Green living is about making connections. Connecting the way your food is grown to the conditions of nearby waterways. Connecting the way your community uses energy to the quality of the air. And connecting your means of transportation with the footprint you leave behind.
Now, a new website created by a local entrepreneur connects travelers with rental bikes in faraway cities. It's called Velolet
, and it could be the tool you need to get out and explore the countryside around an unfamiliar city with minimal inconvenience and maximum enjoyment.
Longtime cyclist Dan Cleary got the idea for the company he founded after "dealing with frustration when I travel." It's possible to bring a bike on a plane...but the extra fees will kill you, if the hassle of trying to maneuver a mountain bike as if it's a suitcase doesn't get you first.
Meanwhile, in areas blessed with plenty of tourist-friendly bike paths, bike shop owners were sitting with an inventory of rental bikes but no simple way to get them into the hands of faraway consumers. Keeping track of inventory, working out the terms and conditions of service, and concerns about liability exposure kept lots of independent shops out of the game.
"I thought, 'Why can't I create the Orbitz of bike rental?'" says Cleary. "It's online, renters feel secure-- you have your confirmation number, the bike's ready to go when you get there, it's paid already. The real interesting part is the guys managing the store will also get an administrative tool to handle this. In all instances, it benefits the two parties."
It's free for bike shops to list their bikes on the website. Even individuals can upload a photo and description of a bike and offer it for rent. The bike owners list the rental price, by day and week. Then potential visitors to a city can view the inventory of bikes online. Find one you like, and all it takes is a credit card to make a reservation.
Many bike shops even offer additional services like pick-up, drop-off, and rental helmets, bike bags, or water bottles. Velolet handles the flow of information, provides and stores the necessary waivers, and adds on a fee, which provides liability insurance that benefits both parties in the transaction. It also lets renters give ratings and feedback after the transaction, a tool used on websites from eBay to Amazon to keep sellers honest.
Right now, Cleary sees a clear path to growth in the popularity of bicycling festivals. "The Nature Valley bicycle festival was in Menomonie two weeks ago. We put together a page for them--an easy solution for people to figure out rentals before they get there." Cleary hopes events like that one and August's upcoming Tour de Tonka
will attract curious cyclists from out of town to his site.
Although Velolet is still getting off the ground, it already has bike shop partners in Tucson, Arizona and Austin, Texas, plus individual bike owners scattered around the country looking to make a little extra cash by renting out their bikes to fellow cyclists.
"We have this economy where people are taking different types of trips than they used to," says Cleary. "They're getting around cities on Nice Rides
instead of taxis, and having a great time doing it. The trend is not sitting at the beach every day."