The bicycle-sharing business seems never to have completely clicked, and the perceptions aren’t helped by images of man-made mountains of discarded bikes from markets like China.

Now startup Bolt Bikes claims to have an answer at least for a niche market, with a business model that focuses on the growing on-demand delivery economy with proprietary subscription model smart electric bikes.

The company claims nearly four million Australians use food delivery services. However, while electric bikes are more environmentally efficient for delivery riders and businesses, they are also expensive and that is a problem for the kinds of people who work in the sector. 

These are typically international students and travellers, who do not have the capacity or the desire to invest heavily in a vehicle for what is often a second or third job.

According to Mina Nada, CEO & Co-Founder at Bolt Bikes, “Most failed bike rental services in Australia have been dockless bike-share models, where bikes have been left parked around cities and rented on a per-trip basis. This business model usually relies on small fees per trip combined with revenue from advertising.”

Nada says that while this approach has had some success in other parts of the world the model has faced several hurdles in Australia. 

“Companies have struggled with local regulations, an oversupply of bikes, vandalism and misuse of the bikes as well as privacy concerns. Unable to overcome these challenges, many companies have opted to leave the local market in the last few years.”

Nada says Bolt Bikes, was founded specifically to service bike couriers and the delivery economy, focusing on last-mile delivery. 

“While working at Deliveroo, we saw the need for a better vehicle solution for the delivery sector, and the insights we gained from working closely with riders (and that we continue to build upon today) have informed our purpose-built EVs.”

Nada told Which-50, “We’ve pioneered an entirely new business model that is different from the bike-share model. We have worked with suppliers to build e-bikes designed especially for last-mile delivery. We offer a subscription service in which couriers and businesses rent our e-bikes for defined periods. The e-bikes are collected from and returned to our shops and warehouses. We can also provide ownership options, and riders or businesses can buy outright or make payments towards owning their vehicle.”

Prior to COVID, the urban last-mile delivery market was expected to grow 78 per cent by 2030. But with the pandemic shutdown the market is accelerating, he says.

“Today, nearly 4 million Australians use food delivery services, and we have experienced substantial growth across all markets in which we operate, including Australia, the US and the UK.”

COVID-19 has also brought the issue of sustainability into sharper focus. “We are very confident that e-bikes will be a central part of solving the challenges of mobility and sustainability for the delivery industry and consumers. Electric bikes are more cost-efficient, safer and environmentally friendly than most of the alternatives.”

Nada says that the bike world is ready for disruption. “In five to ten years, e-bikes will be the predominant form of transportation. With Bolt Bikes, we’re building the infrastructure to support this transformation,” he says.

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