“Urban bike ownership dead in a decade,” says subscription business CEO

The boss of bicycle subscription firm Buzzbike has predicted that private bike ownership will be “dead in a decade” in urban spaces, giving way to models such as his and other hire arrangements.

Writing a column on the subject for City AM, Buzzbike co-founder Tom Hares writes that Covid conditions have provided a snapshot of what he foresees as a service model emerging as the favoured solution for mobility among consumers.

Revealing that his firm’s subscriptions over the past 12 months had grown by 450%, Hares makes the projection with reference to a subscribe versus ownership debate that has become particularly relevant to millennials and younger generations.

These demographics are increasingly said to be priced out of ownership of many high value purchases (in particular home ownership) and thus more inclined to use services such as Spotify, Netflix and Uber, to name a few examples.

As a result, Hares cites the growth trajectory household spend on Subscriptions is on, which The Times reported in August of 2020 to be worth £552 a year, or £46 a month for the average UK household. By February of this year that tally was said to have risen to £700 a person annually.

Arguably the home subscriptions model may well have been bolstered by the pandemic, as illustrated by Netflix’s peak and subsequent slowdown in subscriber rates announced this week.

Explaining why his business chose to go down the bike subscription route the Buzzbike co-founder wrote of the target audience: “This new group of newbies were very different. They had little time to ponder or prepare. Their demands were for a turnkey solution that offered everything they needed in one package, on their terms. To subscribe was completely natural. If we are to realise more liveable cities through a cycle revolution it is this group – the 90 per cent not currently cycling that we need to convince. This reinforced our belief that subscription was the future of urban cycling and what we were witnessing was the beginning of the end of urban bike ownership for the next generation.”

Buzzbike’s boss says that there are five key reasons why consumers sign up; tailored experience; cost of entry; convenience; personalisation and control of monthly outgoings. For this reason he speculates that the subscriptions model will broaden the demographic of cycling into areas that the bike industry has previously failed to reach.

“Will we see the death of bike ownership overnight? Will it be everyone? All types of bikes? Of course not. However, with subscriptions becoming the new normal, an urgent need to solve the issue of urban mobility as city populations swell (70 per cent of us are expected to live in cities by 2050, up from 55 per cent today) and a younger demographic demanding more than a transactional relationship from every purchase, we’re convinced we are at the beginning of the end of urban bike ownership, a transition we expect to be complete by the end of the decade,” concludes Hares.

Hares is not the first to make the prediction. Kristjan Maruste, CEO of Comodule is another in the bike biz forecasting cycling as a service taking over in time.