Umeå is a small town in the mid-northern region of Sweden with a large university population of about 30,000 students. Bicycles are the preferred mode of transit but many students buy cheap city bikes and abandon them when they leave. When Aamer Barood moved to the town from Sudan in 2016, he noticed the numerous abandoned bicycles on the streets. Inspired to put them back to use, he and other international students founded Umeå Wheels, a startup company that collects, repairs, and offers the bikes for sale or rent.
“I am coming from a tiny village in which sharing is a way of living. For example, if someone has food for today then he will share it, not because he wants to share but because he is not sure if he will have food for tomorrow but he knows for sure that someone else will have food for tomorrow and they will share it as well,” Aamer said.
The company has rescued 900 bikes since January 2018, and they sell from $60.
“We aim to reduce the waste of resources and reach zero bikes stolen or abandoned. We believe that reuse should not be just an option but the first thing to do. Recycling is the last thing to do to reduce CO2 emissions from melting bikes components,” the company states on its webpage.
The company offers discounts for students the option to sell the bike back when you leave town. Maintenance is free, a big bonus because most of the bikes are old and the town’s tough winters mean the bikes need more maintenance.
“We are still struggling to cover our basic needs and cost for the project but we are building many smart partnerships and collaboration with the local authorizes and other organizations,” Aamer said.
To prevent bicycle theft, the company is developing a digital registration system for bikes. The bike’s owner is flagged during a transaction to reduce thefts and illegal sales.
“Although we are facing so many challenges to change people’s mentality of using secondhand stuff through a circular economy process, we want to increase the life duration of every bike by making the connection between the bikes and their owners stronger,” Aamer said.
Umeå Wheels aims to make bike use easier, creating a more sustainable city. The owners want to make using the eco-friendly bike the primary way people get around.