Jonathan Stirling of Joe’s Bikes wants to fix London’s bike storage problem
Pedalling to work is good for lots of reasons. But finding a safe place to leave your bike in London is a trial. Joe’s Bike Space is a cheap, secure and hassle-free way to store your ride in town. Neverbland caught up with founder Jonathan Stirling to talk stressless cycling, digital storage and why partnerships are key to his business model.
Neverbland: What made you want to start Joe’s Bikes?
Jonathan Stirling: If you chain a decent bicycle anywhere in London, it’s going to get stolen. More so now people are riding e-bikes. Bike storage needs to be easy, flexible and affordable.
NB: How does it work exactly?
JS: It’s a pay as you go model. You use an app to get into one of our locations after pre-booking a spot. It’s affordable, which – for us – means cheaper than a bus fare. So, it’s 24 hours’ parking for your bike for £2.75.
NB: Aren’t there places to store your bike in London already?
JS: The problem is this – there are not enough bike racks in London. The London Cycling Campaign says that there is half the required amount. The Mayor’s target of 10% of commuter journeys being done on a bike, would suggest that there should be some 400k bike commutes a day. In the whole region (greater London) there are 170k bike racks.
NB: So, is this the main thing getting in the way of a wider shift to cycling in London?
JS: One of them, yes. Cycling to work has been, up until now, the preserve of the wealthy. Think about it this way, if you’re a banker or an ad creative and your bike gets stolen, you order a new one on your credit card. If you’re a nurse or a barista this isn’t so easy.
NB: So the key is opening cycling up as a workable option to more people?
JS: Exactly. We are the most congested city in Europe and some of the most well- intentioned measures put in to reduce pollution have affected the least advantaged groups. People who in the past could drive into town to do cleaning shifts overnight, can’t because they get charged until 10pm at night. If they have an old car that doesn’t comply with ULEZ they get penalised. There needs to be an alternative.
NB: Will Joe’s Bikes make commuting less stressful too?
JS: I think it will. Cycling at a gentle pace is more relaxing than taking public transport. Stress is defined by responsibility without control. If you’re on a tube train that is stuck, that’s precisely what you have.
NB: What about cycling safely? London can be a bit of a white-knuckle ride on two wheels.
JS: To cycle safely in London you need to tootle along, eyes up, observing cars and pedestrians around you. If you’re worried about the time, thinking ‘I need to get there’, your head goes down, you start jumping red lights, and that’s when you have accidents – in race mode.
NB: What’s your next move?
JS: Right now we have a location in Clerkenwell with seventy-eight spaces. The next plan is to open another place in Baker Street. But it’s not just about our own dedicated locations, we work with any space operator, like offices, retail and hospitality. We plan to expand our digital product to an app with a little help from a good digital product design studio.
NB: Like a franchise?
JS: Like partnerships. We’ve created a digital platform that delivers security by digital ID verification, so that’s integrated into the location. Our security is about knowing precisely who’s walking through the door. And we’ve delivered a booking system, so before you get on your bike, you know you have somewhere to park it. This means we can work with anyone who wants to improve or monetise their bike storage.