An e-bike subscription service’s pioneering efforts to eliminate barriers to cycling is clearing its own upward trajectory to success, with Lug+Carrie elevating its operations to much higher levels.
The three-year-old Melbourne company’s success in introducing families to e-cargo bikes has already led to expansion into Sydney earlier this year and Brisbane in recent weeks. Lug+Carrie has declared it will branch out into the ACT before the end of 2022 and will soon announce a partnership to grow its operations into the US.
As its subscription customer list eclipses 1,000 people – with around 800 people currently leasing its Tern e-cargo bikes – Lug+Carrie is stepping up its operations to target government and business clients.
That latest step in the company’s rapid growth will be on display when Lug+Carrie is an exhibitor at Australia’s first Micromobility Conference & Expo, being held at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse on the 25th and 26th November.
Lug+Carrie, which is also a Gold Sponsor of the Micromobility Conference, has been working with local governments in Sydney and Melbourne for the past 12 months to entice residents to swap car journeys for bike rides. That has included successful programs with Melbourne’s Moreland City Council, offering parents the chance to try e-cargo bikes for their school drop-off and pick-up.
Buoyed by a high conversion rate among participating parents, Lug+Carrie is looking to expand its community trial programs to other local government areas.
It will use the Micromobility Expo to showcase the initiative and establish ties with other councils, as well as its emerging services to businesses for commercial cargo bike fleets.
Pilot Subsidy for Sydney Residents
Lug+Carrie’s relationship with local government began with a four-week test ride subsidy through the City of Sydney, as an initiative by the council to get more residents cycling.
The company’s Head of Marketing and Brand, Bob Barrett, said the success of that subsidy led to Lug+Carrie working with the NSW Government to boost cycling rates in the City of Sydney’s Green Square district. It was one of a number of businesses that answered a call from City of Sydney for bike-related companies interested in assisting with active transport promotion for Green Square, which is also undergoing a $540 million urban renewal by the State Government.
“72% of those customers are female, which certainly goes against the general trend for cycling in Australia.”
At the same time, Lug+Carrie began a school program with the Moreland council, which last month changed its name to Merri-bek City Council in collaboration with the area’s traditional owners (Merri-bek translates to ‘rocky country’ in language of the Wurundjeri traditional owners.)
“The council pays for a month’s subscription on behalf of parents at certain primary schools. Parents can sign up, take a bike for a month and try doing the school run by cargo bike,” Bob said.
“Our conversion rate has been close to 50% of participants continuing as ongoing customers. For the amount of spend the council put towards the program, it’s been a fantastic result.”
“In addition, 72% of those customers are female, which certainly goes against the general trend for cycling in Australia.”
“Parents used to have to battle and argue with their kids to get them in the car to go to school, whereas the kids are now lining up to get on the bike.”
The pilot – part of Merri-Bec council’s Ride & Stride venture to promote active transport – started with one school 12 months ago and has grown to five.
“People typically don’t even consider a bike as a legitimate transport option, especially if they’ve got two kids,” Bob said.
“We put posters up at the schools and turn up for test rides at schools beforehand, so parents that are curious can have a go.
“Usually once you get them on the bike, it does the trick. We don’t get many people who do the four-week trial and give the bike back.
“The usual responses we get are ‘fun’ and ‘joy’. Parents used to have to battle and argue with their kids to get them in the car to go to school, whereas the kids are now lining up to get on the bike.”
He said 98% of trial participants owned a car and, even though most live within one to three kilometres of the school, 55% usually drive their kids to school.
Seventy-nine percent have two or more children, 78% planned to continue riding to school and 33% said they would replace regular car trips with e-bike journeys.
The council-subsidised trials then lead in perfectly to Lug+Carrie’s subscription scheme, which overcomes the upfront costs that stop many people from switching to cargo bikes.
“Customers pay a $44 deposit and we deliver a premium bike kitted out how they want it,” he said.
“We find there’s a lot of people on the fence who are put off by price. Our business model gets them over the line.”
Preloaded Destinations for Navigation
At the same time, Lug+Carrie is collaborating with technology and mobility solutions enterprise Intelematics – which will also be represented at the Micromobility Conference – to develop a navigation app tailored for bike commuting.
The new ridePlan safe cycle route algorithm and mobile app enables riders to find the safest, easiest or most direct way to get to their destinations, while avoiding busy roads and locating bike-specific infrastructure.
Lug+Carrie is incorporating the app into navigation services for its customers.
“Navigation is an obvious barrier to people cycling and the Intelematics app provides a good solution that we can preload for our customers,” Bob said.
“When parents sign up for the free trial, they gave us their home address and three locations. So when they log into the app, their home, work and school locations are preloaded into the app, making it super easy.
“That’s something we will work towards doing with our other customers when we sign them up.”
Bob said the ridePlan app also provides valuable reporting to councils and government agencies who want to know where their money has gone, by logging trial participants’ journeys.