Few images are more quintessential of Oxford than students, academics, workers and other townspeople speeding down the High Street on their bicycles. Even if this image has its roots in stereotypes of an antiquated institution resistant to technological progress, it is also reflective of reality. A 2018 survey found that 36.6% of Oxonians cycle at least once a week, triple the national average. That is why the launch of OxBikes, a start-up set up by undergraduates in August 2021, highlights our university’s entrepreneurial culture but is unsurprising.
OxBikes was set up to tackle problems faced by students. Though cycling can be transformative due to its convenience and slashing of journey times, the bike market can be exhausting with few centralised websites and dependable yet affordable sellers. There is also an environmental dimension to the problems of the current market. Bike waste is a key issue, with abandoned bikes often littering the streets and ending up in landfill sites. OxBikes intends to find solutions for a range of issues.
OxBikes tries to ensure that no bike goes to waste by looking for abandoned bikes and salvaging parts. Sustainability and global awareness are central to their mission as minus an £8 flat-rate commission, all proceeds go to charity. Customers are encouraged to educate themselves about the relevant global issues, reading about requirements for transport systems in developing countries at https://worldbicyclerelief.org/.
Louis Wright, the founder of the company, outlined the company’s genesis and ambitions. His words reflect the entrepreneurial spirit and desire to proactively meet global challenges which are so central to our university.
‘I was surprised from personal experience and that of friends at how hard it is to find an affordable bike in Oxford, when it’s such an essential way of getting around. Bike shop prices can be extortionate, and pre-existing marketplaces such as Facebook and Gumtree can be difficult to navigate as students. Essentially, there needed to be an easier way to buy and sell second-hand bikes in Oxford.’
‘From an environmental perspective, too, OxBikes will tackle the problem of waste in the city and provide colleges and the council with the opportunity to dispose of their bikes in an eco-friendly way. By partnering with World Bicycle Relief, we’re also ensuring that the profits from donated bikes go towards empowering those for whom easy access to bikes can be transformative. In this way, the platform can help not only students and local residents, but also the wider global community.’
OxBikes may well make a decisive impact on the market. With the University referring to cycling as the ‘ultimate sustainable travel choice,’ this fledgling and dynamic start-up is likely to enjoy success, all the while contributing to tempering environmental issues.