Ikea Tests Bike-Share in Denmark. Why Not NYC?

Responding to yesterday’s post on Ikea shuttle buses causing a stir in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, Streetsblog commenter Lee Watkins reminds us of the company’s Danish bike-share program. As previously noted here, Copenhagenize has the scoop:

IKEA of Denmark is now starting a new concept at their Danish stores. They did a bit of market research and found that roughly 20% of their customers rode their bikes to the stores – even though most of them are located outside the cities in large commerical centres – some call them Big Box Districts – which are located outside the city centre.

IKEA has invested in Velorbis bikes, at a couple of their stores, that will pull trailers so that customers can ride home with the new purchases.

According to Copenhagenize, two Ikea stores outside the city — one of them located 12 miles away — feature bikes and trailers for rent. The Velorbis web site says the bikes are offered for use at no cost (Treehugger puts the deposit at $100 US). As remote as many New Yorkers may consider Red Hook to be, it isn’t exactly a suburb, yet Ikea chose to make room for 1,400+ cars there while forgoing bike accommodations altogether. What gives?

If it works in Denmark, Ikea will reportedly be exporting its bike rental program to other countries. Let’s hope Brooklyn is considered urban enough for the company to give it a try here in the States. (Confidential to Ikea: these folks would probably be happy to hear from you.)

Photo: Velorbis

  • d

    Anyone who has lived in or traveled to other countries knows that Americans is one of the most litigious societies in the world. That alone might be the biggest obstacle to getting something like this going here, as I’m sure IKEA would not want to get sued by someone claiming that they were riding a faulty bike when they got into an accident or got injured.

    I suspect that if free bikes and trailers were to be offered by IKEA it would require a fair amount of paperwork and signing on the dotted line before one was allowed to bike one’s belongings home.

    It certainly can’t be about the price of the bikes; imagine how expensive it is to operate the free water taxi or shuttle buses. It also probably has little to do with fears of theft, since that is easily cleared up with a deposit on a credit card, as is done in Copenhagen. When the economic cost of potential lawsuits is less than the economic benefit of providing this service, I’m sure IKEA will offer it.

  • d

    I mean “America is one of the most litigious societies…”

  • Tom Rorb

    I am about 2 miles away. I would use one of these for sure if I went to IKEA.

  • d, very good point about litigiousness.

    But because it’s SO sensible for an Ikea in a dense city to rent/lend bikes/cargo bikes, I really hope they manage to overcome any understandable fears of lawsuits that might result from Ikea-bike use.

    Letting furniture buyers in a dense city rent or borrow cargo bikes: as an old-school New Yorker friend of mine would say, “it’s called ‘it makes all the sense in the world.'”

  • gecko

    Could be a watershed experience if the seriously got into in the Red Hook / Carrol Gardens neighberhoods

  • I made a similar suggestion that the city of Berkeley provide loaner trailers, and the bike planner immediately replied that they couldn’t do it because of liability concerns.

    I recommend that people do it themselves. Bicycle Friendly Berkeley Coalition has a trailer that they loan to members. I bought a trailer for myself at http://www.bikesatwork.com/ – with a capacity of 300 pounds.

  • Shemp

    Probably the main distinction will lie is in who is making these type of decisions for IKEA in the U.S. (it may be their lawyers, true).

    I doubt urban IKEAs in Europe have giant parking lots, but they wanted one here.

    Danish or Swedish planners for IKEA can understand the value of bike-sharing and trailers, but if IKEA’s U.S. team is just another bunch of fat Americans in their fat cars (or typically paranoid lawyers) does it stand a chance?

  • Stacy

    Hey I’d be happy just to borrow a trailer to haul my stuff back home over the Brooklyn Bridge. And it would be great advertising for Ikea.

    So how come nobody in this city has come up with the idea of rentable bike trailers? I don’t have a place to store a trailer so buying one is out of the question, but if U-Haul can rent trailers for gas guzzlers why not trailers for human powered vehicles too?

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Uhh… Credit where credit is due please? I brought this up last week. http://tinyurl.com/6kutlz

  • Gasping for Air

    Copenhagen barely has any hills. There is no way out of Red Hook that doesn’t involve a serious climb. Sure there are always a few fanatics who will climb anything, but bike trailers would be a lot easier to use in a flat city like New Orleans than in Brooklyn.

  • JF

    I agree with Shemp. Sounds like the management of Ikea USA are your typical American corporate executive type, who drives everywhere and thinks that people who don’t aren’t worth consideration. If they’re from the Midwest it makes some sense, but even if they’re from New York they’re probably the same people who think congestion pricing would hurt the poor.

  • “Serious climb” Shemp? That’s stretching it. There are routes out that are rather flat if Smith or climbing the Park Slope streets are too abrupt.
    This is totally possible, if Ikea doesnt do it, Brooklyn still needs its own cargo bike rental company, maybe this will be the impetus.

  • Shemp

    Hey man, I said nothing about climbing.

    It’s news to me there are hills anywhere in Brooklyn.

  • Granted, I haven’t been to every nook and cranny of the five boroughs, but the only truly “serious climb” I’ve encountered in the city has been on the Hudson River Greenway at the GWB.

  • Curious

    Um, Shemp, the entirety of Park Slope is on a hill. Hence the ‘Slope’. It may not be the biggest hill but your average person may have trouble towing a trailer and kitchen table up the road.

  • I have suggested these kinds of schemes for awhile. Were transportation demand management planning required, then this kind of thinking, as well as delivery systems shared across commercial districts (rather than being specific to individual businesses) could be implemented.

  • Sorry Shemp I brought you into this. I should have refered to “Gasping”, not you.

    I live on the Slope and I am sure even for an average person, a properly geared bike, a trailer and a particle board table from the big box store we’re all discussing, would not create a hardship. I was bothered that “gasping” was passing off the idea of hauling materials by bicycle due to “serious hills”. I hired a “driver” and his cargo trike to haul a bureau and then two rain barrels up the hill from lower Atlantic Ave, and Red Hook respectively, no one got hurt from the effort. I rode next to him and we talked the whole time. It cost way less and was way easier than renting a car. Trips by bicycle and work-cycle is a viable method in our compact city, if we keep knocking the idea that it isn’t, people won’t try it themselves.

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