Bike Chain Reaction: A Social Business to Create Bike Commuters Through Crowdfunding

Today I set aside my blather to convey what may be a good idea. I’ve only had like two good ideas ever, and I’ll cut off my own hair and eat it if it helps to make this the third (this is a trick – because I’m hairless). I’d like to implement the idea, but first I want to collect feedback so that I can better understand if there’s any promise in it. That’s what this post is for. I’ve posed some questions at the bottom – please answer them by flooding the comments with constructive criticism.

The idea is a mechanism to promote bike commuting, which is one of the most important things that civilization can do at the moment, not only to address climate change, but to deal with peak oil and to improve the health, happiness, and atmosphere of cities everywhere. The case for bike commuting is overwhelming - read this to familiarize yourself with the arguments.

Anyway, I call my idea Bike Chain Reaction.

How it works: there’s a website, which makes money by selling bike equipment and collecting donations from folks who wish to promote bike commuting. The revenues are used to buy bikes and equipment for car-commuters who, in exchange, pledge to stop driving and start riding to work.

The program will qualify the recipients of the equipment, make sure the pledges are properly carried out, perhaps using the GPS locators that some city bikeshare programs use. If so, total gas/carbon/money saved by the program can be displayed in tickers on the site.

It’ll only work if there’s an effective way to raise awareness for the program. Here’s how: the program will partner with bike stores. When the program purchases a bike, it’ll do so  at retail through the nearest partner store. In exchange for the business, stores will promote the program (through in-store displays, etc).

Some bike recipients may be required to periodically write about their experience in making the switch from car to bike, both to create content with which to promote the program and to help others make the same transition.

Pretty straightforward, right?

Ok, what do you think?

  1. Good idea?
  2. Would you participate, either as donor or recipient? If not, is there something similar that you would participate in?
  3. What might ruin the idea, and how could that be fixed?
  4. How could the idea be made 10 times cooler?
  5. What haven’t I thought of?

Posted August 08, 2012 in Smashing Ideas | 2 Comments

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  1. Mike says:

    I’ve been a bike commuter for the last 6.5 years, so you know I’m on board. Some of the hurdles that I might see with this program is lack of incentive for the bike commuter. It’s my understanding that your argument is that many people do not bike commute because they do not have bikes/gear. I would argue that people don’t bike commute because they are

    1) lazy – they own the bikes but haven’t ridden on them since they bought them and have since rusted over. they don’t own a bike pump or they don’t know how to change a flat. Also, a lot of people don’t like to “exercise”

    2) afraid of sweating or looking discheveled at work (more so with women). I am always trying to convince my co-workers to ride and there is usually the most push back from women who say that dress standards in offices allow men to get away with slightly wrinkled clothes and scruffy hair but not so for women. I can understand the argument, but that’s a societal change that we need to make.

    3) afraid of getting wet/cold/hot – not every day can be a nice weather ride. I may be a bit more committed than the average commuters, but I think the hardest part of riding in the rain or snow is just the first 2 minutes. Once I’m wet, I’m not going to get more wet. Embrace it, keep a dry set of clothes in your office and just deal with it.

    I think my main point, at least where I live, is that people have bicycles, they’re just not riding getting out and riding them. I’ve had the most success at getting people to bike commute just by hounding them about coming and riding with me. It helps a lot that they live near the same route as me, so we can ride together initially so they can get comfortable with it.

  2. Nick Bentley says:

    Well, actually, my background assumptions were a little bit different. I was trying to think of the problem as a political campaign manager might: divide people up into demographics and then target the demographic moist vulnerable to being swayed.

    In this case, the demographic is the group of people who are already considering bike commuting, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. They just need one little incentive to get over the hump, and some shiny new gear might be it.

    With bike commuting an increasingly visible and popular option, there may be many such people. Even still, there probably aren’t that many in any one city, but that’s why the program would be national. It’s not like the program could buy that many bikes for people at first anyway, because it would be limited by revenue, which would start small.

This site is about one total amateur’s half-cocked attempts to do something about Climate Change.
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