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“Cycling in particular is crucial for the last mile”

Theresa Ramisch
Sofia Gronard is Head of Communications at bicycle storage specialist Gronard. Image: Gronard

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Promoting cycling is one of the most effective measures against climate change. Nevertheless, far too little is happening when it comes to cycling, especially in Germany as a car country. Since 1949, the Munich-based manufacturer Gronard has been trying to promote bicycle traffic, among other things by providing parking facilities that have been thought through down to the last detail. In this interview, Head of Communications Sofia Gronard explains where the problems lie in Germany.

The cycling mode share could be increased by 45 percent

Sofia Gronard, according to the European Parliament, passenger cars are one of the biggest polluters, accounting for 60.6 percent of total CO₂ emissions from EU road traffic. At Gronard, you have set yourself the goal of driving forward the mobility transition with sustainable bike racks and street furniture. In your opinion, where do we stand in terms of the transport transition in Europe?

Awareness of sustainable mobility in Germany has grown in recent years. In my opinion, public transport, rail transport and cycling are the most important components that can drive forward the mobility transition. Cycling in particular is crucial for the last few miles. Thanks to the e-bike, it is now possible to cover much longer distances without having to resort to the car. Unfortunately, however, there is a lack of developed cycle path infrastructure: The share of people cycling in Germany could be increased by 45%, saving 19 million tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases in traffic each year – this was shown by an assessment of the potential for cycling commissioned by the ADFC (German Cyclists Association).

The majority is produced in Munich

Between 2030 and 2050, around 250,000 people worldwide are expected to die every year as a result of climate change, including extreme heat. What role does the increasing heat play in production at Gronard? To what extent do you deal with this topic?

We have been working intensively on the issue of sustainability for a long time, particularly in the context of global warming. We are a manufacturer of products that help to promote the mobility transition and reduce global warming, but our products are largely made from the resource-intensive raw material steel. So we are aware of our responsibility. That is why we decided back in 2018 to seek external and independent advice on how we can reduce our CO2 emissions. We produce the majority of our products in Munich in order to keep delivery routes as short as possible or, if possible, to avoid them altogether.
Our approach is to cause as few emissions as possible and those that we cannot currently avoid, we offset through climate projects. We have been a climate-neutral company since 2018 and offer selected products in a climate-neutral way.

Rising temperatures will play an increasingly important role in companies in the future. Especially in a manufacturing company like ours, where appropriate protective clothing is mandatory, it is imperative to ensure appropriate temperatures in the factory halls. Our fitters, who usually assemble our products outdoors all day, are already affected by the heat. If it is possible for the customer, we plan installations accordingly, so that on particularly hot days, work is preferably carried out very early in the morning or, if necessary, in underground garages or bicycle cellars.

More liveable encounter zones

The mobility turnaround is an important means of counteracting climate change and thus the increasing heat. Another is the massive increase in green spaces in the city. Which systems, innovations and strategies to combat the heat would you like to see more of in international cities?

International cities need more liveable meeting zones. Climate change is causing temperatures in heavily populated and mostly sealed areas to rise many times over. As a result, meeting zones in particularly sunny locations are becoming unpalatable for city dwellers. The heat in cities can be effectively reduced through climate-adapted urban design of existing or future squares. This approach is being pursued by the city of Frankfurt, among others, which has drawn up guidelines for climate-adapted urban square design and is now beginning to gradually dismantle and green sealed squares.
Sustainable solutions such as façade greening, public drinking water fountains, integrated shading elements for seating or play equipment and green mobility stations with solar panels for all modes of transport significantly improve the quality of time spent.

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Gronard's production in Munich ensures that transport routes ...
... can be kept short in an environmentally friendly way. Images: Gronard, Florian Generotzky

Climate protection has a hard time

Climate adaptation and climate protection have become political buzzwords worldwide. In your opinion, how important are heat management measures and climate adaptation in politics and city administration? What is your impression?

Climate protection has a very difficult time in a car-oriented country like Germany. This is clear from the fact that the transport sector has failed to meet its climate targets for three years in a row.
In order to achieve these goals, I see a lot of potential in political measures such as educational work, support programs and laws, so that everyone recognises the risks of the climate crisis and actively participates in stopping it.

In recent years, a number of funding programs or climate protection measures have been initiated, but many are miles away from achieving the targets set. One example is the National Cycling Plan, which aims to make Germany a cycling nation by 2030. However, there is a lack of a sustainable and conceptual strategy for municipalities and city administrations, nor is the legal framework in place.
In cities, the competition for space between different modes of transport, whether car, public transport, bicycle, sharing services or pedestrian paths, makes road users feel unsafe. This is especially the case with bicycles, which means that people continue to rely on the “tried and tested” car as a means of transport. In order to counteract this and promote climate protection, the Road Traffic Act should be revised for new and future means of transport, funding procedures should be simplified and support should be offered to planners.

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Gronard supports cities in their climate transformation with parklets ...
... and the option of greening bicycle shelters, among other things. Images: Gronard

A change must take place

Where do you think we need to go in terms of heat management? Who is responsible for this?

This issue affects us all, so I appeal to each and every one of us to move away from outdated structures and habits and make sustainable decisions. But it’s not just individuals who need to take action; change also needs to take place at local, national and international level. At first glance, this seems extremely extensive and complicated, but we already have the structures we need to effectively drive decisions forward – from local councils to the federal and state governments and the European Union. Through cooperation at all levels and interdisciplinary exchange, the heat can be dealt with.

Short Vita

Sofia Gronard is Head of Communications at Gronard GmbH, a leading manufacturer of bicycle racks, shelters and street furniture in Germany. She first completed her bachelor’s degree in communication design at the MDH in Munich and then her master’s degree at the HTWG Konstanz. Since then, she has been working with architects and programmers on interdisciplinary solutions for sustainable mobility concepts and urban design.

About Gronard

Gronard GmbH stands out as a leading company for bicycle parking systems in urban areas, which is committed to greater sustainability and is constantly working on solutions for the future. Thanks to its high-quality standards and innovative spirit, Gronard GmbH has established itself as a reliable partner for mobility solutions over the past 75 years.

www.gronard.de | info@gronard.de

This interview is part of the Beat the Heat initiative, which Gronard is supporting. Find out more about Beat the Heat here.

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