If you pay any attention to mobility, you’ll have noticed a tidal shift, but what’s on the horizon? We wanted to get your perspective, which is why we threw open the invitation to our DOWNTOWN Reader Survey 2022 to find out how you currently commute and to explore what today means and what tomorrow holds for moving around our cities.

First and foremost, we have to say a huge thank you to the 800-plus respondents from 42 countries that took up our invitation for the Reader Survey. It means the world to us – we couldn’t do it without your input. Answering up to 50 questions is no mean feat, which makes this even more exciting when we start unpicking the findings. Thank you for engaging with the survey and giving us such in-depth feedback; it helps us paint a precise picture of you, what makes you tick and what makes you excited, so we can be even more confident that our content is relevant and interesting. Your feedback doesn’t just help shape DOWNTOWN; it impacts the development of the bike industry because the brands come to us, diving into our Reader Survey to invest your input into their product development – all totally anonymous, of course.

Who’s the typical DOWNTOWN reader? We’re looking at a 48-year-old reader on average, with 44 being the median and 86 being the oldest. It wouldn’t be uncommon if you’re called Michael or Petra. In terms of gender, female readership is at around 15%. Your average income is close to € 73,000. Despite the name DOWNTOWN, 17% of you live in villages with fewer than 5,000 residents, with one third of these being part of a larger metropolitan area. At the other extreme, around 13% live in cities of one million inhabitants. In total, 43% live in towns or big cities with more than 100,000 residents, including the aforementioned mega cities. The remaining 40% flit around smaller towns with between 5,000 to 100,000 residents. The good thing is that we don’t actually care whether you technically live downtown or not because it’s more of a mindset than a position on a map. Pioneers, early adopters, urban mobility-curious, we’re into everything from ebikes to electric cars.

Where are you from?

While hailing from 42 different countries, Germany is well represented with close to 65% of the readership. The United Kingdom comes next with a shade over 6%, followed by the United States at 3.5%. Austria and Switzerland complete the top five at 3.4 and 3.3% respectively. European countries deck out the rest of the top ten.

Top 10 Countries

  • Germany: 64.6 %
  • United Kingdom: 6.1 %
  • USA: 3.5 %
  • Austria: 3.4 %
  • Switzerland: 3.3 %
  • Italy: 2.3 %
  • France: 1.6 %
  • Netherlands: 1.6 %
  • Spain: 1.6 %
  • Belgiun: 1.3 %

As part of tomorrow’s scenario for mobility (and today’s, too), bikes are pivotal to DOWNTOWN. We’re particularly curious about what you own and what you’re riding. Mountain bikes are the predominant rigs in your sheds, garages and workshops – coming in at 59% and confirming their versatility. While most likely purchased for sport, your MTB is likely to tap into your day-to-day life, too, be it for grocery runs or day trips to a lake. For others, a dedicated urban or commuter bike (36%) has proven useful, with added functionality for carrying luggage, integrated lights and/or mudguards – not to mention lighter, faster and more efficient than an MTB. Trekking or hybrid bikes rank third at 27%, showcasing yet more versatility. Drop bar road and gravel bikes complete the top five at 27 and 25% respectively. As big advocates for cargo bikes, we’re stoked to see that 9% of you are already proud owners. The trend is on the rise, but more on that later.

As most of you own multiple bikes, we had to dig a little deeper to find out which bike of yours sees the most action, highlighting how the answers to this question can be pretty diverse to the previous one. You might own a cargo bike or a road bike, but neither of those are necessarily the bike you’ll be riding most frequently. Versatility, anyone? The reason for the limited usage is straightforward, hence the relatively higher reported usage of a hybrid or trekking bike. In one third of all cases, the most frequently used bike has a motor.

Unsurprisingly, most DOWNTOWN readers are regular riders. 37% ride at least once per day, with almost half of you riding multiple times per week. 9% use their bike once a week, while just 5% ride once per month or less. We suspect this has something to do with not having found the right bike yet. Luckily, you already know where to find help when you need it ;-).

According to 64% of the respondents, your urban and hybrid or trekking bikes are mostly deployed for getting to and from work, with shopping being another major purpose (61%). Excursions, such as to lakes or days out, come in third at 47%. For this sort of bike, this is precisely what you’d be expecting. In terms of business or commercial usage, usage drops to 12% and 11% for transporting kids.

It’s likely you’ve heard our call for cargo bikes before – we’re big fans, not only because they’re fun but because they’re a key element of future mobility. DOWNTOWN readers tend to agree with us, with 58% of you declaring an interest in cargo bikes. Almost 9% already own one, and a further 10% would like to buy a cargo bike soon. Around a third of all respondents have ridden a cargo bike at least once. Out of the ones who’ve bought one, only 23% obtained some form of subsidiary for the purchase; for the rest of you, we urge you to find out what financial support could be available in your region.

Where and how your cargo bikes are used is a whole other ballgame to a classic city bike given the opportunities cargo bikes unlock to transport people or objects. Shopping tops the list amongst the readers, applying to 84% of our cargo bike riders. The second-most cited use is for transporting heavy cargo (48%), followed by both excursions and transporting kids from A to B (both 47%). Commuting is close at 45%, while only 16% use their cargo bike for commercial usage, such as deliveries. Interestingly, close to half of all cargo bike users in the survey share their cargo bike with other people.

Providing spot-on consumer advice is integral to DOWNTOWN, which is why we’re particularly interested in what sort of bikes you want to buy in the near future. 49% of the DOWNTOWN readership plan on getting an urban bike in the next 12 months, with 76% specifying an ebike. But these bikes aren’t per se for everyday usage – bikes are way too universal for that. Cargo bikes, specifically, are the most popular, accounting for 22% of all planned purchases, ahead of hybrid/trekking bikes (19%), then urban/commuter bikes (18%). Mountain bikes (14%) and gravel bikes (12%) also feature highly. On average, you’re budgeting around € 3,600 for the purchase.

