Urban bike-sharing in U.S. cities. Already booming in Europe, these membership-based services start around $5 a month, saving commuters at least $5,000 a year on average over owning a car.
Smartphone apps allow riders to find bikes quickly, and inexpensive radio-frequency-identification or GPS chips help bike companies track the riders remotely. The chips are linked to riders’ credit-card information, so they won’t be tempted to steal the bike.
Hopping on a bike is quicker — not to mention more exhilarating - than grinding through gridlock in a crosstown bus or taxi. Urban bike borrowers also dodge storage woes, the cost of ownership, and the risk of losing their own bikes to theft.
New York’s Social Bicycles, which begins beta-testing this fall, mounts its locking, payment and tracking system above the rear wheel, allowing riders to drop off and pick up at any bike rack. An account number and PIN unlocks the bike, and GPS tracks it.
Social Bicycles; Price not set; socialbicycles.com
Riders in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area can find one of 700 bikes through an iPhone app. Each bike has an RFID chip to tell a central server when it’s at a kiosk, and members swipe their cards to borrow a ride. Montreal and London use similar systems, and Boston will soon.
Nice Ride; From $60/year; niceridemn.org
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.