Social bike programs have launched in metropolitan areas around the world with mixed results (for instance, Paris's Vélib'' program has enjoyed decent ridership but thousands of bikes have been stolen). But a public bicycle program called SoBi (Social Bicycle) aims to drive down the public cost of bike sharing systems while making it much more convenient to pick up and drop off bikes, using clever technology.
Essentially, SoBi attaches GPS and transmitter-enabled lock boxes onto a bunch of bikes -- any bikes will do, they don't have to be uniform. When the bike is locked up -- anywhere, not just at a designated kiosk as in Paris's system -- it shows up in a map app that directs users to the closest bike. Using the app (or a PIN) you unlock the bike and use it to get where you're going. Your account is charged for the time you use the bike; lock it up at your destination and the meter stops running and the bike becomes available to the next user. A "hold" function will even lock the bike for up to ten minutes without making it available to the next customer, in case you need to simply run indoors for a quick errand.
There are some problems that the scheme fails to solve -- theft will remain an issue -- but all of those problems already existed in other bike share programs. Meanwhile, SoBi claims it can cut the cost per bike from $3,000-4,000 to less than $1,000 because there's no need for infrastructure like bike hubs. You can pick up or drop a bike anywhere on a conventional rack (or street sign, or fence, or handrail, etc.).
A limited beta test will roll out in NYC later this year.
as far as theft deterrents go it would make a lot of sense to put a distress beacon on the bikes for when they are taken without authorization (pin or app). maybe even an exploding ink cartridge in the neck aimed at the face/torso area (like banks use in cases of robbery) that can be deployed remotely when the distress beacon sets off.
oohhh maybe even a good electrical shock can be discharged from a capacitor stored in the frame of the bike (charged by wheel friction of course)
but really, c'mon... social bikes? the people that are honest and responsible enough to use such a system can afford their own bikes right?
I agree with cGriffith especially since they have to have either an iPod or droid to get the apps to unlock the bikes. So if they can afford those then they have enough for a bike.
but the bike thieves can afford boltcutters (with the five finger discount, of course) and that bike that they bought with their money goes byebye. these rentabikes have better bikelocks.. ok that can happen anywhere. but you can buy a bike for like 78 bucks at walmart. i wonder how much these rent-a-bikes cost because if you are going to rent a bike at say-7 bucks an hour, then you are better off buying a bike, even if you rode it for 12 hours and then it got stolen.. you still got your moneys worth lol. now, if they were renting out electric bikes, front wheel drive, human powered rear wheel drive, like mine.. THEN you are better off renting, docking, charging, because 1: you get there faster, 2: it's actually worth renting (i would buy a pair of roller blades and a backpack before i would even consider renting a plain ol' manual bicycle) an e-bike like mine costs enough to make renting a viable alternative. 3: e-bikes will always have enough battery power to power the GPS tracking, and the lock/unlocking mechanism, even when batteries run too low to power the motor. you could add the incentive of built-in USB ports for charging your phone/ipod/whatever, while in transit. if somebody wants to steal a bike, they're going to steal it, but if you hide and protect the gps locator with the batteries well enough, like in a metal box/safe with a lock, so it is accessible for maintenance but not to the general public, then your chances of recovering it are much higher. of course, with GPS tracking there is always the chance that the bike thief goes to some old subway tunnel or whatever, where gps signal cannot reach.. then beats the accessories off the bike until it is a normal bike. with an electric bike, stashing the gps with the batteries, locked, so to remove the gps would take a lot of work, and render the bike non-motorized, and non-phone charging.. good idea. i mean what's the point of stealing an electric bike if you have to beat the crap out of a metal box to render it untraceable, and get at the wealth of lithium batteries, many of which would be damaged while beating the box open.. but of course this is assuming that someone has the starter money to get someone to build the electric bikes. if you could throw in a 3g/cellular data device into the bike as well, then you could improve your tracking methods, and even throw in a kill switch, in the event of unauthorized use. if you did steal it, with those security measures in place, then you would be doomed to riding it through abandoned subway tunnels for the rest of eternity, hoping your little blip doesn't pop up on their radar screen. or beat the crap out of it and reverse engineer it into a normal electric bike, but in some place with no cell or gps signal, until you got the batteries off and the security disengaged, but there would still be a trace on the map, where the bike was last headed before it dropped out of service, so it would be easier to know where to look for it. BTW i'm going to implant an RFID tag in my bum and wire up a stun gun security system into my bike's seat, or handlebars.. oh yea! and a shotgun that shoots straight up, through the bike seat, in case of unauthorized usage :D
i swear i had this idea a long time ago. well i hope it works. no, i know it will.
i was just thinking.. who wants to rent a bike, seriously?
a manual, human powered bike. i guess that way you don't have to worry about having YOUR bike jacked because they are testing these out in high crime areas, eh?
The real solution is to just mass produce a distinctive bike and flood you city with them. Make it a crime to remove them from the city. Police see a "New York" bike outside of New York, simple arrest.
When there is no demand (there are lots of them) and no market (is a simple bike worth smuggling out of the country?), then you have a system where no one feels the need to steal.
There are far cheaper and effective technologies out there.
Eventually wouldn't the cost of renting a bicycle add up to where the person could have purchased multiple bicycles?
Being an employee of a successful (profitable) bicycle rental company in Boston, I can tell you that there are several reasons that one would prefer to rent a bicycle rather than owning it.
1. The first and biggest reason for a system like SoBi is the ability to make one-way trips. For example: If you ride to the bar to meet some hot chick, you can leave the bike and take a cab home with her, and not have to worry about returning the next day to get your bike.
2. The second and also very important reason is that not everyone wants a bike for an extended period of time. Many of our customers are international college students that are only here for one semester. Large metropolitan cities also have a high volume of tourists/ visitors. people on vacation just want a bike for a weekend or a few days.
3. There is no need to worry about maintaining your bike. This makes budgeting easy. You will never have unexpected maintenance to pay for.
4. For many people it is psychologically easier to deal with paying a little bit at a time rather than one lump sum.
5. It is true that after a few months of renting you will reach the cost of a new bicycle. But as a bike mechanic I will remind you that the bicycles you buy at Wal-Mart for $90 are what we call "disposable bicycles" their quality is so poor that after one or two seasons of use they need to be thrown out and replaced. repairing them doesn't make sense because the cost of the bike is so low that its easier to just buy a brand new one. In addition department store bikes are usually poorly assembled and don't work that well even when they are new. To buy a real bicycle that will last, you will be spending a minimum of $300, which makes renting a little bit more financially reasonable.
As a cyclist I agree that not everyone wants to rent a bike. I love having my own bike. And to me the money I spend on it is worth it. If you really want to know if this system is a good idea, put it into action and let the market decide. There are some technological kinks to be worked out but I think it is a great idea and I would love to see it succeed.
For more information on my company and how it works visit www.mybikeonline.com or email email@example.com