Given the interest in cargo bikes, we wanted to take a closer look at your demands, expectations, concerns and potential turn-offs. For most of you, the biggest deterrent is price. And rightly so, cargo bikes are significantly more expensive than other urban bikes. You’re looking at an average spend of € 4,960, which could be explained at least partially by the fact that e-cargo bikes are so in demand, making up 89% of the planned purchases. 17% would even like an s-pedelec with pedal-assist up to 45 km/h.

In terms of expectations, your future cargo bike should do what your current cargo bikes are doing – transporting groceries, children and picnic supplies. What’s more interesting is the principal reason you’ve given for wanting to buy a cargo bike: protect the environment by reducing harmful emissions (58%), and to partially (43%) or completely (34%) replace your car. The health benefits achieved by transitioning from car to cargo bike is important for 35% of you.

The biggest concern with cargo bikes is, as mentioned, their price, as stated by 51% of you. You also have a lot of concerns about parking and storage (40%). Cargo bikes are not just more expensive but also much larger and heavier than a conventional bike, so finding somewhere secure and accessible to park your cargo bike is not always easy. As such, having it stolen is of concern to 20% of you. Interestingly, 31% of respondents aren’t quite sure about the functionality of having a cargo bike for use in your everyday life. Fortunately, you’re reading the right magazine, so we’re hoping you’ll be convinced of that soon. But the issue could be bigger than this – for 19% of the respondents, there’s a worry that current traffic infrastructure in our cities isn’t suitable or safe enough for cargo bikes, which are at a disadvantage given their size and manoeuvrability. This aspect is somewhat aligned with concerns about handling (18%), but less so range (7%), which appears to satisfy most users.

Compared to reader behaviour from our other magazines – ENDURO, E-MOUNTAINBIKE and GRAN FONDO – we picked up on much more local bike shop loyalty when it comes to where and how you plan on buying a future cargo bike. This could be down to a number of factors, but we have a strong suspicion it mostly comes down to their bigger size, which can mean dramatically higher delivery costs and added complexity. In addition to that, cargo bikes are still a very niche product, so there’s no widespread comparison sites or reviews, which increases uncertainty if you’re buying a product ‘blindly’ on the internet and means you’ll be more grateful for the opportunity to do a test ride and get valuable insight from staff. As such, we’re looking at 70% who plan on buying from a local bike shop, and just 15% online. There’s also a solid 7% contingent who would like to build their own, a nominal 2% of users planning on buying second-hand, while the rest haven’t decided.

What are your thoughts on e-mobility?

Mobility can’t be seen as a privilege or as a one-size-fits-all solution. As change agents here at DOWNTOWN, we look at it holistically, without zooming in on one single solution that wouldn’t cover everyone in every situation. We hold mobility to the definition of needing to find the right mix, which can be vastly different for all of us. On that thought, we wanted to know what goes through your mind when you think about e-mobility. You, like us, are interested in the topic (70%), with 18% of respondents already in possession of, or regular users, of an electric car. 11% own an electric scooter and 8% an electric motorbike.

What’s your stance on electric cars?

As mentioned, 18% of DOWNTOWN readers own an electric car, or regularly use one. That’s opposed to 85% who own, or regularly use, a combustion engine car. 14% of respondents want to purchase an electric car in the next 12 months, with 72% of them planning on replacing their usual car with an electric model. For 14% of those planning to go electric, the purchase will at least partially replace their combustion engine car.

Out of all the electric cars currently in usage amongst DOWNTOWN readers, Volkswagen tops the list at 17%, followed by Tesla (14%), Hyundai (8%), then BMW and Renault tied at 7%.

Looking ahead, Hyundai have clearly caught the attention of DOWNTOWN readers with 14% of planned purchases looking likely to go in their favour. The next most likely brands include BMW (10%) and Tesla (8%), followed by Mercedes-Benz and Skoda (both 5%). Our current electric car group test is full of insights and inspiration so you can purchase your electric car with intent.

Price appears to be one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to the mobility shift, with 67% of respondents stating that it’s their biggest concern about electric cars. Further key concerns revolve around range (50%), access to public charging stations (43%), and private charging options (30%). While one in five people are worrying about the environmental impact that goes into producing an electric car, there’s 12% who are simply concerned about the availability of models. A small minority (4%) admit to worrying about a lack of emotional connection.

Best Brands 2022 – What are your fave brands in the world of e-mobility?

With our first-ever DOWNTOWN Reader Survey, we’ve been able to unpick the market a little and discover who you hold in high regard when it comes to urban bikes, motors for e-bikes and electric cars. The answers are wholly subjective as very few have had the opportunity to test and compare everything that’s out on the market. However, your answers give us a clear idea about which brands have been working diligently over recent years to win your favour and build brand awareness.

The happy winner

Other than pulling the numbers for perspective, we have another major reason why we love doing our now-annual Reader Survey: to award you with great prizes. In collaboration with our prize draw partner WINORA, we’re giving away a WINORA Yakun R5 Pro valued at € 4,699 to one lucky respondent, who’ll be getting their delivery very soon. Stay tuned to our social media channels to see it unfold.

So, folks, that was it: the findings from our first-ever DOWNTOWN Reader Survey. It’s worth taking part to not only help us get a handle on the topic of mobility, but because of the cool prizes up for grabs. We’re incredibly excited to follow the emerging trends and see what else the future has in store. Keep your eyes peeled for our next Reader Survey, launching in spring 2023.

Words: Robin Wormer Photos: Julian Lemme