The Velofixer - Mobile Bicycle Repair
Cargo bikes are used every day by thousands of individuals all over Europe. Individuals who found in cargo bikes a great tool to make their everyday errands simpler and more efficient. At CCCB (CityChangerCargoBike) we call these individuals Local Heroes.
Thanks to their great versatility, cargo bikes are ideal for a wide set of tasks, ranging from family logistics to running efficient and successful businesses.
Our story today takes us to Amor Mistiaen’s workshop in the newly pedestrianised area of downtown Brussels.
Amor is 28 years old and runs a thriving local business; he sells and repairs bicycles! But not just in any repair shop. At the age of twenty, Amor started his business, Velofixer, with no shop or warehouse to store bicycles and pieces. He only had a cargo bike. Being the first one in Belgium, this idea immediately hit the ground running. Seven years later, Amor is welcoming us in his second, newly opened store, where several employees are busy at work while we speak.
"My cargo bike became my workshop“
How did you come up with the idea of Velofixer?
“When I started working as a bike mechanic, I immediately realised how much demand there was for good bicycles and service shops in Brussels. I had the idea to start my own mobile bicycle repair service on a cargo bike. It was the perfect starting point, because it was cheaper than renting my own place. There were already people driving around in a van fixing bikes. But I was the first to offer bike repair services on a cargo bike in Belgium.”
And what are the benefits of being so mobile?
“Well, I can work anywhere. I have everything I need in my bike; I have a bike stand and all the main tools. It might happen that I don’t have a specific spare part with me, but with the capacity of a cargo bike, I can do almost everything that I can do in a shop. This way, for the client it is very easy, and they don’t need a car to bring their broken bicycle to a repair shop. The shop goes to them”
The idea is quite original, did it attract a lot of attention from the press?
“Absolutely. When I started, people didn’t understand what I was doing. It happened often that people stopped me in the streets, asking about my cargo bike. It turned out to be also a great marketing tool: I received a lot of free publicity! Now there are cargo bike repair shops popping up all over Belgium such as in Gent, Antwerp and even in Brussels”.
So, you started a few years ago with a unique cargo bike, and now you have one of the largest bike shops in Brussels. It looks like business is going very well!
“Yes, I cannot complain. Cycling in general has boomed in the last few years, there are more and more people commuting by bicycle in Brussels. And more and more look at cargo bike as a great solution for their needs.
On top of that, many companies are starting to use bikes as well. They are beginning to provide bike parking for their employees and try to stimulate them to go by bike, even cargo bikes. And we also work with city officials and municipalities who are buying cargo bikes for their staff. We provide them the bicycles and a full maintenance and repair service package.
Cargo bikes are Changing Cities as “People change their Mindsets”
The acronym of our project, CCCB, stands for CityChangerCargoBike. Do you believe, like we do, that cargo bikes in particular have a huge potential to really change the face of our cities?
“A lot of families are selling their car. They just don’t want to use their car anymore, they are sick of it. So they invest in a good cargo bike, in a family bike. It is a very positive change of course, one that needs strong support from the city itself. Brussels is changing. Slowly, but we are getting there.
Cargo bikes are more visible and recognisable than normal bicycles. This helps putting pressure on the city administration to prepare the streets for them. City officials, families and retailers could work together to see the number of cargo bikes take off. We need more bike friendly infrastructure; some streets are too difficult for cargo bikes”.
What are, in particular, the infrastructural needs of cargo bikers?
“Safe parking spaces are crucial. Although insurances help to cover the costs of a stolen bicycle, bike theft still causes a lot of concern for my customers, even more so when we are talking about cargo bikes. The city needs to provide secure parking spaces fit for all the different types of cargo bikes.
The city of Brussels has started to provide bike parking boxes. This is a good improvement, but they are too small for cargo bikes. That’s why we sell a lot of Tern bicycles, as they are very compact, long-tail cargo bikes, and they just about fit into these boxes. They are maybe the most popular kind of cargo bike, here in Brussels. This is a very innovative approach to cargo bikes, which has paid off. Producers, retailers and service providers can make cargo bikes available to people and inspire them, showing new ways to use cargo bikes. But governments and cities need to push to provide more safe spaces and appropriate bike lanes.”