My Bike, My Business: Unique Business Ideas Involving Bicycles
People with the courage to innovate and the desire to be self-employed turn their passion for bicycles into a profession: Cargo bike instead of a family car and moving trucks. Renting a just-married wedding rickshaw to "green" couples who don't want a stretch limo. The foundation of a Rad-WG (a shared flat for bicycles) for secure storage options in vacant business premises. We present three original and sustainable ideas from Austria and Germany.
More fair and ecological transport by cargo bike
Cargo bicycles are used when a little bit more is needed: With trailers behind or cargo area up front, it’s possible to transport loads of up to 60 kg. If the rider is in good shape, no motor is necessary. In Austria, the three guys from Heavy Pedals were the first to rent and sell cargo bicycles. Even today, they are pioneers in the area of heavy transport by bicycle. Florian “Flo” Weber is one of them. “We bought the first cargo bike in 2009. At that time, I was making videos professionally and was able to carry my equipment. With two friends who came from the fair textile trade and the tourism industry, I bought two more bikes and we founded Heavy Pedals.”
A company calls: Transportation on Monday for catering? No problem! Flo recommends an in-house driver right away, because such a cargo bike rides differently and requires practice. “We’re the only fair and ecological company of this kind in Vienna. Our drivers are permanently employed and paid above the standard rates. At other bicycle courier services, drivers need a business license and are not insured.”
Buyers of cargo bicycles are mostly young families who would rather have their children sitting in front of them in a box than behind them in a trailer. As practical as this is, there’s still a drawback:
Unfortunately, there are few places for the extra-long or wide cargo bikes, so they are usually stood in front of the door. Nice side effect for Heavy Pedals: the advertising effect. “In Vienna, we’re known. But for transport in other cities, we notice that cargo bicycles are still largely unheard of,” Flo says.
Peter from the heavy pedals with a fully loaded bullit.
Marry ecologically and uniquely with a bike or rickshaw
Anne-Katrin Schmülling also uses this advertising effect. Six years ago, the radio presenter and project manager founded her company “Miss Wedding”. Since then, the wedding planner has often received requests from brides and grooms who have seen her wedding bicycle go by: White, sidecar, flowering vines, a “Just Married” sign – that’s noticeable, even in a cycling city like Heidelberg. “If I plan the wedding myself, the bicycle is part of the complete package. There are many couples, though, especially young ones, who only rent the bicycle,” Schmülling says. They like to ride it from the registry office to the church. Clever, since the old town of Heidelberg is closed to cars.
“Many in Germany still don’t know about the service of the wedding planner. That’s why, above all, international couples with a connection to Heidelberg book the rickshaw.” Most love cycling and out-of-the-box ideas, just like Schmülling does. She smiles: “I recently started to offer a romantic wedding rickshaw. Only one person can sit in the back– and depending on how emancipated the couple is, even the bride does the pedalling sometimes”.
The rickshaw from Miss Wedding always attracts everybody’s views.
Bicycle garages for more security and against vacancies
The courage to be self-employed is something that Lisa Schmidt has, too. The freelance cultural manager develops projects for socio-cultural usage of urban space, and the Rad-WG (a shared flat for bicycles) is her vision: In the city, there is a lack of safe parking spaces for bicycles. Old buildings without bike storage spaces, patios without shelter or hallways without “parking permission” by the landlord make it unattractive for many people who would like to ride bicycles to actually use them on a daily basis.
Lisa has recognised this need and proposes to use her Rad-WG to kill two birds with one stone: secure, weather-protected and easily accessible storage space for the beloved bike on the one hand, and the sensible use of vacant business premises on the other. There are a few of these in Vienna. For this purpose, she rented a video-monitored basement location with space for 40 bicycles in the 6th District, close to the shopping street Mariahilferstrasse. For 18 euro per month, a person can have access via a personalised chip to the automatic roller door – 24/7. Tools are available, and there is an electrical outlet for e-bikes at every parking space.
Empty old buildings find a new usage with the Rad-WG.
“This Rad WG is the prototype. We’ve been in test mode since October 2014. It’s not making a profit yet. But I dream of fifty such Rad-WGs throughout Vienna. For a real community with workshops and networking. In Vienna, there are so many vacancies which can be used sensibly,” says Lisa.
The city of Vienna also found that to be a good idea: In the competition “Cycling Affairs” of the Vienna Business Agency (departure), Lisa received the first prize in 2013 – 7000 Euro. Her idea is also well received among the locals. At the inaugural meeting, they talked together, kept up to date with newsletters, and provided feedback on the implementation. A current trend among the renters: “Women over forty. Many are just starting to ride a bicycle again. Precisely because they now have good and secure storage facilities. That’s an important consideration for the people.”