This month we spoke with Sven, one of the founders of BAQME. They are convinced that you don't really need a car anymore in the city. That is better for your wallet ánd for your health.
Can you tell me about what it is exactly that you do?
We rent out electric cargo bikes in a cheap and accessible way. Just a ride up and down: pick up the children, take ten bags of cat litter. With us you pay per trip or per day. Depending on your location, a cargo bike is available.
For now you will only find our cargo bikes in Rotterdam and The Hague, but it is expected that more bicycles and more cities will be added by the end of the year.
We believe that you no longer need a car in the city center. It is expensive and often inconvenient. You are faster at your destination with a bicycle and it is a lot healthier. You also do not need a driver's license for our cargo bikes, so it is available to everyone.
Our only requirement is that you end your ride within the service area.
Why are there such tight boundaries to your service area?
The boundaries to the service area are drawn in such a way to guarantee a certain coverage of cargo bikes. As soon as we have more cargo bikes, the service area will of course be expanded.
We want to respond as well as possible to the wishes of our customers. Therefore, anyone can make a suggestion where we should expand to. This can be a completely new city, or a new neighborhood within Rotterdam or The Hague. We take every suggestion with us.
For example, we recently added a new district within Rotterdam, because there were many applications for it. We noticed people in that neighborhood were cheering each other on. In one day we received about 50 registrations within that zip code.
Is there a specific reason why you chose Rotterdam and The Hague as the first cities and not for example Amsterdam?
We initially chose Rotterdam, partly because we come from there ourselves and know the city well. We started in February 2021 with only 20 cargo bikes. It was simply very important that they were in the right place right away, if we wanted our concept to catch on. It was therefore an easy choice to start in a city we knew.
We then expanded to The Hague, because we thought that was a logical 'leap'. We want to expand like a kind of oil slick. That oil slick has now started in Rotterdam and has expanded to The Hague.
On the other hand, bureaucracy also plays a role. You have to get permits from the city, you can't just put all your cargo bikes on the street. The cities themselves must orientate whether they have room for shared mobility. Amsterdam and Utrecht, for example, are currently conducting a pilot to assess whether they have this space.
As soon as we receive a permit or feedback from Amsterdam and Utrecht that there is room for part delivery bicycles in the city, we can respond to this.
So you started about a year ago with 20 cargo bikes. How have you grown in the past year?
Yes, we started with 20 cargo bikes. Meanwhile, you see them more and more in the city. And that makes sense: we quickly doubled our inventory to 40 cargo bikes and now there are 250 already.
The demand for our cargo bikes is very high. As long as you know that there is always a cargo bike within 300 meters, our platform is a good alternative for a second car or even the first.
With what vision was BAQME founded?
We strive to improve mobility within cities by using shared mobility. Actually, having a car within the city is tedious and expensive.
You often find yourself in traffic jams, have to search for a parking space for a long time, and then pay the main price. Reducing the number of cars in the city is beneficial for your wallet and your health: no more expensive maintenance costs and less CO2 emissions.
Until recently, for example, there was no good alternative to having a car for parents. Of course you can't take your children on the scooter and the metro doesn't run door-to-door.
We respond to this with our cargo bikes. We fulfill a unique role: you put your children in the box, just like packages and heavy groceries.
Plus, BAQME is a good way to have a cargo bike, without having to pay a large amount.
We've already mentioned it: shared scooters. We see them everywhere. Is this also competition for BAQME? Or do you see this as something vastly different?
It is of course very similar to our concept. Yet we see it differently.
A scooter is not active mobility. You sit on the scooter, open the throttle and you go forward. While you are of course more active with us. So healthier.
In addition, you can take less on scooters. You can strap yourself in a backpack, but that's it. So taking heavy groceries, packages and the like is not included.
With BAQME you can take everything with you, even your new bathroom furniture from IKEA. Plus, it's also available to those without a driver's license.
We do have a number of competitors in the area of share cargo bikes. The main difference between us and competitors is that with the competitor you always have to put the cargo bike back at a specific post. So you can't place it everywhere within the service area, which is the case with us.
In any case, we embrace our competition: there is still so much potential in the market. The greater the level of shared mobility, the faster the car will disappear from the city center and the air will become healthier.
Are your cargo bikes also being abused a lot?
No, that's actually okay. That is for two main reasons.
