Car sharing has gone from hippie practice to popular carless urbanite tool of choice, courtesy companies like Zipcar, with old guard companies like Uhaul joining in. But what about bikes? What about when you’ve got an errand that’s a little too long for a walk, but driving would be frivolous?
Various bike sharing businesses have been popping up across Europe, and B Cycles has been slowly rolling out in the US. One UK business has a wise focus: University students with very short haul needs within their campus.
Whip Bikes made use of simple technology to enable it to get started quickly: Text the ID number on the bike you want, and Whip Bikes texts the lock combination back to you. With a one time sign up fee of 14.95, and each ride costing 50 pence, it fits a students budget. Furthermore, this concept has the potential to make substantial money for the company since 50 pence buys you only 30 minutes.
For those that aren’t avid cyclists but do need to get around quickly, this saves on the need to own, maintain, and store a bike of your own. Parallel to car sharing’s benefits, it could reduce the messy cluster of bikes often found on campuses, made up of vehicles that spend most of the day parked. And, it could be just the introduction needed to develop a taste for bicycling that lasts beyond their university years.
Offering local businesses the perfectly locally targeted marketing option, bikes can have ads on the rear fenders. Truly mobile advertising on distinctive bright green bikes. A smart buy for those businesses, and a solid source of income for Whip Bikes.
But, you say, what keeps people from riding longer than 30 minutes? The threat of being dropped as a member with repeated abuse, according to Whip Bike’s FAQ. What keeps people from stealing the bikes? Not much but trust and being part of the relatively small and known community of a university.
Readers: Do you have any suggestions for Whip Bikes? Would you want to see such a business at your university? How else can you see bicycle use being increased, both on and off campus?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.