Copenhagen Bicycles’ history began in 2000 when the company was registered. However, the business started its operations under the name of Copenhagen Rickshaw ApS in 2002. The company was originally founded by Gili Bassan together with his friend Claus and entered the market as a unique Danish urban mobility solution.
The business concept was to offer the possibility of renting rickshaws – three-wheeled bikes designed to carry passengers – to anyone who wanted to start earning money as a bike driver in town. The startup location was in a small basement in Østerbro, underneath Randersgade School.
In this manner, more than a business, the idea was developed as an employment opportunity where people without distinction of cultural background could rent a rickshaw. They used them as a way of generating a flexible income for themselves by offering driving services to others. Copenhagen Rickshaw was as a job source, especially for those who maybe couldn’t find regular work.
Perhaps our founder, Gili Bassan, brought this concept to Copenhagen through inspiration from his multiples travels to Asian countries. As pioneers of this venture in Denmark, the rickshaw idea became more popular and well received by tourists over the years. Visitors were delighted to explore the city from the comfort of this type of transportation.
The company reached an inventory of 60 rickshaws, which were distributed all over Copenhagen. The success was a result of an innovative strategy combined with the peculiar vehicle.
As in all prosperous businesses, competitors arrived. At this point, Gili had to concentrate his efforts on keeping the company as attractive as possible. To achieve this, he decided to purchase one of the biggest rivals who offered “the family bike” version. So Copenhagen Rickshaw could now give the two most popular designs for bike transportation : sitting in the front (family bikes) and sitting in the back (rickshaws) with a total of 120 bikes in its inventory. In the same way, standard bike rental and tours were in their portfolio, but not as the main service.
In 2009, the company added a total of 300 standard new bikes to its inventory and started to work in partnerships with hotels. The idea was to deliver the bike to their locations and every time that a bike was rented by a guest, both parties earned something.
Copenhagen Rickshaw was the first to introduce this type of bike partnership deal in the city. Our founder was even in charge of placing the bikes in these locations and the business was based on trust.
Facts about bike taxi zones
- Copenhagen centre will be separated into a red and blue zone
- Red zone covers the main walking street and the area around, Tivoli and Langelinie
- 50 licenses can be obtained in the red zone.
source: Copenhagen municipality
Changing the game
Over time the bike drivers’ business became more challenging. Some of the owners of luxury shops in Copenhagen city centre did not approve the rickshaw business model. In 2014 Copenhagen Municipality passed new rules that directly influenced the company. From then on it was required to hold one license per bicycle in order to drive them. They were limited to only 60 for the whole city. This way the municipality could control the total number of bikes on the street and the person responsible for each of them.
Consequently Copenhagen Rickshaw had to rethink its strategy, unify forces and renew themselves by reinforcing the rental model of standard bikes and tour experiences as its core business.
After years of use the hotel bicycles had to be replaced as part of our partner deal, because the bikes became old. At that point a new challenge came up – what to do with the remaining bikes? The solution was simple : boost the city tours and tourist bike rental with these bikes as part of a sustainable business.
New city point
In 2013 our founder opened the Nyhavn shop. This was the first time that the company had a commercial customer faced premises. We are still located there today. The space was an old wine store before and had been closed for years.
Due to the new address at the end of Nyhavn, it was very difficult to get a high number of visitors as people did not walk to the end of this area. Only a few customers, probably lost or for random reasons, found the shop. This was a difficult time for the company’s economy.
Gili was in charge of many activities simultaneously, even going around and picking up the bikes in the hotels and, as a result, he faced a very stressful stage. He started the daily guided tours as a service for the hotels, so they could send their guests for free to the new shop and experience the newly organized tours. Subsequently the private guided tours grew and some of the former rickshaw drivers became tour guides.
Incorporating the bike service as a workshop came naturally at that time and in 2014 we started to sell electric bikes and a small number of regular bikes, under the brand My Bike.
Staying in the family
In 2015 Gili, our founder, passed away. So his daughters Yael and Mira had to take over the business. Later, Yael became CEO and sole owner of Copenhagen Bicycles, bringing new ideas to the table and reorganising the company structure. At the same time keeping her father’s philosophy and essence intact.
Gili was a person who liked to try things before deciding if they were a good or a bad idea. He was very open-minded and very down-to-earth. He loved diversity and sharing people’s stories when coming home. An anti-materialist with crazy ideas.
Yael is inspired by him, a slightly more organised progressive thinker, following the diversity and inclusion values promoted by her father. “I want to make a change in the world and this is the best way to do it. If I say diversity is good, I can prove it,” she says. One of Yael’s main goals is to keep the business as a family, so our guests always feel welcome and part of Copenhagen Bicycles.
7th July 2016 was a memorable day for the company. That day, the Inner Harbour bridge opened, connecting the Nyhavn and Christianshavn districts and facilitating new access to many cyclists right outside the company windows. This boosted business and has caused a remarkable success since then.
If you want to help us to continue this history, rent a bike in Copenhagen with us and be part of the city. Experience the colourful buildings and happy atmosphere. We encourage tourists and locals to bike more, as we believe that this is the way to boost life quality and green mobility.