How to start your business with the appropriate bike-sharing business plan?

“It is a rapidly growing global phenomenon: bikes of different breeds zipping through cities, being picked up and deposited at will. They belong to companies, not members of the public. The future of cycling could be sharing, not owning one,” wrote The Bike Europe, source of industry news, data, and analysis for the e-bike and bicycle industry’s decision-makers, at the start of this year. And the pandemic hasn't changed the situation significantly. 

According to a recent eight nation survey Oliver Wyman conducted with approximately 6,000 respondents, 44% of riders said they would be willing to increase their dependence on the service (shared vehicles and ride-hailing) in the future. 34% said they planned to use it as much as before the pandemic. 

Accordingly, there is a pretty big interest in starting a business based on a bike-sharing service. Every business should start with a detailed business plan. Here, we are going to explain how to create a business plan that it would be appropriate to implement in your business.

Mind the differences

If you are a newcomer or even if you have ride-sharing business experience, the first thing to remember before preparing a business plan - every vehicle sharing model is specific and has its own differences to keep in mind. 

In regard to bikes, it is important to remember that users are usually willing to take the bike from one docking station and return it to another. Sometimes, it is located on the other side of the city. So the service provider should calculate capacity, as well as vehicle availability in the most popular parts of the city during rush hours. That might be crucial. 

Know your customer

Before taking further steps and making any decision you must know your audience. So it is the right time to do market research. The first thing to do is to define the characteristics of your customer by identifying:

  1. Age - what is the age range of your customer more likely to use your services? What group of customer generations do they belong to? For example, people born in the mid-to-late 1990s and the early 2000s are referred to as Generation Z. There are some characteristics that identify their behavioral patterns, so you already know what they might and might not like. 
  2. Gender - do you plan to communicate with men, women, or both sexes? There are differences.
  3. Marital status and family - it might influence how the person is moving through the city. For example, if she or he must take into account the plans of their partner while scheduling their everyday activities.
  4. Location - what are the most likely points which your potential customer is moving between in the city?
  5. Income - how likely they are willing to use bike-sharing? And how much they would be willing to pay for the service?
  6. Language - what language are you going to use to communicate with your audience? And what languages you should make available on your app.

Usually, several groups can be identified according to these characteristics. The next step is to find people that are representing each group, talk to them and test your hypothesis and assumptions towards them. 

You can also calculate quite precisely the size of your target market. You can find it out by calculating the TAM, SAM, and SOM. TAM is the total available market for the service, for example, the total amount of users. SAM is a serviceable available market in the area you have chosen to operate. SOM is a serviceable obtainable market - a portion of the available market that you are willing to serve.

Choose what suits you best

After you have defined your target market and potential audience, you may start to consider what works best for your customer. There are three options to choose your bike-sharing business from and to put into your bike-sharing business plan:

  1. dockless bike-sharing - bicycles are freely available to potential users and they are not located at docking stations. Vehicles can be unlocked using a mobile app and afterward returned to a particular bike rack or even left along the sidewalk. This model is more suitable for tourists and other short-term use cases. Usually, dockless sharing services offer single rides for a small fee, for example, $1 or monthly fees for continuous use. The biggest risk of this model is high operational costs, as well as a bigger risk for vandalism or damage to the bikes;
  2. station-based bike-sharing - bikes are into docking stations and users can unlock them to have a ride. In addition, users must return the bike to the same or another docking station. Providers of this model usually offer payment of a flat membership fee plus the fee for the amount of time spent on the road. This is a good choice for the business due to low operational costs for maintenance or relocation. However, dockless bikes are becoming more accessible so there is a risk that a potential user will choose the service with no strings attached rather than one where he has to follow certain rules in terms of the place to leave his bike; 
  3. corporate bike sharing - in this case, the service provider takes care of the maintenance and relocation of bikes, if needed, but bikes are owned by the corporation. Most likely, the owner will make bikes available to its employees or use them as a magnet for their business, for example, if the company additionally owns a hotel or entertainment park. This model is the best for any operator. The only and quite significant risk is that the corporate partner can decide to leave this business at any time.

