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Before the pandemic, the number of cycle lanes and on-demand bike share schemes were rocketing across Europe. Shared public transport–scooters, bikes, cars–worked on the assumption that people in modern cities wanted to jump on whatever transport was available nearby, using an application, and leave them at stations or spaces when finished.
But there is a new trend, fuelled by Covid-19 and the rise in popularity of e-bikes; in a pandemic, people don’t want to rub shoulders with anyone else, they don’t want to share transport with people they don’t know and they need to not be sweaty or out of breath when they arrive at their destination.
Now, as countries clear roads for cycle lanes, and investors pour money into new European transport, it seems the public is ready for a new transport model for cycling–that of longer-term bike rentals, via a subscription service.
EU cities, like Paris, are investing in cycle lanes…
Anne Hidalgo was reelected to office as Paris’ mayor three months ago for a second term–a term in which she is determined to stamp her environmental credentials, particularly before the Olympic Games arrive in 2024.
In an interview with French newspaper, Le Parisien, she stated her intent to double down on environmental projects stating “you can forget traveling from east to west through the city by car.”
50km of cycle paths were created when France came out of lockdown in May–dubbed ‘coronapistes’ by the press–but Hidalgo intends to add another 10km to these and make them permanent. The makeshift yellow markings, will in time, become permanent blocks.
Hidalgo intends to focus on two major mobility projects–one is to reserve a special lane on Paris’ major ring road (called le péripherique) for buses and carpooling and the other is reserve the roads which run along Paris’ iconic river Seine for clean vehicles, buses and cabs.
Paris is just one example of how EU roads are turning ‘green’.
…and investment is flooding in
CNBC reported in July on the surge in European investment from Berlin to Tallinn. The statistics speak for themselves:
- Deloittes estimates that over 130 million e-bikes will be sold between 2020 and 2023.
- In June, Ferrari invested €23 million ($27 million) into e-bike startup Cowboy, based in Brussels.
- Amsterdam e-bike retailer, VanMoof, has reported an increase in global sales of 48% compared to 2019–with U.K. sales increasing by a staggering 184%.
…and bike subscription services have arrived
Swapfiets is a Dutch startup, offering long-term e-bike rentals and now operating across six European countries (fiets is the Dutch word for bicycle). For a monthly fee of roughly $20, subscribers get a bike, which is swapped out for another one when it gets a flat tire or needs some more substantive work (bikes are replaced within 48 hours).
According to Fast Company, while a flat tire isn’t exactly a huge issue, for many people it can be an irritation too far. People don’t want to keep their own bikes constantly maintained–this startup seems to have successfully taken away the hassle factor for many bike users. There are 35,000 users in Amsterdam alone, but even more interesting is the 200,000 users across the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, and more recently Paris and Milan.
Other companies are addressing one of the biggest barriers to accessing e-bikes, namely the cost.
Dance, is an e-bike subscription company, based in Berlin, and created by the founder of music site SoundCloud. Instead of buying bikes, which can be too cost-prohibitive for many people, it has launched an e-bike subscription service for €59 per month ($70). Subscribers get access to an e-bike within 24 hours which they keep at home, but Dance will replace it for free if it gets lost or stolen and replace worn out parts.
Ciarán O’Leary, a Dance backer, told CNBC that “there is an “outsized opportunity” to re-shape urban landscapes away from cars and toward people”.