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Soft mobility – Saddling up to cut down our emissions

Some of our service technicians have taken to cycling to service our customers, while doing their share to help the environment.

'There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.'

No, that’s not the latest advertising tagline for Ireland, Wales, or Scotland.

The mantra, though, could very well sum up the mindset of some of our service technicians who’ve taken to cycling to service our customers, while doing their share to help the environment – rain or shine.

As we progress on our journey to reach carbon neutrality by 2040, cycling lanes are ones of the many battlefronts where we’ve taken the fight against climate change. In Switzerland and Germany, a small but growing number of our technicians have swapped the traditional service car or van for the more environmentally friendly e-bike.

Each in their own ways, our technicians are ushering in a new era of mobility – known as ‘soft mobility’ – helping to cut carbon emissions and fight smog in city centers, one pedal stroke at a time. Besides the obvious environmental benefits, the switch to e-biking offers many other advantages: they help our technicians navigate congested city centers with ease, get to their customers faster, while helping them stay in shape. 

Farewell, traffic!

Cycling is often the fastest way to get around city centers, our technicians have found. Getting stuck in traffic has become a thing of the past for our technicians who’re taking full advantage of the increasing number of cycling lanes found in urban centers – and beyond. 

If you’re picturing our technicians zipping through traffic or zigzagging between cars without signaling, we’ve given you the wrong idea. Our technicians are sticklers for safety for one. They’re also hauling heavy cargo. Their 30-kg bikes are kitted out with large storage compartments containing spare parts, tools and other equipment needed on the job.

Cycling into the city doesn’t only mean a more enjoyable and faster journey to their destination for our technicians. It means less time spent looking for parking space – so that they can get quicker to where they need to be. Our technicians-turned-cyclists are often able to park their bicycles right outside the building where their services are needed. And that’s a big plus. 

Convenience on wheels

"It’s easier to get spare parts and tools," says Nico Philippo, a Schindler technician based in Berlin, one of the ten Schindler employees currently riding e-bikes in Germany. "You don’t have to walk all the way to your car every time you need something."

Marcus Biewal, another service technician based in Germany, also enjoys the added convenience and efficiency. He particularly loves using his cargo e-bike to get around large construction sites. "We can be on-site much quicker when an issue comes up, and we can carry more stuff," he says. "Otherwise, we’d have to do everything on foot."

Just across the German border, in Switzerland, Christian Ryter, a service technician based in Thun, also can’t stop singing the praises of e-biking.

I am much more flexible and can get on-site faster in case of a malfunction. 

For him, ditching the service car for an e-bike was an easy decision. "It's the perfect way to get around because I cover a city district which happens to be car-free."

A few thousands of kilometers away, in China, a similar story plays out. Some of our technicians there have taken to ‘suitcase scooters’ to beat traffic and increase efficiency. The tool case, which converts – transformer-style – into a small electric-powered scooter in a matter of seconds, can easily be carried in public transport and is perfect to cover the last mile.

Going the distance 

Although our technicians might still have to train some more to be able to compete in the Tour de France, colleagues cover up to 50km daily with their e-bikes – not a bad feat.  Many of our technicians use their e-bicycles to cover smaller distances, occasionally using their service vehicles for longer journeys. Pragmatism prevails. "They’re doing what makes the most sense," explains Marco Ceresa, our fleet manager in Switzerland.

Bruno Reinprecht, a service leader based in Basel, was already cycling to work two to three days a week before he volunteered to join the e-biking pilot, which has been made permanent since. "Today, I am only using my e-bike to get around". He got the e-bike two years ago and already has 10,000km on it – and counting. It is just a lot of fun.

What makes it so good? "I cover a relatively small service area, with mostly flat and urban terrain and a great cycling network," he says. That the bikes are regularly serviced and come perfectly equipped just adds to the whole experience. Does he miss driving his service vehicle? "Not at all."

That’s a view shared by most of our technicians. Marcus, our German technician, says riding an e-bike just makes his day better. It simply changes his outlook. "You get to enjoy more of the nice weather while on the job and you get fitter in the process." 

Bad weather happens

Nothing beats riding a bicycle with the sun shining on your back. But hold on – doesn’t cycling leave you exposed to the elements? After all, Switzerland and Germany both have bad weather days.

When it gets too wet or too cold, or snowy, most of our technicians admit to using their service cars, or public transportation – and we can’t blame them. 

For Bruno, though, the right clothing can go a very long way. Riding in wet conditions just requires a few adjustments, he says. "You just have to remember to adjust your braking habits," he says.

Better fitness

Like Bruno, technicians who’ve switched to e-bikes say they feel their fitness has gotten better in some way. 

Nico, in Germany, sees this as an opportunity to squeeze in a workout in his already busy schedule. He wears a fitness watch, which helps him keep track of the kilometers cycled on the job.

Christian, for his part, says he’s seen dramatic health improvements. "I have lost about 5 kg and have much more endurance,” he says. “And I also have a lot less headaches."