To sum it all up, the dockless bike-sharing model is more convenient for users but involves higher risks for service providers. Station-based bike-sharing is less risky for the service provider, but not as convenient for the end-user. So while making the bike-sharing business plan, the choice should be made depending on the other market players and the risks you are willing to take. And if you have a corporate partner, who is willing to buy bikes and you have to operate the fleet - do it, but remember that you can be left alone at some point.

Calculate all costs

The most important part of the business plan is to find a balance between revenue and costs. If you haven't had a ride-sharing business previously, you would be wise to understand and consider all costs that you will have to cover with your revenue stream. Here are the most important positions you have to think of:

  1. vehicle purchase costs - it is recommended that you start with a small fleet and test your business model. However, you will need a first investment to purchase your fleet. And keep in mind that after some time vehicles should be changed, so consider including depreciation costs in your bike-sharing business plan;
  2. IT costs - vehicles are just part of the business. The other part is software and apps that allow people to rent a vehicle and you run your bike-sharing business. You can develop the software from scratch. However, there are already appropriate ready-made solutions in the market that have all the functions you might need. For example, ATOM has been operating on the global market since 2018 and has all the expertise you might need;  
  3. marketing costs - what is the budget you are ready to invest so that people are informed about your service? Consider all options, for example, social media, local media, your own media (web site, newsletter). Think of the bonuses that you can offer to the client, for example, free rides. However, keep in mind that every bonus reduces your profit margin. Average statistics for fast-growing companies indicate that they invest 10-20% of turnover on marketing;
  4. maintenance costs - proper service should be provided to expand the vehicle’s lifecycle as well as to provide clients with the perfect service. So you will need a team of people that can check vehicles every day all over the city;
  5. costs for the customer support - your customers will look for options on how to contact you if they have questions while starting to use or using the service. You have to have somebody or even a small team ready to answer them.
  6. other costs - you have to hire an accountant. You may require legal support. You will have to cover fees to be able to use the payment system. 

You should consider making a total investment of EUR 15,000-30,000 to launch a small test bike-sharing fleet (30-50 bikes). For a proper full-scale and successful launch with several hundreds of bikes, you will need a total investment of EUR 70,000-100,000. 

What is your bike-sharing business model?

Your business model is the way you will get revenues from your service. A lot of different business models exist in the bike-sharing market. When you think of yours, take a look at what your competitors are doing and think of ways how you can be more attractive to customers. In addition, you have to consider location and take seasonality into account. And one more thing - act fast! This can be crucial for your future success. ATOM allows you to launch your bike-sharing business within a few weeks. Learn more about ATOM's solution for shared mobility.

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Everything you need to know about micromobility fleet insurance
Everything you need to know about micromobility fleet insurance

Discover why fleet insurance is important for shared micromobility operators. Learn how the right coverage provides peace of mind against unexpected challenges.

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For shared mobility operators, fleet insurance should be one of the top priorities. No matter the size or composition of your fleet, having the right insurance can offer peace of mind by protecting your business from unforeseen situations

However, the insurance question can sometimes seem daunting – especially if you're new to the industry. In this article, we will explore the key things you need to know about insuring your shared micromobility fleet.

Why you need insurance

Operating a shared mobility fleet isn’t always smooth sailing. Accidents can happen – whether it's a minor fender-bender or something more severe. Insurance serves as your safety net, offering financial coverage for repairs, replacements, and even potential legal obligations after an incident.

Here are the main reasons why insurance should be one of the top priorities for shared mobility fleet operators: 

Legal compliance: In many places, insurance for shared mobility fleets is a legal requirement. You probably want to comply with these regulations to avoid any potential fines, penalties – or even the suspension of your operations.

Financial security: Insurance also helps keep your business going financially, no matter what happens. Without insurance, accidents, vehicle damage, or theft can seriously impact your finances. Comprehensive insurance coverage can ensure that you're not left scrambling to cover any unexpected expenses.

Understanding shared micromobility insurance

When it comes to insuring micromobility fleets, part of the challenge stems from the fact that the market is relatively new. Some insurance underwriters avoid dealing directly with micromobility because it's seen as an unfamiliar market. 

