When Nailsworth’s roads seize up for the first Forest Green Rovers fixture later this month, fans will – once they’ve jostled for a parking space – meet fresh signage at the stadium.
The Fully Charged New Lawn is no more: welcome, instead, to the Bolt New Lawn. But what’s the story behind this sudden change?
Sadly, it has nothing to do with us signing fleet-footed Usain, who always lamented a missed football career, but it may be a move that bodes positively for a change in our diehard habits. If you alight at any FGR fixture by car, Bolt is taking direct aim at your choice of mobility.
On the face of it, the brand can be broadly compared to the ride-hailing tech giant Uber, but don’t let that put you off. This upstart start-up’s rapid ascendance in the FT1000 to third position by 2019 shows it’s a new and influential entity in the broader debate over how we move around.
Conceived as a pipe dream in Estonia in 2013, 19-year-old student Markus Villig initially envisaged the small task of simplifying the taxi choices between the nation’s main cities. But his vision has since grown to capture the support of almost 100 million customers across 45 countries, making Bolt Uber’s biggest headache as it vies for default status in our app-driven culture. But Bolt’s offer is about far more than hailing a pence-per-mile ride.
Having launched Bolt Ride, the brand wants to hit fast-forward on our transition from private cars to shared mobility, and to do this it believes we will be lured from our beloved personal spaces by the fuss-free availability of car sharing, micro-mobility (think those scooters that buzz around Bristol and make your wing mirrors fear for their lives) and, as per Uber, ride-hailing.
“At Bolt, we’re building a future in which people are no longer forced to buy a car to get around,” declares a statement that hails Bolt’s deal with FGR. “Where people have the freedom to use transportation on demand, choosing whatever vehicle is best for each occasion. By encouraging people to walk, ride, and share more trips, Bolt believes that our cities can be built for people, not cars.”
While its name now graces our own sunlit uplands at Nailsworth, Bolt’s future seems to be a sat nav destination locked on for success. After all, there’s a ghastly statistic that lurks in the back of my conscience whenever, as a car journalist, anyone asks me what they should buy: be prepared for the fact that any investment you make in four wheels will sit, on average, unused and idle for 95 percent of its life. It’s a staggering fact: even if you mitigate by buying an EV, it’s usually going to sit outside your house as an ornament for 22.8 hours of every day. Put simply, that’s nuts.
Pan back for the bigger picture and, with 32.7 million cars in the UK, that’s an awful lot of metalwork that we clearly don’t need to have to clutter our environment should we simply increase usage of cars by combining our journeys. Share the usage, reduce the number of cars needed and free up acres of parking space for nature and humans.
Factors that mitigate against this simple logic, however, are more than easy to spot in the Stroud area: Forest Green’s socially and demographically diverse fan base is a diaspora that tends to converge from areas that are often rural and low-populated. Hooking up to share journeys, in the instances where many fans aren’t already doing it, may not be a case of plain hailing.
Furthermore, as we emerge still braced in crash position from a pandemic that forced us to fortify our personal space, how easily do we embrace the prospect of squeezing into the back seat for sharing our pre-match bated breath, let alone the exhaled exasperation (or elation, we hope) on the journey home? Very easily, some fans tell me, given the fiscal pummelling of fuel at £2.00 a litre.
Bolt’s vision for the way we roll also includes shopping and product delivery.
It’s clearly an ambitious brand, but who’d expect anything less? From Oatley to Sea Shepherd, Forest Green’s integrity has always come before the kind of awkward, big-bucks support we so often see when teams put their image up for sale. In Bolt and the big green ideas it embodies, good synergy is locked in.
For more information on Forest Green’s partnership with Bolt, click here.