Back in 2016, I bet it all on urban secure bike parking–specifically the notion that this was the next “big” amenity for urban streetscapes. Lots of people thought I was crazy, some still do, but recent industry developments and trends have only increased my confidence. The company I founded, Oonee, has created the first modular, smart bike parking kiosk that can be scaled in cities. We envision a vast infrastructure network that offers secure bike parking, as well as other services and amenities.
Below is a quick look at some of the dominant trends in today’s market along with some basic commentary on why the planets are continuing to align for this opportunity, especially for sponsors and marketers.
Runaway Popularity of Light Mobility
Light mobility travel, vehicles like bikes and scooters, is experiencing explosive growth in metropolitan areas and is poised to reshape the urban landscape.
Urban cycling has been on a rapid rise in cities since the 1990s. In 1980, there were only 100,000 daily cycling trips in New York, by 2016 there were more than 460,000. The city’s Department of Transportation estimates that trips are growing at an 11.2% rate each year– the fastest growing mode of transportation by far. We’re on track to see a million cycling trips per day by 2025.
New York is not alone. Cycling is up by nearly 500% since 2000 in Washington, DC and 300% in San Francisco during the same time period. The trend has been even more pronounced in European cities; in London, for example, bicycles now officially outnumber cars in the city’s urban core.
More recently dockless bike share and scooters have further cemented this trend. Led by Chinese and American startups, these companies have invested billions to place throngs of bikes and e-scooters on streets across the world.
Infrastructure Investment from Cities
Cities across the world have invested in making their streets friendlier for pedestrians and bicycles. New York has built more than 1000 of bike lanes since the 1990s, while London has committed itself to a billion dollar bike improvement plan, after years of similar investments.
Even notoriously car centric sunbelt cities have committed to bikes. Los Angeles has doubled its bike lane network in just ten years, while the Houston Bike Plan, officially adopted by the city in 2017, calls for the more than 1000 miles of new bike lanes on the city’s streets.
In addition to lanes, municipalities have also launched ambitious bikeshare schemes, which are further designed to encourage adoption. New York’s popular Citibike program often sees more than 60,000 rides per day, while Washington DC’s Capitol Bike Bikeshare schemes, which are rapidly growing in popularity, are effective gateways to the broader cycling experience.
There are good reasons to explain the interest in cycling from cities. Bikes are fast, spatially efficient, healthy and green– all important checkboxes for any urban transportation planner. Cycling is also more equitable than motorized travel. Moreover, there is growing evidence that pedestrian and bicycle friendly street designs can actually catalyze local economic growth.
Bike Theft, Vandalism are Big Problems
Bike theft and vandalism, are major concerns for many cyclists. About fifty percent of active cyclists have experienced bike theft. The problem has become so pervasive that the vast majority of cyclists never even bother to report theft. Authorities have not committed any significant resources to stopping the problem– one prominent researcher could not find anyone in America who had a job dedicated to fighting bike theft.
The prevalence of theft has a dampening effect on the growth of cycling in cities. One study found that seven percent of cyclists don’t replace their bikes after experiencing theft, while the New York City Planning Department found that lack of secure bike parking was a major deterrent for potential cycle commuters.
The grassroots cycling advocacy community is unlike anything else in transportation. New York’s Transportation Alternatives has contributed to more than three decades of policy reform regarding bikes. TA’s more than 20,000 members are extremely well organized and now constitute a major force in city’s political landscape. Other notable organization include The San Francisco Bike Coalition and Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance.
Any cogent solution that effectively contributes to the culture of cycling in cities should be able to tap into an established community of local advocates for support.
Proven Sponsorship Based Business Model
Finally, bike infrastructure has been established as an attractive opportunity for corporate sponsors, who underwrite both capital and operating costs. London’s bikeshare program, originally sponsored by Barclays, was the first to innovate this model, while bikeshare programs in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Portland and other cities have since followed that lead.
Bike infrastructure is green, iconic and broadly popular with the public, substantially increasing its ROI when compared to traditional streetscape advertising assets like phone booths, transit shelters and trash cans.
Once considered a risky marketing play, New York’s Citibike, for example, has been widely considered to be one of the greatest advertising deals in recent history.