Lifestyle

TWO WHEELS GOOD

by Chelsea Rose • 16 Jul 2018

An Oxford student is hoping her bike-sharing app will help to change the face of our cities

When the revolution comes, it will arrive on two wheels, Agne Milukaite is certain of that. "Zipcar, Tesla and Uber are all exciting, fast-growing companies making a difference in how we move. But as a society, we're in trouble if innovation is solely focused on cars," says the Lithuanian-born CEI and co-founder of Cycle.land, based in Oxford.                              Agnes Milukaite

The alternative, she believes, is the humble bike. "I've always believed cycling is the best way of getting around a city", she says. "And with seven million tourists visiting Oxford every day, I could see an opportunity to present an alternative mode to transport to them." 

But wait a minute. Bikes in Oxford? Not the most groundbreaking idea, surely? What makes Cycle.land different is how it taps into the sharing economy trend. "Sharing bike mobility is the next great disruptor in urban transport", explains Milukaite. "So often you see bikes parked up and not in use. My idea was to create an online app that would make it possible for bike owners to loan out their bikes when not in use", like Airbnb, but for bikes".

Milukaite, who had moved to Oxford for an  MSc in Migration Studies, developed her idea at Oxford Venture Idea Exploration Workshop programme run by the Entrepreneurship Centre at Said Business School. "We were then incubated by Oxford University Innovation,  which enabled us to launch within a few months," she says. Following success in Oxford, Cycle.land has launched schemes in Cambridge and Edinburgh, and it is set to launch in more UK cities later this year.

There are now three elements to Cycle.land, each addressing the needs of a different would-be cycler. The first is still peer-to-peer bike sharing. "This works very well for people who are planning ahead," explains Milukaite. "Say, someone coming to Oxford as a visiting professor or a student for a few months. It's much cheaper than buying a bike- and you get a chance to meet the local you borrow from it."

Community bikes are the second element. " If you're a college, a business or an accommodation that would like to offer bikes to students, employees or residents, you can take out a subscription and we'll provide a fleet of bikes for you", says Milukaite. And the third element is a partnership with larger smart bike companies, such as Mobike, which offer their own branded bikes to rent by the hour. " This is more for impulse rides," says Milukaite. 

The business has come at the right moment. Last year, Oxford announced its aim to become the world's first zero-emission zone and it is keen to be seen as a "cycling city".  "When we first started working on the company, in March 2016, nobody was really talking about bike sharing". "But then news came from China that a bike-loan startup was valued at £1bn. We realised that we were on to something".

Not surprisingly, Milukaite is an enthusiastic proponent of the sharing economy. "In many developed countries, we have an overabundance of "stuff", she says. "We need to figure out how we can move away from the owning things to just using them- and letting other people use them as well". Milukaite wants to have an impact not just on how people move about, but on the environment in which they do it."

She sees Copenhagen and Amsterdam as examples of cities already getting it. "Is it a coincidence that these cities- full of people cycling easily and safely- are frequently named the happiest?" she asks. 

Interview by Hannah Hudson


   



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Chelsea Rose


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