Despite his role as an elder statesman of cycling, Dr. Arne Elias positively fizzes with a contagious, youthful energy as he describes his latest projects. A lifelong advocate and campaigner for corporate and community sustainability, Arne’s focus has largely been on advancing sustainable energy and transportation, especially the two-wheeled variety.
Arne’s personal passion for cycling (he was a pioneer mountain biker since the 1980’s and has been involved with racing, as a competitor and organizer) very much influenced his academic interests. As an undergraduate he found himself especially drawn to the intersection of technology and behaviour. Arne then chose to do an MBA at UBC Sauder in order, as he put it, “to learn how to influence the boardroom”. Further studies at UBC led to a PhD in Resource Management and Environmental Studies on the electrification of transportation.
The combination of robust business and academic credentials with his passion launched a career as an educator, consultant and activist, including serving as Executive Director of the Centre for Sustainable Transportation at the University of Winnipeg. At the same time, he led the founding of Velo Canada Bikes, the national non-racing cycling organization, and tirelessly continues to work on raising the profile of cycling in Canada, and conducting academic research demonstrating the value of cycling to Canada’s economy.
Arne’s academic work – currently with colleagues at the University of Manitoba and elsewhere – is focused on producing data on the benefits of cycling to the Canadian economy. He is passionate about “the business case for cycling” as well as the need for a national cycling strategy, the current focus of his work with Velo Canada Bikes. Both these initiatives, as with various others he is involved with, advocate for significant public investment in the kind of infrastructure which would support a genuine culture of cycling in Canada.
He is convinced that there is overwhelming support for this idea and waxes particularly enthusiastically about the opportunities afforded by the increasingly popular e-bikes, though it is unlikely he will be needing one to get around anytime soon!