Tech savvy media commentators, futurists and other technophiles are very eager to tell anyone prepared to listen that this is the age of the shared economy.
They say that instead of buying products, customers, especially younger generations, are happy to share, hire, subscribe, rent or swap.
While this may be beyond dispute for products such as software, Airbnb etc, we’ve noticed very little evidence of this trend in the Australian bicycle industry.
However, recently we’ve become aware of two separate international stories that may suggest that change is coming.
The first relates to the growth of bike share. Whilst Melbourne’s small and underfunded bike share program is being closed, it appears that this is going against the global trend, which has seen the number of bike sharing programs double in five years to 1,608 as of May 2018 and the number of bikes grow to over 18 million.
If you really want to dive deep into data on this topic this site is a good place to start: www.bikesharemap.com
Meanwhile another company appears to have rapidly grown to a large scale by offering bikes for a flat monthly subscription fee.
Five years ago Swapfiets was founded in the Dutch city of Delft by three university students.
For a fee of 16.5 Euros per month (A$26.56 per month) which covered theft insurance and repairs, customers could keep a basic commuter bike and ride it as much as they wanted.
Fast forward five years and 130,000 customers are using the service across four countries. Swapfiets plans to go global. They have formed a partnership with Pon.bike which allowed them to add seven speed and ebike options for A$28.17 and A$120 per month respectively.
Swapfiets has grown to 1,300 employees working in 50 cities.
Swapfiets say that they’re weighing moves to Australia and Japan and considering two cities in the U.S.—Portland in Oregon and Boulder in Colorado.
Information about Swapfiets was first published in Bloomberg Businessweek.