This is where brokers like Cachet and others specializing in micromobility insurance come in. They partner with various insurance underwriters to provide coverage for operators in this field.

When it comes to shared micromobility, insurance coverage generally has a twofold role: safeguarding assets and handling third-party engagement in the event of accidents.

person riding bicycle during daytime

Liability coverage: Securing third-party public liability insurance for shared mobility fleets is not just a matter of choice – in some places, it's mandated by law. This insurance serves to protect pedestrians and riders in the unfortunate event of accidents, providing financial coverage for injuries and damages that may arise. In other words, it's a safety net that offers peace of mind to operators.

When it comes to mandatory third-party liability insurance, the negotiations with the insurance company usually begin by figuring out what the local authorities require to give them a permit. After that, the insurance policy is adjusted to meet the specific demands outlined by these authorities.

Physical damage coverage: This covers the repair or replacement costs of vehicles if they are damaged due to accidents, collisions, vandalism, or theft. Depending on the policy, physical damage coverage may also extend to equipment like GPS devices, charging stations, and other hardware.

What decides your insurance premium payments?

The amount you'll pay in premiums depends on various factors that are specific to your business This includes your fleet's makeup, where and how you operate, and the level of coverage you're aiming for.

Fleet usage: The more a shared micromobility fleet is used, the more chances there are for things to go wrong. When a fleet is in high demand and used often, there's a greater likelihood that something might happen that requires insurance coverage.

Rider behavior: Insurance companies also consider the fleet's ability to predict and manage undesirable rider behavior. Reckless riding, improper parking, or violating traffic rules can significantly increase the risk of accidents and incidents. Operators that have better measures in place to anticipate and mitigate such behaviors can demonstrate a lower risk profile to insurance providers.

black metal train rail during daytime

Value of the fleet: How much your vehicles are worth individually and as a fleet will affect how much you pay for insurance. If your vehicles are expensive, your insurance premiums will be higher because it would cost more to replace them if they get damaged or lost.

Size of the fleet: Operators can often negotiate more favorable insurance rates for proportionally larger fleets. As the number of vehicles increases, the overall expected risk is distributed and “diluted” as a result – which translates to lower premiums per vehicle. 

However, some brokers like Cachet have embraced a broader approach, ensuring that smaller and medium-sized fleets can also benefit from insurance coverage.

Technology implementation: Shared mobility services that employ technologies like GPS tracking, telematics, and IoT devices can provide insurers with valuable data. This data can then help assess driver behavior and usage patterns, enabling insurers to offer more accurate and tailored premium rates. This also takes into account how simple it is for scooters to be stolen and how well the recovery processes function – which can also play a role in insurance expenses.

Where you operate: The location in which your fleet operates is another important factor. From the insurer’s perspective, different areas pose varied levels of risk. For example, urban mobility – which is associated with a higher risk of accidents – may incur higher premiums compared to vehicles used in rural areas.

Level of coverage: The level of coverage you choose directly affects how much you pay in premiums. Opting for higher coverage limits means you get more comprehensive protection, but obviously, it also means your insurance costs go up.

a scooter parked on the side of a bridge

Choosing the ideal insurance for your fleet

Every shared mobility fleet and business is different, so your insurance needs will depend on things like the type and size of your fleet, where you operate, how much risk you're comfortable with, and of course – how much you are willing to pay. 

For example, do you require coverage for specific risks, like vandalism, or perhaps your fleet is composed of premium vehicles that are more expensive? To make it more relatable, let's dive into a practical case of a shared micromobility operator's experience with insurance.

How Hoog found the right insurance with Cachet

The concept behind Hoog Mobility is to revolutionize transportation in smaller Estonian towns. They recognized the need for efficient and eco-friendly local travel and brought a shared mobility solution often seen in big cities but missing in smaller communities: electric scooters.

Cash-strapped mobility startups often worry about potential damage or vandalism happening to their shared vehicles. This concern is shared by traditional insurance companies too. As a result, these insurers might hesitate to provide coverage for shared scooters, and if they do – it's usually at a higher cost.

