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Free bikes arrive for Stanford students through Free Bike Project

Among the 13,000-some bikes on campus, 25 free bikes have recently been thrown into the mix.

Familiar with startup culture, Stanford students might have heard of the Free Bike Project. Founded by Kim Sanderhoff and Johan Bender, two international students from Denmark at USC, the Free Bike Project has grown from being exclusively at USC to reaching 11 different college campuses.

The Free Bike Project is a startup with a strong charity component that operates on a variety of the lease-one-donate-one model. However, unlike the similar business model of TOMS Shoes, the Free Bike Project is free for both the campus users and those to whom the bikes are donated.

The company is able to fund these donations by converting bikes into rolling advertisements. Each bike is made by the Free Bike Project to have a main billboard mounted in between the main bars of the frame and a smaller billboard acting as a fender over the rear wheel.

From its launch in spring of 2013, the Free Bike Project’s first major sponsor was North Face. However, the advertisers are different on each campus where the project is active.

One of the main investors in the Free Bike Project is venture capitalist Tim Draper, who is also the advertiser on the majority of the free bikes at Stanford. The bikes are specifically advertising the Draper University of Heroes seven-week course in entrepreneurship.

While at neighboring schools such as UC-Berkeley there is a waiting list of 200 people to get a free bike, the Free Bike Project is currently looking to expand at Stanford.

“The goal is to get at least forty free bikes at Stanford,” founder Kim Sanderhoff said.

In order to get a free bike, students must register at freebikeproject.com. A $99 deposit is required in order to get a bike, lock and free maintenance during the one-year lease period. At the end of the lease period, the deposit is reimbursed when the bike is returned.

The only other requirement of the program is that riders post a picture of themselves on their bike on social media. The company uses the hashtag “#freebikeproject” in addition to the name of the individual advertiser.

Sanderhoff likes to emphasize the personal nature of the program.

“I talk to every single person [who receives a free bike],” he said. “I believe that in a small company it is important that we keep a personal relationship.”

Another key belief of the company is education. The Free Bike Project partners with the specific branch of the nonprofit Bikes for the World that distributes bikes to high school students that might otherwise not have transportation to attend school.

The established mission statement of the Free Bike Project “is to promote cycling and more sustainable forms of marketing. We want to help push the green movement forward, by building an organization that is mutually beneficial for both students and brands and also sends out a good message to society.”

Contact Ada Throckmorton at adastat ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

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Ada Statler

Ada Statler

Ada Statler '18 is an earth systems major hailing from Kansas City (on the Kansas side, not Missouri). She's most passionate about environmental journalism, but cares about all things campus-related.