A New Spin on Bike-Sharing Schemes

You may have read about the following elsewhere, but it is worth sharing here, too. Our friend Frederick sent a link to an article on Wired’s site about a novel concept in city bike-sharing setups. This one is from a startup in New York City called Social Bicycles (SoBi) and operates without dedicated kiosks or other infrastructure, and at a fraction of the per-bike cost of other bike-sharing schemes like Velib or B-Cycle. And, it has some really cool features that make the setup eminently user-friendly.

From Wired’s article:

SoBi doesn’t use cycle stations; the bikes are parked throughout the city (starting in New York) at regular racks. Bikes could, in fact, be anywhere at any given time, not just at a designated station that could be blocks away. Users can grab any bike that isn’t already reserved and drop it off anywhere. No need to search for a drop-off station.

Like a Zipcar, each SoBi bike has its own “lockbox? (shown above) that communicates wirelessly with SoBi servers via GPS and a cellular receiver (an H-24 module from Motorola). When you make a reservation online or via smartphone, a map displays all the bikes in the area and gives you the option of unlocking a specific bike by clicking on it.

Read the full article by visiting Wired.

If this scheme is successful, such technology and the relative ease of the setup may encourage other cities to try their hand at bike-sharing.


6 Comments

  1. harry krishna August 21, 2010 12:51 pm 

    i know the costs are coming down, but gps/navigation not at an affordable point for me. given what i read about theft and vandalism of shared bikes, seems like we should make the shared bike less valuable. if walmart can make a $50 bike, perhaps a major metropolitan area could be flooded with enough bikes to make theft unappealing?

  2. Ghost Rider August 21, 2010 3:24 pm 

    @Harry — many cities have tried the “cheap way” in the past in the form of “yellow bike projects”. Hundreds of old bikes painted orange or yellow or white were placed around cities as a primitive bike-share, but within weeks all those bikes would disappear, never to be seen again. These bikes were usually rounded up from police auctions and university unclaimed-bike corrals and were worth about as much as the half-can of spray paint used to color them.

    Apparently, even a crappy bike is worth something to someone without security in place!

  3. 100poundsago August 23, 2010 7:49 am 

    I read a question the other day that makes one scratch their head. Is it a lack of access to bikes that is causing “Bike Commuters” to fail or is it the lack of access to safe travel options?

    Interesting yes?

  4. Ganesha August 23, 2010 1:33 pm 

    good idea

  5. Dottie August 24, 2010 8:59 pm 

    Interesting. That makes so much sense, I wonder why it hasn’t taken off already.

  6. Mir.I.Am Gee September 1, 2010 2:21 pm 

    I LOVE this idea. When using Zipcar in Seattle, we often wished that we could return the car wherever. Similarly to the bike share idea, sometimes you just need to get on a bus and there are NO SPACES left on the bike rack!!! HOOK IT UP IN HONOLULU! I LOVE IT!!!!

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