly implement special programs for companies. The idea of Mr. Dreisiebner was to establish an opportunity for companies to rent pedelecs for their employees for single events such as a trip to the green surroundings of Graz. The AMS might financially support such acitivies. The goal is to have such a program in place by mid of April 2012 so first trips with pedelecs could take place by May 2012.
2. Mr. Dreisiebner would provide personal contacts to other Austrian city administrations such as Salzburg or Innsbruck which might host a Go Pedelec! workshop before summer 2012.
A special event was the presentation of Mrs. Aline Goldstein from Bosch who was present for the first time at a Go Pedelec! training.
Please find the interviews here:
>> Photo gallery GoPedelec! in Graz
Text: Thomas Lewis
Photos and interviews: Thomas Lewis
16 March 2012