“The importance of owning your own car will continue to diminish.”
25.03.2021 | Mobility
Since the start of the year, Dennis Knese has been Professor of Sustainable Mobility and Cycling at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (FUAS). Within the chair, Riese & Müller is providing 50 % of the funding for a research fellow – with the aim of expanding teaching in cycling as a mode of transport and anchoring cycling more deeply in the mobility mix of the future. Dennis Knese describes in an interview how we will get around in future and what academia and business can learn from each other.
Mr Knese, how does a person actually become a Cycling Professor?
I have been dealing with mobility issues for many years, most recently as an advisor on sustainable mobility with the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). I already had contact with the FUAS as I was involved in research projects on electric mobility between 2010 and 2016 and also completed my PhD on it as well. Nonetheless, I had to go through the normal application process for the professorship.
My research work to date includes cycle highway concepts and I continue to see potential for a growing demand for E-Bikes, particularly for commuting. My move to my new role as professor now gives me the opportunity to focus on certain issues in a highly dynamic region with many different challenges.
What is your mission? What do you wish to impart to students on their career (sorry, cycle!) path?
Of course, I would like to inspire as many students as possible about the subject and ideally prepare them for their subsequent careers, possibly as cycle path designers. So on the one hand preparing students for specific jobs, and on the other as partners to companies through their research work and projects. Research provides the arguments that we urgently need tor the ‘transport revolution’: evidence-based data on the benefits of more cycling. Interesting prospects are opening up, especially in logistics.
A number of colleagues here in Frankfurt are conducting research into a transport system to convey goods on the existing tram network to micro-depots from where they would then be transported by bike, E-Bike or Cargo Bike to customers. The issues are many and varied: how do the transport boxes need to be designed, how often could the trams be used, or how to accommodate the different providers – not to mention the associated legal questions and economic impact.
In view of the complexity, we closely network and cooperate with business, politics and other universities with whom we are in regular dialogue in the form of an academic competence cluster. The research is geared to the specific needs of the region and so we are also in contact with Frankfurt City Council’s Cycling Office. But we also have a host of project enquiries from other cities and communities.
You are in the process of setting up a cycling transport planning course – what can you already tell us about its content?
We are currently working on a concept for a Master’s course in “Sustainable Mobility” in which students can elect to focus on cycling. Cycling will also be successively integrated into various existing courses in the mechanical engineering, economics and law faculties.
And what is the focus of your research?
My research is embedded within the existing Research Lab for Urban Transport (ReLUT) and is likely to focus on two strands in the field of cycling: First and foremost are transport planning aspects, both everyday urban cycling and also cycling in more rural areas, for instance in the tourism sector.
Another area of research will look at cycling logistics, and how logistics companies could increasingly focus on the use of cargo bikes. Organisation and advertising aspects play a role in this, because companies will naturally want to clearly position their brand in the "last mile" of a delivery. The issues are not always just about cycling as a mode of transport, but also about its positioning within a sustainable and integrated transport system in conjunction with pedestrian infrastructure, public transport and cars.
Where does Dennis Knese, the cyclist, head off to?
I’m originally from the Emsland region of Northern Germany and am totally pro-cycling. I love cycling on holiday. Some years ago, I was in Bangkok and did a day tour on a bike with a Dutch provider. It took me to places I would otherwise never have experienced.
It inspires me that you can discover regions by bike that you would not be able to reach, or not be able to reach as quickly, using other modes of transport. I use my bike a lot in everyday life to get to work – I don’t have my own car. But you’ll also often find me on public transport: I am multimodal when it comes to getting around.
After graduation, the geographer and transport planner Prof. Dennis Knese worked as a researcher with the Vancouver Economic Development Commission and as a research fellow with the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (FUAS). He then completed his PhD on the integration of electric mobility in urban planning and highway design at the University of Kassel. Most recently, he was an advisor for sustainable mobility at the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), collaborating above all on projects in emerging and developing countries in Asia and Latin America.
Dennis Knese has held the Cycling Foundation Professorship at the FUAS since 1 January 2021. The position is one of seven Cycling Professorships throughout Germany, which have been set up as part of the 2020 German National Cycling Plan (NRVP) by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) “Cycling Foundation Professorships” funding programme.
How do you view the cooperation between academia and business with regard to the ‘mobility revolution’?
Basically, I see it as super essential that business and academia come together, as it enables us to provide practice-based teaching at the universities. Students can learn from everyday working experiences in companies and develop new perspectives. They see where the needs are and the obstacles to meeting them.
Moreover, businesses have enormous innovative capacity and their own sustainability goals with which they motivate employees and attract skilled workers, while incentivising environmentally friendly mobility and providing the necessary basic conditions.
What do you expect with regard to the ‘mobility revolution’ in the next three to five years? What role will E-Bikes have?
We have been speaking about the ‘transport revolution’ for years but the world of transport is unfortunately relatively stubborn. The automotive industry will change considerably over the next ten years. If all goes well, we will be registering more electric cars than conventional cars by 2030. Service provision and digitalisation will continue to become more relevant in this context, i.e. manufacturers will increasingly become service providers. At the same time, the importance of owning your own car will continue to diminish.
We are experiencing a boom in cycling during the corona virus crisis, while public transport is heading towards a crisis. However, here too, users will rise again, but sooner or later public transport will reach its capacity limits. Expanding public transport services will take so long that it will be unable to cope with the rising demand. This will again present a major opportunity for cycling as a mode of transport.
E-Bikes are a fantastic alternative for commuting up to 20 kilometres and will also play a greater role in business transport.