By Jeffrey Stern
What’s one of the biggest hassles of using a bike share program? Often times finding parking or a docking station close enough to your final destination provides an extra deterrent for those looking to get out of their cars and into the bike-sharing world.
San Francisco based company, Spin, has launched a pilot program with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) nearly four months after the demise of the year long test of the docking style Pronto bike share program. Seattle’s original bike-share program cost $85 for an annual membership with unlimited 30-minute rides, which broke down to around $7 per month.
Spin offers a month-to-month commitment for $29, giving riders unlimited 30-minute rides around the city. The company says they arrived at their price point because it’s under a dollar per day, assuming the user rides everyday of the month. Which, based on Seattle’s notoriously wet winters, might not be the best deal come November.
With 500 bikes on the streets, the program is in full swing with hi-tech, bright orange bikes. Each one features a three-speed internal hub, a dynamo hub driven LED front light, an onboard GPS with cellular modem, easily adjustable seats, 26-inch, solid-foam tires, a front basket and for those unfazed by the weather, front and rear fenders.
Riders will have to bring their own helmets though as Spin won’t be providing them and it’s illegal to ride in King County without one.
How does a dockless bike work? Spin bikes are unlocked via their smartphone app (iOS and Android compatible), so there is a slight barrier to entry as roughly 77% of Americans have smartphones. Without an iPhone or credit card, these dockless bikes are unusable. Once a rider completes their ride, they park and lock the bike in a Spin authorized location in the city.
Within two days of the launch a couple weeks ago, Spin saw over 1,000 rides on their bikes.
Spin is focusing on launching the bikes in Seattle’s downtown area before pushing out into the city’s adjacent neighborhoods. Another private, Bay Area bike-share company LimeBike has also secured a contract with the city and launched LimePrime, offering 100 30-minute rides per month for approximately $30. The dockless bike-share push isn’t stopping in the Pacific Northwest; it’s reported that Spin is in talks with getting more of their bright orange, technology packed bikes on the streets of New York City in the near future.
By Adam Newman
We’ll just admit it: Bikeshare bikes aren’t exactly sexy. More of a passenger bus than a Ferrari, they are simple, utilitarian and sturdy. But it turns out there is a lot more to their design than meets the eye.
When Nick Foley joined Social Bicycles, the company that provides the bikes for Portland’s Biketown bikeshare system, it was trying to adapt existing bikes to a sharable model. Even when built on the industrial-strength Worksman Cycles that are typically used in warehouses and factories, they were coming up short. It was clear that a ground-up design was in order.
Foley, now the vice president of industrial design, started with a traditional Dutch bike design and started bulking it up with a heavy-duty frame, stronger wheels and even replaced the chain with a shaft drive that is nearly impervious to the elements.
“Mainly [it’s] making a bicycle that’s one size fits all,” he said. “With a really comfortable handlebar position, regardless of how tall you are, a really big seat adjustment range, making it strong enough to withstand a rider that is much heavier than a consumer bicycle rider in a lot of cases. Just taking all the concepts of a traditional bicycle and making them bikeshare-grade.”
Because the bikeshare contracts typically require the bikes to meet minimum standards that are far higher than typical consumer bicycles, the frame, fork and other components needs to be designed, constructed and tested to a higher level.
“Whenever we’re designing new components and running those tests we’re very frequently running a familiar test to the bike industry, but with two or three times the loading on it, because we know we need to withstand maybe a reasonably large person riding it in a reckless manner. That’s a relatively normal user for bikeshare.”
But even while the bike got heavier and stronger, it was important to maintain the ride quality, he said. The program would never be a success if the bikes were terrible to ride.
“I think the core of it really comes down to getting a bicycle geometry that gives a ride experience that is both approachable for new riders but also somewhat nimble and responsive for experienced riders, and making that true across a wide range of heights and weights. And making that true even with a bike share bicycle that’s maybe 50 pounds.”
While the frame and fork are constructed to Social Bicycles’ specifications, the components to make it roll need to be sourced from all sorts of manufacturers, and most of them were never designed to handle the kind of use and abuse that a bikeshare bike endures. Some off-the-shelf components like the tires work great as-is, but many do not.
“Almost all the components on the bicycle are [derived from] taking a consumer bicycle component as a starting point and then replacing the key materials or finishes or coatings, in order to make it last as long as a bike share bike needs it to last.”
Examples include using high-grade stainless steel fasteners instead of typical zinc-coated units, choosing grips and saddles that can withstand thousands of hours of UV exposure without fading and even choosing industrial grade paint that is much more sturdy than what’s found on a typical bicycle.
“Basically any contact point on the bicycle you can’t really use a consumer grade part, because it’s just not meant to be used with the frequency that a bikeshare bike experiences,” Foley said. “That includes quick releases, seatposts, seats, grips, all of those things just go through too many interactions to withstand what a consumer bike would be able to handle.”
