When living in big urban cities, riding a bike might just be best mode of transportation. You don’t have to deal with the hassle of being stuck in traffic, spending hours looking for parking (or spend hundreds of dollars on meters), or worrying about the huge pot holes destroying your car. However, if you ride a bike, there are still problems that exist like keeping your bike safe, finding a parking spot, and making sure your bike is still there at the end of the day.
Well all of this is about to change. SoBi, a brand new start-up company, is about to introduce a new way to rent bikes. And unlike the Velib system in Paris or the Bicing of Barcelona, this new system is going to be thousands of dollars cheaper per bike and much easier for the riders to use.
The main difference between the Social Bicycle System (SoBi) and the competition is that bike renters won’t have to return or pick up the bikes from a specific rental center. Instead these bikes will be outfitted with GPS technology, so users can leave the bikes wherever they want and not have to pay the rental company any penalties or extra fees.
By equipping the bike with a clamp that contains a GPS unit, a cellular device, and a urban-proof lock, all a registered user will have to do to get access to a bike is log into his Sobi account using his or her smartphone. The app will find bikes nearby that could be located almost anywhere – from a regular bike rack to a designated base station. Once a bike is located, the renter will be able to unlock the bike using an app on their smartphone, by sending an SMS text message, or by entering an unlock code.
The bikes also come with some extra features such as “repair” and “hold.” In case something is wrong with the bike or there is a flat tire, the user can press the repair button and the bike will be flagged for pick-up. And with the hold feature you can lock “your” bike for ten minutes without worrying that someone else will ride away with it while you are stopping by a friend’s house or quickly running into a store.
The first round of testing for this system of urban bike rentals is set for fall 2010 in New York City and should make getting through traffic much easier. Being a New Yorker, I can’t wait to test out these bikes and hopefully the experience will be much more convenient than taking the crowded subway system.