Faced with this challenge, Hoog initially operated without insurance due to the steep expenses. But that changed when Cachet provided them with a customized insurance solution that perfectly suited the company's needs. Hoog also realized that the initial worry about vandalism wasn't as much of an issue as they thought. But still – having insurance for their fleet turned out to be a sound financial decision that gave them peace of mind.

Concluding remarks

Don't underestimate insurance – it's just as crucial as having a top-notch fleet and solid software. Insurance is best approached proactively – discovering you've cut corners after an unforeseen event will cost you significantly more.

Getting insurance for shared micromobility might be a bit trickier since it's still a new concept, but we've seen that even smaller fleets can make it work – it's just a matter of finding a suitable partner who understands your needs.

At the end of the day, insurance isn't merely about meeting legal requirements – it showcases your dedication to safety, responsible operations, and the well-being of everyone involved in your mobility business.

Why and how should authorities promote shared mobility
Why and how should authorities promote shared mobility

Unlocking the power of shared mobility – how authorities can drive change and improve transportation.

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Shared mobility is gaining momentum – offering prospects for reducing traffic, cleaning up city air, and providing users with more flexible transportation options. However, despite its potential, shared mobility often seems to take a backseat to traditional public transportation and private vehicles in the eyes of local authorities and infrastructure planners.

Experts see shared mobility as a game-changing revolution in transportation. It surpasses the earlier revolution of the 20th century when personal cars became widely affordable and accessible. Now, with the rise of shared mobility and environmental concerns, the old notion of "one car per person" is becoming outdated.

In light of this, authorities worldwide should proactively prepare for a future where shared mobility plays an increasingly significant role. In this blog post, we'll explore different ways authorities and legislators can encourage shared mobility – and why it's totally worth it.

The positive impact of shared mobility

Shared mobility has the potential to fix some of the problems we face with transportation today, benefiting users, cities, and the environment. Here are the key benefits of shared mobility:

  • Reduced congestion: Shared mobility can alleviate traffic congestion, leading to smoother traffic flow and shorter commute times.
  • Environmental sustainability: Shared mobility can reduce the number of vehicles on the road, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions and a smaller carbon footprint. This helps combat air pollution and mitigate the environmental impact of transportation.
  • Improved transport accessibility and flexibility: Shared mobility services make transportation more accessible, especially for those without private vehicles or limited mobility options. They also offer convenient alternatives to traditional transportation methods.

Considering the urgent need to combat climate change, shared mobility holds a significant promise as a greener transportation option. The European Union's Green Deal aims to achieve a 90% reduction in transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Shared mobility – coupled with increased adoption of electric vehicles and a broader shift in transportation behaviors – will likely play an important role in achieving this goal.

However, for shared mobility to truly flourish and revolutionize transportation, it needs a supportive environment backed by legislative frameworks and infrastructure planning. So, let's take a closer look at how authorities can foster wider adoption of shared mobility.

1. Favorable regulations with an eye on the future

In the past, shared mobility solutions and business models have faced challenges in gaining acceptance from regulators. A prime example is the initial response of local authorities to Uber’s novel services at the time – ordering them to cease their operations immediately.

Shared mobility services can disrupt traditional transportation models – which may not be welcomed by everyone. However, the undeniable popularity of these services, exemplified by the rapid success of Uber, demonstrates the high customer demand.

Instead of battling against it, authorities might want to shift their focus to creating a supportive legislative framework, recognizing the significant benefits shared mobility can bring. It means regulations that prioritize safety, fair competition, consumer protection, and quality standards – creating an environment where shared mobility can thrive and provide reliable services to customers.

Shared mobility is constantly evolving, which means that regulations need to be flexible and adaptable to keep up with emerging technologies and new challenges. For example, as autonomous vehicles become a possibility, authorities will need to establish guidelines for their safe integration into existing transportation networks.

2. A collaborative approach

Collaboration between local authorities and businesses can be a decisive factor in creating a favorable environment for shared mobility. By working together, they can tackle common challenges, share data, and develop integrated transportation solutions.

