I’ve been to the Google campus quite a bit over the years. One of the coolest things about the campus of the all mighty Google is their bike share program. I don’t even know if you could call it a program. There are Google colored bicycles all over the campus and you just pick one up and ride it to your next destination. The next person that wants to use the bicycle just picks it up and goes.
Unfortunately, our average American culture doesn’t allow it to be that easy outside a place like the Google Campus. Sure if we were in Switzerland perhaps or some other country we may just be able to have a municipality provide bikes and pick them up and drop them off at our leisure and convenience.
That’s why cities all over the country offer bike share programs. Most cities right now are using the first or possibly second generation of bike sharing technology. In that instance there are a bunch of bikes at a bike rack. To unlock the bike you either call, text or use an app to get a pin that unlocks the bike. It’s reminiscent of your days at school and picking up a bike from a crowded bike rack.
The technology is great. Take Washington DC for instance, bike docks and kiosks are strategically placed around the city and people can execute the bike rental. After they enter their payment information and get the “code” they unlock the bike, use it and they can return the bike at any other like kiosk/dock throughout the city.
More after the break
The downside to this technology is that it can be quite costly. This post from greatergreaeterwashington.org says that traditional dock and kiosk systems can cost $13,000 to add 12 bikes and $36,000 to implement an entire new drop off/pick up location. The other downside is for the user, if the dock/kiosk is full they need to bike around until they find one that’s not full. That can become a bit of an inconvenience especially if you parked near the bike dock that you originally rented from.
A new startup in Atlanta Georgia is working on a next generation version of bike sharing. ViaCycle’s technology incorporates more of the technology onto the bike itself. Like ZipCar and Car2go, the mechanism for locking and unlocking the bike is on the bike itself. You use a smartphone app to unlock the bike. The bikes are outfitted with a GPS system and a system to report repair and malfunction issues.
The next generation system being developed by ViaCycle along with a similar one being implemented by New York’s Social Bicycles, shed the problem of costly kiosks and docks. Using these newer services allows the user to drop off the bike anywhere that is convenient, safe and in a public area.
To prevent loss and to tell users where they bikes are at, they employ GPS. They also have a locking mechanism designed for this exact type of sharing.
ViaCycle is currently testing their system in on a limited scale on the campus of Georgia Tech. Social Bicycles is implementing their system in New York.
Next generation smart shared bicycles have already been implemented in some German cities like Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich.
While the newer systems may add a great deal of convenience it may be argued that with a less restrictive system in the rental process, the systems may lead to more loss. What do you think? Share in comments below.
For more on ViaCycle click here
For more on Social Bicycles click here
Source: Greater Greater Washington
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