Bike-sharing in a nutshell
Exploring a new city while simultaneously getting from point A to B is an ideal form of mobility for the broader public. Specially for foreigners to do some physical activity and to actively participate in the daily life of locals, transmits special experience.
The bike sharing system is currently well-established around the globe and particularly convenient in larger cities. Additionally, in times of increased global warming and awareness for the environment, the idea of bike sharing is becoming more and more attractive. And Brussels with its Dutch influence seems to be a suitable market for this kind of business.
The reality test
We have explored the city ourselves by making use of the bike sharing concept Villo, which is one of the four options to rent a bike. Villo started 2009 as a cooperation between Brussels-Capital region and JCDecaux Group (multinational cooperation for public bike rental systems). The service is well-established with rental stations in all 19 districts of Brussels providing 5,000 bikes.
However, as non-cardholders of Villo, the current bike-sharing service revealed to be very inconvenient for tourists. The rental process is lengthy, barely readable, unclear, using a highly outdated software.
Apart from our experience, a local user explained to be satisfied with the service and frequently makes use of it. Being a “super-user”, he also benefits from incentives in the form of additional free-riding minutes. Furthermore, he reported that there is almost never a shortage in bikes. This is in line with what we have observed at four stations that mostly all bikes were available.
Overall, one can observe that bikes are not as popular in the streets of Brussels as they are in other Nordic cities. Whereas apparently the electric scooters have a higher demand due to their convenience with a flexible, digital rental process. In terms of market competition, these other transport options need to be considered.
The bike-sharing of tomorrow
The current bike-sharing rental service in Brussels is well-established but according to our observation, there is some room for improvement and innovation. When entering the market in Brussels, one should consider a rental service convenient and easily accessible to locals but also tourists. Meaning to offer a service that is easy and fast also for occasional users. A new market entrant should focus on a more digitalized service to differentiate from current providers and add attractiveness and flexibility. Additionally, strategic alliances with tour agencies and local volunteer tour guides are recommended, as it could open up new business ideas. Furthermore, partnering with the Bike Committee in Brussels can open new doors. In terms of location, the bikes should be spread throught the 19 districts including residential areas.
Although the market seems saturated, there is still market potential by offering user-friendly services. For instance, as a new entrant one could provide a customer-oriented rental service. This would motivate more people to change to a more sustainable and convenient way of transportation.