Foley said each bikeshare contract includes specifics about how long the bikes and their components are expected to last before needing to be replaced. Consumable parts like tires are replaced as needed, and many components have a one- to three-year expected lifespan, and unless it’s damaged, the frame can be repainted and used indefinitely. According to Foley, the frames could potentially last decades.
“On a practical level, I think these bicycles will last a very long time,” he said.
Even though the bikes are overbuilt and sturdy, they still require regular maintenance to keep them running. Hubs wear out, tires go flat and bearings need checked and lubricated. At Biketown headquarters, the mechanic’s stations are outfitted with exactly the right tools needed to work on the bikes, including special wrenches for the anti-theft bolts used throughout the bike.
“Everything that we do to make the components on the bicycles hard to steal also introduces extra complexity when you’re trying to fix a flat tire. But I will say that on a practical level, using even a high grade puncture resistant tire brings flats down into a very, very manageable level for all our operators.”
Unlike a typical bike shop, these mechanics know exactly which bike is going to come through the door each day, and they become incredibly familiar with its design and weak points. Their feedback is used to constantly improve the bike’s design.
The Portland Biketown system isn’t even a year old, but Foley says he’s thinking ahead to the future of bikeshare programs. What is he looking forward to?
“Really streamlined, totally integrated, silent, wonderful to ride, electric bikeshare. I think that’s going to be the thing that really takes bikeshare to the next level.”Tweet Print
Words by Jeffrey Stern. Photos courtesy of Spinlister.
Aimed at individuals who use their bicycles to commute, run errands and get around town on a daily basis, the new program launched in conjunction with Spinlister hopes to get more people in the already bike crazy town not only riding, but sharing their new IKEA SLADDA bikes.
Starting on Earth Day last month (April 22nd), IKEA launched their one-of- a-kind SLADDA bike partnership with Spinlister in their Portland, Oregon at 10280 NE Cascades Parkway location.
Alessandra Zini, the IKEA Portland store manager said, “Portland knows its bikes. We think Spinlister offers a great opportunity for our customers to try SLADDA before they buy it.”
With Portland already boasting the highest rate of bicycle commuters in America and Earth Day being associated with green initiatives such as alternative modes of transportation like cycling, this geographic specific test-launch doesn’t come as a surprise.
Details on the Portland launch running from April 22nd to July 22nd are as follows:
Portland area IKEA Family members receive a $150 discount on the SLADDA bike bringing the cost down to $349. Once the SLADDA is purchased, owners can list their bikes on Spinlister with 0% listing fees until the entire cost of the bike is recovered from rentals. Spinlister normally takes a 17.5% listing fee on the daily rental price. Sounds like an easy way to pay off a sweet new commuter, right?
Offered with front and rear racks, a cargo trailer and powered by an automatic 2-gear belt drivetrain integrated into the rear hub, it looks like quite a few Portland cyclists have taken advantage of the offer already, posting their bikes for $5/hour, $20/day or $100/week making the return on their investment quite swift.
“We’re thrilled to be able to introduce the SLADDA bike from IKEA to the Spinlister community,” says Marcelo Loureiro, CEO of Spinlister in a press release from IKEA.
“Providing sustainable and affordable urban transportation is a core facet of the Spinlister platform, and partnering with IKEA offers us the opportunity to share that vision with more riders. By adding their new SLADDA bike range to Spinlister’s global marketplace, IKEA is staking a bold position at the forefront of the bike sharing economy,” he continued.
Typical bike rental prices run upwards of $25 or more per day on Spinlister, so the SLADDA price is a good deal that should entice more users to the bike sharing platform based in Santa Monica, California.
It’s important to note that the actual location of the IKEA Portland store is not easily accessible by the current bike routes in the city. Perhaps if the pilot is successful, not only will more stores around the country be featuring the Spinlister SLADDA deal, but it could spearhead better bicycle infrastructure in the surrounding neighborhoods as well; a win-win for all parties involved, getting more economically friendly bike options on the road throughout the country.Tweet Print
Despite being known as the most bike-friendly large city in America, Portland, Oregon, is also one of the few major cities without a bike share system of its own. Now, thanks to a $10 million commitment from Nike, its bike share system will launch this summer with 1,000 orange bikes bearing the classic swoosh. The color is the same shade as the original Nike shoeboxes from 1971.
The system and the bikes will be known as Biketown, which is fitting as Nike had previously branded its birthplace of Eugene, Oregon, as Tracktown. The bikes will be bright orange and Nike will oversee their design, as well as that of the stations and the system’s digital presence.
The system is set to launch in July 2016 and will be operated by Motivate, a bikeshare management system used in New York, Chicago, the Bay Area, Washington D.C., Boston, Seattle, Toronto, Melbourne, Australia, and more cities around the world.
The bicycles themselves will be created by Social Bicycles (SoBi), a Brooklyn-based transportation technology company. A second-generation system, it has the renting and locking mechanisms built into the bikes themselves.