Julian Scriven is the Managing Director at Brompton Bike Hire and a forward thinker when it comes to emobility. He is a passionate communicator about the subject. In 2019, he was a panel speaker at the EV Summit and part of the Clean Transport panel at the 2022 Decarbonisation Summit.
Scriven also spearheaded the NHS Wheels for Heroes campaign. This resulted in over 3,500 NHS key workers riding Bromptons for free for over 1.8 million miles during the height of the CoVid-19 pandemic.
While Scriven doesn’t refer to himself as a “cyclist” he frequently travels by bike as part of his daily commute. He believes in using the right tool for the job and not just swapping internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles for electric vehicles (EVs), which ultimately doesn’t solve the problems typically found in urban environments.
Ebikes are an extremely important form of emobility and in Europe last year sold over double the number of electric cars. The Brompton is the most famous folding bike and with the addition of an electric motor becomes an incredibly useful commuting tool, especially when combined with other forms of transport.
Scriven is enthusiastic when he talks about Brompton and how it fits into the world of emobility. He is positive and infectious when it comes to the subject. We caught up with him to find out more.
EDs: You’re clearly passionate about sustainable transport. What got you into the sector?
I lived in Amsterdam for 10 years in the early 2000s. I quickly discovered the joy of bikes as a mode of transport. People dressed for the destination, rather than the journey and the concept of a “cyclist” was unheard of.
Coming back to the UK was quite a culture shock in many ways, not least commuting habits. What surprised me most was the tribalism between “cyclists” and “drivers” which frankly reminded me of Jonathan Swift’s Big-Endians and Little-Endians.
When the opportunity came up to join Nextbike (Europe’s largest bike-share operator), I jumped at the chance to be part of the solution. The move to Brompton came a few years later and I still get a real buzz when I’m at the factory seeing the bikes being built. For me, Brompton has just the right amount of bonkers to feel like home.
EDs: You work for a bike company but you are an electric vehicle (EV) leader, too. How is that?
A vehicle is defined as a thing used to carry goods or people, so an electric bike certainly qualifies as an electric vehicle. It is also worth taking some perspective on this. Last year electric car sales in Europe topped 2.27 million, compared to over five million electric bikes in the same period.
It is fair to say that it is likely that more people in Europe are using an electric bike as a mode of transport than cars. So not only should electric bikes be included in people’s thoughts when they think of electric vehicles but also they should be thought of as the largest share in volume of the market.
EDs: What role do you see ebikes having in the mobility mix?
There are a number of roles but I will pick two. The first relates to accessibility into bikes as a mode of transport. Many people perceive they would not be able to ride a bike but will consider using an electric bike. This means electric bikes become a gateway or low friction entry point into bikes as a mode of transport.
The second is a more fundamental point. Congestion will not magically disappear in cities if every internal combustion engine (ICE) car was converted into an electric car. In fact, it is likely to become significantly worse, since people will feel they are “doing the right thing” by driving an EV in town.
If people simply switched to the most appropriate mode of transport for the journey they are taking, for example, an electric bike when travelling alone in a city centre, then we can tackle both environmental factors and congestion.
EDs: Do you see ebikes, and indeed, conventional pedal cycles, as being a tool that is increasingly part of the automotive mix, as we turn to a more sustainable transport near future?
Mixing modes of transport, for example, multi-modal trips, for me is crucial to the future of transport. Just as it makes no sense to drive a car in central London most of the time, it equally makes no sense for me to travel to Glasgow solely by pedal bike from London.
I certainly see journeys where six wheels, for example, a car and a bike, are the optimum solution. You could think of this as “Park and Pedal”, where you would drive your electric car to the outskirts of a town and then cycle into the town.
EDs: Are you looking to get an EV of the automotive form, yourself? If so, what vehicle would you go for?
I am actively looking at the moment. The latest generation of electric cars coming onto the market look fantastic. I am torn between the Polestar 2, the Ford Mustang Mach-E and of course the trusty Teslas. That said, I really want to try to hold out and try out the upcoming Toyota BZ. I have heard great rumours about it but it’s not available to test drive yet.
EDs: What does the future of transport look like to you?
If we are to have a sustainable future, then our attitude to transport has to change. The fundamental point, as I mentioned earlier, is for people to pause and assess what is the most appropriate mode of transport for the journey they will be taking.
At present, it is far too easy to jump into the private car sitting outside your house without a second thought. This needs to change. Ultimately, I believe this will come from rewarding good behaviour and de-incentivising poor behaviour.
If we can get fewer people driving cars in cities, then those who have no choice for their journey will have a faster and smoother trip in their car. Surely, this is something even a certain Mr Clarkson would support?