„Wir wollen verändern, wie Menschen in Städten leben“, mit diesen Worten schaut Will Butler-Adams positiv in die Zukunft. Besonders in schweren Zeiten in denen wir mit Covid, Krieg, Brexit und einer unumkehrbaren Klimakrise konfrontiert werden, schöpft Will (Managing Director bei Brompton Bicycle) neue Hoffnung. Wie eine Verkehrswende gelingen kann, welche Mission Brompton verfolgt und ob er selbst leidenschaftlicher Radfahrer ist, das und mehr hat er uns im Interview verraten.
Covid, Brexit, the war in Ukraine – times are not the best at the moment: However do you see opportunities in this critical time and could it also be a path towards a mobility turnaround?
We have been through unimaginable turmoil in the last few years, but from tragedy there is hope. For the first time in over seventy years, nearly living memory, many cities saw what an urban future could be like. A future where the city put the citizen and community first, not automobile corporations.
That enlightenment, bought about by the pain of Covid may result in a more rapid transformation of our cities; where walking and cycling become the priority. The challenges we face globally; of climate change, urbanisation and with it poor physical and mental health, demand this change.
What would have to happen at a political level to bring about a transport turnaround?
The political change will be driven by the demands of the people, people want change, people have the vote and will back political leadership that delivers it. Look at Paris, Anne Hidalgo implemented a ‘radical’ agenda of cycle lane construction and car parking space removal, to many, this was political suicide, yet she has been voted in for a second term because the majority of urban dwellers want safe, clean, healthy cities to live in.
I imagine the Brompton target group is based in cities due to the bikes folding feature. What else makes a Brompton bike stand out and is it suitable for everyone?
The Brompton is useful that is its main aim, it is useful to those who live in cities because it is a bicycle, the most efficient mode of transport ever invented but also it can fold, so can fit in a flat, can be taken into a bar or work……it is convenient. It is also useful for those that live outside the city and visit the city because it is multimodal, it can be combined with a train, a subway or a car, delivering a simple end to end journey solution. It also gives those who live in the city the opportunity to leave the city and explore the countryside around them.
Quoting Adam Opel „In no other invention is the useful and the pleasant so intimately linked as in the bicycle,“ are you yourself a passionate cyclist? And is it also inspirational for you?
I am not a cyclist, nor am I a walkist, but I love cycling and I love walking……they are natural and normal and fit into my everyday life and bring joy. The inspiration of the bicycle is that it is for everyone, it is simple, efficient and makes you happy.
Looking towards the future, what are your company goals? How do you make bikes and e-bikes more interesting for a target group that’s used to cars?
We want to change how people live in cities, to bring a little more freedom and happiness. Most people in cities do not use a car (though you would not think this when you see how much space is given over to the car), most people use public transport. For the car user we need to articulate the joy of cycling, that in a climate emergency we cannot continue using a 2000kg transport vehicle to carry a person a few kilometres across town when you can use a 15kg electric bicycle to do the same thing, whilst also contributing to our wellbeing.
Can you tell us something about the manufacturing process of a Brompton bike and e-bike? What is particularly important during production?
With a folding bike you need to make it light. People think all bikes need to be light, but they don’t because the weight of the bike becomes nearly irrelevant when the rider gets on top of it. But with a folding bike it really does matter because when folded it is hanging on the end of your arm and every 100grms matters.
To make a bike light and strong you need control, control of the design, material and the manufacturing process, so you can take the product as close to the optimal design as possible. This sounds easy but complicated and challenging and is something we have optimised over nearly fifty years.
You have a degree in engineering, was it always your dream to work in the transport sector?
My dream was to use my education to contribute to making the world a little bit better. I have been fortunate that through Brompton we are doing our part.
What makes a good managing director?
Furious ambition, combined with modesty.