Public-private partnerships can also involve incentives like tax breaks or subsidies to encourage the adoption of shared mobility. For example, offering tax breaks to companies that implement ride-sharing programs for their employees can encourage the use of shared transportation options instead of individual cars. Similarly, providing subsidies for shared mobility providers can help offset the initial costs of implementing and expanding their services.

Sharing data between shared mobility platforms and transport authorities is another way to benefit from this cooperation. The platforms have valuable information on accidents, trip patterns, and driver availability. Sharing this data with local authorities can help improve the transportation network, enhance travel apps, and identify underserved areas.

3. Building infrastructure to support the future of transportation

To meet evolving transportation needs, authorities should invest in infrastructure that supports innovative modes of transportation like electric vehicles and shared mobility services. By considering the needs of shared mobility users, infrastructure planners can make it a much more attractive transportation option.

Here are the key infrastructure needs for shared mobility:

Integration with existing infrastructure: To offer users smooth and effective transportation choices, shared mobility must seamlessly integrate with current transport systems like public transit. It should enable users to plan multi-modal journeys and switch between different modes of transport without hassle. For example, users should be able to seamlessly transition from a shared bike or scooter to a bus or train.

Charging stations: Keeping shared electric vehicles performing at their best relies on maintaining their charge. This requires establishing a network of strategically positioned charging stations throughout urban areas. If we're aiming for more people to use electric vehicles, we need to make charging them easy and accessible.

Dedicated parking: Shared mobility services need designated parking areas for their vehicles, such as bike racks and car-sharing parking spots. Well-organized parking infrastructure can reduce street clutter and make it easier for others to grab a shared mobility vehicle.

Information infrastructure support: Running shared mobility services smoothly, including handling bookings, payments, and logistics, depends greatly on a reliable information infrastructure foundation. With the advent of advanced networks like 6G, users will increasingly rely on this infrastructure to stay connected and make the most of these services.

The shared mobility landscape in France

Paris's recent ban on free-floating e-scooters has put France in the spotlight. To take a closer look at the shared mobility environment in France, we turned to Manon Lavergne, CEO of Viluso, a shared micromobility operator. We asked for her insights on the state of micromobility in the country.

Since the Mobility Orientation Law in 2019, the French government has been working to make shared transport easier to access everywhere. At COP 26 in 2021, France undertook to cut its CO2 emissions by 55%.

According to Manon, personal vehicle ownership in urban settings is losing favor among many French citizens, and Paris stands out as a shared micromobility epicenter. The city pioneered self-service shared mobility networks like Vélib' (2007), Autolib' (2011), and Cityscoot's shared electric scooters (2016).

However, in April 2023, Paris residents voted to ban free-floating e-scooters in the city. The reasons behind this decision included riders competing for space with pedestrians on sidewalks and complaints about e-scooters cluttering the pavements when parked. 

Captur's case study on e-scooter parking habits in Paris revealed that the majority of users encountered no problems when parking scooters in designated bays. However, outside of the designated areas, users had to compete with other vehicles, resulting in poorer parking choices.

This example again emphasizes the need for proper infrastructure to support shared mobility. Lots of cities around the world were mainly designed with private cars in mind – which can create challenges for accommodating shared mobility solutions.

Anne Hidalgo, Paris' Mayor, campaigned with a strong green agenda and has introduced various changes to tackle pollution and traffic jams. Her vision includes a "15-minute city" where people can access work, shopping, healthcare, education, and leisure within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from their homes.

Yet, the chaotic state of free-floating e-scooters in Paris resulted in their ban. This scenario raises a question for other global cities: How can shared mobility be encouraged without disrupting other transportation choices and pedestrian movement?

According to Manon, the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, which will draw many visitors, will provide valuable insight into the city's transportation system – including the viability of shared mobility.

Shared mobility is here to stay – so start planning today

By adopting a supportive approach, authorities worldwide can play a crucial role in enabling the full potential of shared mobility. While it may require a shift in mindset, the potential gains of reduced congestion, environmental sustainability, and improved transportation options make it a worthwhile consideration. 

We know that shared mobility is here to stay and will only expand in the coming years. By taking a more proactive stance, authorities will be in a better position to integrate and maximize the full benefits of shared mobility.

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