Bright Sparks: Cycling into a sustainable future
In 1965 an anarchist group called Provo in the Netherlands created what was probably the world’s first formal bike sharing scheme.
As a response to concerns around air pollution and consumerism, the group painted 50 bicycles white and left them in Amsterdam for anyone to use.
The Witte Fietsenplan (white bicycle plan) was not a success; all the bikes were gone within a month.
Time, and technology, have moved on. There are now cycle sharing schemes in many major cities, increasingly using bikes that can be tracked because they’re connected to the internet using mobile SIM cards embedded in their frames.
There are now more than 500 cycle sharing schemes in Europe according to the European Cyclists Federation. It’s estimated the global market for bike rental will be US$4 billion by 2025 (in part from sales of advertising space).
The popularity of planet-friendly transport has also led to aggregator web sites that let enthusiasts access a broad range of the sharing schemes on offer.
One of the fastest growing bike sharing communities in Europe is Cycle.land, which started in the British city of Oxford – not surprising given the numbers of bicycle-riding students there.
The business is run out of Oxford University Innovation (OUI), an incubator set up in 2011 that now houses 25 start-ups
Cycle.land’s CEO Agne Milukaite is a graduate of Oxford University who shares with her community a belief that bikes are the future of urban transport.
A fiercely intelligent and determined woman in her mid-twenties, Agne is a social scientist who likes to bring people together.
She built Cycle.land as a peer-to-peer social marketplace, providing a global platform for people to meet and lend or borrow bikes.
There are over 200 on the site to rent whether you want a tandem for the day in the UK, to go mountain biking in Lithuania or borrow a folding bike to get around Beijing.
The site expanded with the launch of community bike schemes for closed groups of users in colleges, accommodation providers and businesses, including the OUI and Vodafone UK, which will soon launch one for its campus in Newbury.
Agne met the telecom operator through Bright Sparks, a mentoring programme organised by OUI and Vodafone Group.
Her mentor is Usman Javaid, Vodafone’s head of internet of things (IoT) business in the UK.
Vodafone has the world’s largest IoT platform, managing around 81 million connected devices, from bikes to cars and pet trackers – so the relationship has helped shape Agne’s vision for both Cycle.land’s technology and business model.
Vodafone IoT SIMs monitor the fleet of 3,000 bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters Cycle.land is preparing to launch in London, Paris and Berlin with Youon, China’s largest and most successful public bike sharing operator.
The system is dockless, meaning there’s no need to pick up at or return to a static station.
In addition to the Youon partnership, Cycle.land has helped launch and manage fleets of dockless shared bikes on behalf of OFO in Oxford and Mobike in Oxford, Cambridge and London.
By offering a range of
options, Cycle.land’s ambition is to be a one stop shop, making it easy to find
sustainable transport – wherever you are and whatever type of cycling you want
 European Cyclists Federation, 2017, EU Cycling Strategy. (online).
 Hexa research, 2019, Global Bike Rental Market to Reach USD 4.00 Billion By 2025. February 20. (online). Available at: https://www.hexaresearch.com/press-release/global-bike-rental-market.