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Bill Ford: Seeing Beyond the Automobile

In our Winter 2015 American Bicyclist magazine, we looked at the “Big Ideas” coming out of the bike movement. Bill Ford’s focus on a transportation system not solely driven by automobiles was certainly one of the more unexpected ones. Carolyn Szczepanski, League Executive Editor & Graphic Designer, wrote this piece. Want American Bicyclist in your mailbox? Join the League today!

It’s well within Bill Ford’s job description to foresee the threat of global gridlock. But in his 2011 TED talk, the CEO of the automotive giant described an innovative detour to avoid the impending transportation crisis.

“The solution is not going to be more cars, more roads or a new rail system; it can only be found, I believe, in a global network of interconnected solutions,” Ford said. “We can develop the technology that’s going to make this work, but we’ve got to be willing to get out there and seek out the solutions — whether that’s vehicle sharing or public transportation or something we haven’t even thought of yet. Our overall transportation mix and infrastructure must support all the future options.”

That talk wasn’t an isolated incident — nor merely a way to catalyze YouTube clicks. The CEO has continued to chart a course for Ford that’s focused, not just on the automobile, but mobility itself.

“It requires a fundamental change in how we think about transportation,” Ford wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “Forward-looking companies will… move from being just car and truck manufacturers to personal-mobility companies. We’ll be thinking more intelligently about how the vehicles we build interact with one another and with a city’s infrastructure, which includes trains, pedestrians, buses, bikes and everything else that helps us move through urban centers.”

Last year, the car company announced a deal with Pedego to debut a Fordbranded electric bike —a beach cruiser that can go 20 miles on a single charge. But, more importantly, a car company seeing promise in cycling could go a long way toward changing the transportation paradigm.

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