Eurobike 2014 – Merkel Wants E-Bikes to Replace Trucks for Local Freight

In 2013 chancellor Merkel visited the Eurobike – it was election time. Lobbying and industry organizations were happy, they saw it as a recognition of the growing political importance of cycling. This year she was not there and none of the same organizations seem to be bothered. Strange enough, as this is a clear step backwards – there was no important federal politician at the Eurobike 2014. This should bother the bike scene.

Merkel as a cargo bike lobbyist?

Nevertheless Merkel was still present, a prominent „statement of Merkel“ was wandering through Eurobike halls – many international colleagues at the Eurobike seemed convinced that in Germany big investments would pave the way to carbon free inner-city transports on cargo bikes in the near future. And that Merkel herself was behind this. Now we were puzzled, that sounded unbelievable!

A very interesting lesson in media dynamics

Now how did that come to be? And what does it mean? Let’s go step by step: On 8th July the Green Party, namely parliamentarian Matthias Gastel asked the government a set of questions about cycling policy and potentials of ebikes and cargo bikes (this is called „kleine Anfrage“ – a parliamentarian right of all parties in the parliament). The government then has two weeks to answer.

The various page long answer (dated 30th July) of the government named many advantages of shifting traffic from cars to bikes and listed several projects that are funded by the government and, among many other things, said that they saw a big potential of cargo bikes in city deliveries : Die Bundesregierung ist der Auffassung, dass es noch ein großes, bislang nicht genutztes Potenzial für Lastenfahrräder – auch mit elektrischer Unterstützung –insbesondere im Liefer- sowie im Service- und Dienstleistungsverkehr vor allem in den Kommunen gibt.“ (Which means: The German government believes that there is a large potantial of cargo bikes, also with electric assistance – that is not used until now. In particular in the delivery and service sector in cities.“)

It is nice that they say that, but it really means nothing new in terms of actual measures that the government will or might take.

The Bundestags press service then published the answer on 11.8.2014 headlining catchy: Lastenfahrräder haben großes Potenzial (cargo bikes have a big potential). Still nothing much of a relevant press information.

Bloomberg gives it the spin

Now see what headline Bloooberg made out of it -the very same day: „Merkel Wants E-Bikes to Replace Trucks for Local Freight„, 11.8.2014. WHOOMP there it is! That is a very loose interpretaion of the facts, but the author in the following explains the background with links to the original documents (of course with a language barrier that hardly anyone will cross).

Then this made it’s way to the international media as an example below a picture of an article in the dutch „De Financiële Telegraaf“. Actually using a photo of Merkels 2013 visit at the Eurobike. Reading the dutch article as a final result, you may well think there is a cargo bike wave on the rise.

All in all a showcase how media gets a lot out of nearly nothing and how people receive it.


Zeitungsmeldung aus Holland; Foto: Jorrit Kreek

Now to keep this nice media hype gooing we should really find a journalist of a big German agency to ask Angela Merkel about „this Bloomberg headline“ that was published some weeks ago….

Note: The Green party who asked the question only reacted to the answer two weeks later. Not referring to any of the english reception that had happend before: see the Greens press statement here, 26.8.2014. The German press didn’t pick up the issue at all.

Note 2: Thanks Arne for giving the hints to figure this all out :-)!

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