The Bikera is my idea for a better bicycle sharing scheme than those that exist nowadays in many cities. It is inspired on Fon the company I founded and run and now the largest WiFi network in the world. A WiFi network offered by the people.
Here’s the plan:
You start in a town that has a bicycle culture and a low crime rate. You “seed” the town with $100 bicycles. These bicycles, as opposed to all the other bike sharing schemes, have no electronics and no stations, they stand on their own. They are called bikeras. The electronics on the bikeras will come from people’s smartphones which in a year will be as all phones are now. Bikera will also be an app.
You seed the town with one bicycle per every 200 inhabitants. When you start you do a blog/FB/twitter PR campaign. Seeding means that on day one you leave all bikes standing for anyone to take. One per block. More where you expect more people. A town of 100,000 people would have 5000 bicycles and cost half a million to get started. 5000 bicycles is a LOT of bicycles, they would be seen everywhere.
You get a corporate sponsor and brand the bikes with this corporation’s colors and logos to help cover the start up costs. Barclays did this in London for example.
All bikes come with a simple combination lock and an engraved license plate or number. All the electronics for the bikera scheme are in smartphones that people take with them. Not on the bike. THIS IS CRUCIAL and very different to all bicycle sharing schemes.
Two kinds of people use the system: bikeros or aliens. Bikeros are the ones who have contributed $100 to the system and bought a bike to add to the system. Aliens are anyone else. Aliens pay $2 per bike ride. Bikeros ride for free. The incentive to contribute a bike are to be nice but also to save $2 per ride.
In order to ride a bikera you need to open your app in your smartphone and this app will GPS your location to the bikera system. You wil then enter the engraved number you see on the bike and immediately receive a combination back. Then you will leave your app on as you move around with the bikera. The app will track your movements like say Endomondo does when you work out, or Runkeeper. When you are done you will leave the bike, sign off and the system will know where the bike is. Everyone else who opens the app will find it.
Why is this system better than Velolib in Paris or Deusche Bahn in Germany?
-rides are free for as long as you want, not for half an hour and then pay a fortune.
-you don’t need to find a parking spot for your bike which is the biggest inconvenience for Velolib that forces you to ride from station to station.
-bikes are much cheaper, they don’t have electronics as the Deuscthe Bahn system for example and don’t have costly stations with electronics as in Velolib.
-bikes are so cheap that people will not steal them, what for, there is always another one, still there are now bikes in the market for $100. Bikera could find suppliers of decent bikes for that amount.
-you can pay students to repair bikes when reported broken by users. They can find them with the same iPhone, Android, Symbian, Windows, Blackberry app.
-you don’t need a license to start a system like this, or if you do it should be very simple.
-because people buy the bikes you don’t need much capital.
-because towns can self organize and start their own systems, it is self franchising.
-the bikera company’s only income would be the $2 per bike ride from the Aliens or non Bikera contributors.
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars