The bosses of the bicycle subscription providers Swapfiets and Cycle still see a clear need to catch up on the conditions for cyclists in Germany.

“In particular, I still see a big difference between Holland and Germany,” said Swapfiets’ Central Europe boss, Andre Illmer, of the German Press Agency. “When you travel in Holland, you see that the infrastructure is relatively fairly divided between pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, one third each. That’s not the case in Germany.”

Illmer emphasized that he was particularly worried about the recent discussion about cycle paths in Berlin. “Berlin runs the risk of losing touch with other European cities. Because they create more living space – instead of roads for cars.” Shortly after taking office, the new Berlin state government temporarily stopped dozens of cycle path projects in the districts in order to review them. In the meantime, the Senate has again given the green light for most of the projects. However, three projects were stopped.

Debate in Berlin surprised

Cycle co-founder Luis Orsini-Rosenberg assesses the situation in German cities a little more leniently. “Holland is by far the country with the best infrastructure,” he agrees. “But Germany is not far behind, especially when we compare it to Poland or Italy.”

Nevertheless, the debate in Berlin surprised him too. “We are very well networked as an industry and organized ourselves quickly and I am now happy to see that most of the cycle path projects have been approved again.”

At Swapfiets, consumers can use bicycles and e-bikes on a subscription basis. The brand is best known for the always blue front tires. The company is now active in 18 German cities. With the subscription, customers also book a repair service that they can order at home in the event of problems and that either repairs the subscribed bike or exchanges it for a new one.

suit of demand

Cycle, in turn, rents out robust e-bikes to major customers such as delivery services, who equip their drivers with them. Orsini-Rosenberg co-founded the Berlin start-up during the Corona pandemic.

“We started in 2020 with four employees and two years later we already had 130,” he says. The delivery services would often lease the bikes from Cycle on a long-term basis. Cycle was only partially affected by the problems of some providers and the consolidation of the industry. “We are now seeing a significant increase in demand for food deliveries.”

Swapfiets also rents out e-bikes for commercial use. However, the majority of customers are private users. Like the rest of the bike industry, the company is seeing significant demand for e-bikes.

“Electric bicycles now account for between 15 and 20 percent of subscription business,” says Europe boss Illmer. “In the beginning there was a lot of demand for us, especially from students.” With the e-bike offer, older customers are now increasingly coming.