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Bike restoration firm Upway to open Brussels depot next year

14:46 18/11/2023

Refurbished bike company Upway intends to open a warehouse in Belgium this year, according to an announcement following the close of a $30 million fundraising round.

The Paris-based company was founded in 2021 by former Uber executives.

Uppway said that around 20 people would be employed at the Belgian warehouse in the short term, namely chief mechanics, technicians and operations managers. The number of workers could then be increased depending on capacity requirements.

The new warehouse will be “strategically located” on the Brussels-Mechelen-Antwerp route, and Upway said it was currently in talks with a shortlist of three candidates for the building, with the goal of a New Year’s Day opening in 2024.

The company is planning to set up a state-of-the-art workshop in the warehouse, complete with a wash station and packaging line, that would refurbish thousands of electric bikes.

“[The Belgian warehouse] brings us closer to our Belgian customers, strengthens our relationship with our Benelux ecosystem, enables us to expand our range of reconditioned electric bikes and helps to reduce prices,” said Philippe de Schutter, head of expansion at Upway.

Since its founding, Upway said it had raised a total of $60 million and refurbished more than 20,000 electric bikes, which it obtains from a variety of sources such as bike shops - including more than 250 in Belgium - manufacturers and private individuals.

In making the case for an expansion to Belgium, De Schutter cited figures showing 56% of Belgians who do not yet own an electric bike said that price is an obstacle. Refurbished ones could therefore be a solution.

Cycling is indeed on the rise in Belgium, particularly in Brussels where ASBL Pro-Vélo’s head of research, Marik Lahon, said an “explosion can be seen in the figures”.

“We do counts every three months at various crossroads in Brussels - and where, at a count point in 2010 we saw 90 bicycles go by between 8.00 and 9.00 in the morning, we now see 350,” Lahon told RTBF. “That's a steady increase of 12.5% a year.”

Florine Cuignet, in charge of Brussels policy at cyclist association Gracq, cites an improvement in infrastructure as one reason for this soaring popularity.

“When we build real safe spaces for bikes, we see that cyclists flock to them,” Cuignet said.

“At first, everyone wondered why we were creating a cycle lane on Rue de la Loi, as we never saw anyone cycling there... and then, as soon as the lane was created, we saw the cyclists arriving.

"The same thing happened more recently with the construction of a wide cycle path along the inner ring road.”

While Brussels is becoming increasingly known as a cycle-friendly city, it is still a long way from being as cycle-friendly as other major cities in Flanders, the Netherlands and Denmark.

Written by Helen Lyons