Bikesharing has taken off slowly in the US, but has been more prominent in Europe. A few of the problems that come with the idea is how to make money with it and how to build its infrastructure. Spin, a San Francisco electric bicycle (e-bike) mobility company, has a good idea. How about doing away with stations and introduce station-less e-bikes to the public?
Spin Station-less E-Bikes
While most major cities are looking for ways to reduce traffic congestion and lower pollution in order to attract more people into cities, one of the solutions is to offer affordable and convenient mobility. What’s not to like about a bike share program where you can hop on and drop off a bicycle for a nominal fee? However, one of the major costs is building the infrastructure for bike-shares. Bicycle stations need to allow bikes to be picked up and dropped off. Now imagine a system where the bikes don’t have to be picked up or dropped off anywhere specifically? How would it work?
This station-less e-bike sharing system is really aimed at cities and campuses. The University of California, San Diego, has already been testing the dock-less Spin system. To date, the company provided about 500,000 e-bike share rides in Seattle last year and looks forward to more momentum (pun intended).
Derrick Ko, Spin’s CEO, was quoted on TechCrunch as saying: “We see e-bikes as a key enabler of our mission to bring accessible and affordable transport to cities and campuses.” His chief technology officer, Zaizhuang Cheng, added: “Electric bicycles, or e-bikes, have been shown to break down barriers to biking including hills, disabilities, age, and distance.”
How Spin’s Station-less E-Bike Sharing Works
Technically speaking, the e-bikes have a 50-mile range provided by a 250W electric motor that delivers pedal-assist power. The batteries can be swapped by Spin crews. The electric motor kicks in until the bike reaches 15 mph, above that speed, you just pedal. A ride on Spin’s shared e-bikes will cost you $1.50 every 15 minutes. The company offers the possibility of becoming a member and having an unlimited amount of time on its e-bikes, at $29 per month or $99 per year for unlimited 30-minute rides. There is also a Spin for Business account that gives select companies a $5 per month in ride credits.
Once you download and install Spin’s app on your phone, you can use it to find a Spin bicycle and scan its QR code to unlock it.
Now here comes the potential problem. The company asks you to park the Spin e-bike anywhere responsibly, as if it were your own bike. And we can see how that might be a problem for some.
The idea of a station-less shared e-bike system makes a lot of sense. Cities will save money by not having to build cumbersome and expensive bike stands. It also opens up the possibility of picking up and riding a shared e-bike practically anywhere it is needed, not necessarily just where your city might deem it to be the best place. But we wonder about one little problem, the human factor. Will people understand the potential of giving everyone the possibility to pick up a bike by leaving them in a convenient place? We certainly hope so.
We like the idea of a station-less e-bike sharing system. It makes sense for all and we can’t wait to take a ride on Spin’s system.