We notice that the cargo bikes are becoming a bit 'of the neighbourhood', which means that a lot of attention is paid. And if, for example, a sticker is stuck on it, we will hear about it quickly and we can quickly fix it.
And what about nuisance? For example, footpaths that are blocked by the shared bicycles?
Indeed, we already saw that problem when we started, so we took it into account when designing our platform. We are well aware that we use the public space in the Netherlands, so it is important that we handle it carefully.
For example, we were one of the first parties to make it mandatory to take a photo of how you placed the cargo bike at the end of your ride.
In addition, rides are often terminated in the area where the users themselves live. This entails a bit of social intrinsic motivation to keep one's own neighborhood tidy.
If a complaint is received from local residents, we will almost immediately send someone to move the cargo bike if necessary.
Our cargo bikes are also used to cycle to the station, for example. At these kinds of places where it is very busy, we have carefully drawn the areas where you can park your bicycle. So you can only end your ride in a place where it won't bother anyone.
You have grown a lot in 2021. Did you get funding or investors for this?
We have raised a large part of our capital through crowdfunding. To do this, we asked our customer base if they wanted to invest in us.
And we see it as a very big compliment that we have been able to raise such a considerable amount in this way. Depending on the amount people invested, they got free minutes in return.
In this way we immediately created a win-win situation. That is also a tip I want to give: involve your customers in your processes. This way your customers feel involved with your product and the chance of success is greater. This has been proven with our crowdfunding.
Can you tell me about BAQME's ambitions in 2022?
In 2022 we want to expand to at least 6 cities and grow to more than 500 cargo bikes. However, these cities do not necessarily all have to be located in the Netherlands.
We also see that a cycling trend is visible abroad. There are also initiatives from the government to reduce the use of cars.
How did BAQME come about?
The idea arose a few years ago out of mobility poverty. Certain neighborhoods within Rotterdam are affected by this. Many people there do not have a (second) car, no driver's license or cannot afford a cargo bike.
A few years ago, the technology was not ready for it, so we had to wait for that. Today, shared scooters have become an integral part of the city. That was also the sign for us that people are now ready.
That is why we finally started setting up BAQME in August 2020.
How did you come up with the name 'BAQME'?
We immediately went for a name that can also be pronounced well abroad. Furthermore, it is a combination of 'bakfiets' and 'me'. In other words: a cargo bike for you.
The 'Q' stands for 'quality'. We are referring to the quality of our cargo bikes and improving the quality of life in the city. On the one hand by making and keeping everyone mobile and on the other by reducing the number of cars within cities.
What are you most proud of?
Our best moments are when we see our bikes in use. For example, when we walk through the city ourselves and see someone cycling past on our cargo bike.
What about the batteries of your bicycles? Since you are not obliged to park the bicycle at a charging station.
Yes, you don't have to put them on a charging station or power point. For this we drive around every day to exchange the empty batteries for full batteries. We then take the empty batteries with us and charge them.
The batteries last almost a whole day of cycling, about 50-60 kilometers. As soon as the batteries drop below a certain percentage, we receive a message that they need to be exchanged. For example, there is never a cargo bike with an empty battery!
We are of course in winter now, do you see a difference in use compared to the warmer period?
We do see that there is a little less cycling. Though I don't think it's because of the cold. As Dutch people we are used to cycling. It also depends on the lockdowns we have in the cold periods.
We started in February 2021, in the middle of the first strict lockdown. Now we are in lockdown again: there is less commuter traffic. We see that reflected in the journeys made.
When it rains we see that there is less cycling, but that is quite logical. Now we can respond to this by, for example, offering a poncho, to make cycling a bit more attractive.
What is your golden business tip?
Well, probably a very cliché, but make sure you don't get too caught up in your plan. You just have to do things, try things out. You can never launch a perfect product. Your vision does not always match reality.
For example, we started in February with a completely different cargo bike, a tricycle. After the launch, we quickly found out that the Dutch are not such a fan of that. But we would never have learned that if we hadn't just started.
Last question: How do you use our phone solution?
We have a Dutch national phone number at Rinkel. It works ideal for us, to have our landline number forwarded to different 06 numbers.
In addition, we have set up our telephony in such a way that we immediately solve the top 3 problems via a number of audio messages. Before they even get us on the phone. Good for us and for our customers.
The voicemail is also very useful outside office hours. Customers can leave a message, we will be notified by e-mail, so that we can follow up immediately.