Six million bicycles are stolen in Europe every year, and that is just the number of the thefts that get reported. The story of BikeFair began with one of them, a shady bike purchase, and a young graduate looking for new business opportunities in Rotterdam.
Some Dutch people call bike theft a national sport. That’s how Jan Pecnik came up with the idea to establish a safe space for buying or selling non-stolen bicycles in the Netherlands. After he had moved to Rotterdam to study at the university, he soon realised that a bicycle is a must. After checking a few bike stores in the city, he found out that a new bike is a bit too expensive for a student.
“Days into searching a sold-out market on social media, with no other options available, I set up an appointment on the other side of the city, in a district even the school warned the students about up front. To my disappointment the seller, coming about half an hour late, brought a completely different bike and asked about 50% more than initially agreed on,” Jan remembers.
And while cash payment was the only option, withdrawing the extra money in a shady area with an unknown guy just behind the back was quite an uncomfortable experience. With no other bikes available, Jan took his chances nevertheless. Only to figure out later that the bike was likely stolen just a while ago.
A couple of years later, while searching for a new work opportunity, Jan had a brilliant idea. How about creating a platform for those in search of a second-hand bike; one that is safe and guarantees a completely legal and clear transaction? Together with his friend, Dominik Nguyen, he set up BikeFair: an online platform for safe bicycle purchase. How does it work?
Browsing for a new bike
To find their new two-wheeled buddy, the customers simply browse the website using filters that help them sort the bicycles according to location, size or specific features. Once they pick their desired piece, they make a reservation and pay a deposit equalling the full price of the bicycle.
Afterwards, a hand-over meeting is arranged with the seller. If the buyer likes what they see, they can simply confirm the handover with the BikeFair system and the deposit is swiftly transferred to the seller’s account. If, for whatever reason, they don’t like the bike, the deposit money is immediately returned to them. Simple as that.
Given the whole bike theft situation in the Netherlands, how does the BikeFair team make sure the bicycles on their platform are 100% theft-free?
“Among others, we verify the legality of every single bike offered on BikeFair to make sure there is zero space for thieves and fencers. Together with the police and several world’s largest registrars of stolen bikes we use frame numbers to check the track record of the bike, and in case of doubts we also touch base with the seller.”
Further measures include registering the bikes and their new owners in the Bike Index database and providing each bike with a non-removable security sticker. Last but not least, the BikeFair team engages in raising awareness of important cycling issues: how to choose the right lock, what is the best way to lock your bike or what to do when it gets stolen.
At the moment, the BikeFair platform is available in the Netherlands, but in the spring of 2020, it shall be open for cyclists in the UK and US. Take that, thieves!