Blue-wheeled Swap bike conquers Europe
Five years after the introduction of 40 Swap bicycles meant for students in Delft (The Netherlands), today, there are already 180.000 of the eye-catching bikes with the typical blue front wheel – the trademark of the young start-up that launched the Swap bikes, and a reference to the ‘Delft Blue’, the city became world-famous for. And there will probably be far more shortly. Two years ago, the young start-up registered 20.000 subscribers, today there are nine times more: 180.000.
Every Dutchman used to own a bicycle, but with the advent of shared bikes in cities, more and more of the conspicuous Swap bikes are riding around. The bikes first were seen in Delft, where some students of the Technical University started the initiative. In the meantime, the Swap bikes have grown popular in almost seventy cities in The Netherlands, Belgium (in Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven, and Brussels), Germany, and Danmark.
The Swap principle is easy: users pay a subscription fee of 16,50 euros per month (students only 13,50), and for that price, they have the guarantee to have a bicycle at their disposal that is in perfect condition. Whenever there is a technical problem – a flat tire, for instance – the bicycle is fixed within the day. This means that a normal user pays almost 200 euros for a bicycle he doesn’t possess.
Steven Uitenhuis of Swap is convinced the formula will remain successful, though. “People love the comfort and the freedom from care,” he says, “and that’s exactly what we offer. As a subscriber, you just give us a call, and your problem will be solved.”
Swapfiets develops its bicycles; the production is outsourced. In the meantime, the company offers three models: a ‘granny’ model without gears, a model with seven gears, and the Power7, an e-bike that costs 75 euros per month. Swapfiets employs 1.500 people.
The company also is happy with the new rules that make bicycle use for commuting fiscally more attractive. “Cities are congested by car traffic, so attractive measures to promote the bike will be helpful,” Uitenhuis says. He also pleads for the construction of more bicycle shelters.
And Swapfiets has further expansion plans too. Uitenhuis: “We’ve made a list with 250 European cities, and we will analyze per city where our bikes would be useful.” Determining factors are climate, position, and possible differences in altitude.
Uitenhuis isn’t afraid of Uber as a competitor. “Our concept is different,” he says.