Friday, April 19, 2013

Hoboken announces pilot launch of a new style of Bike Share

The City of Hoboken announced yesterday that it will participate in a six month pilot of a new style of bike share that does away with the docking stations.  Likely to be first application anywhere, Social Bicycles (SoBi) use a "Smart Lock" (pictured below) that eliminates the need for the "Smart Dock" commonly used in most bike share systems like those currently being installed with CitiBike in New York City.

Photo: City of Hoboken / Social Bicycles

According to the Hoboken press release:
Almost all existing bike sharing systems rely on a “smart dock” approach for storing bicycles, which requires expensive infrastructure for the docking stations. The “smart lock” approach relies on bicycles with built-in locks and communications equipment at a fraction of the cost of traditional systems and can be locked to standard bicycle racks.
And according SoBi's lone webpage:
Social Bicycles offers affordable and scalable bikeshare technology. Each of our bikes has a GPS-enabled lock that works with regular bike racks.  You can book bikes using a web browser, mobile application, or the keypad interface on the bike.
Now immediately two concerns come to my mind with this type of system in Hoboken.  First, last I checked bike parking was not ubiquitous throughout the City of Hoboken.  Bike racks that comply with the best industry standards (set by APBP), were only to found at the train station.  Hopefully, implementation of such a bike share system will push Hoboken to install more high-quality bike parking throughout the town.  Unless the city does this, I could see these bikes being parked and secured to flimsy signposts and trees which would leave the bicycles susceptible to theft.

Second, what is to prevent someone from securing the lock but not attached to a secure bike rack?  Imaging the image above but the lock not through the rack.  A GPS system might think the bike is properly secured but in reality it is not.  The prior user would be cleared from liability since he secured the bike at a possible "approved location" but then the bike could easily be stolen or vandalized.

Hopefully, SoBi has thought of these possibilities.  Their website however does not address these issues and is oddly brief particularly with regard to details like this.

That said, the current Hoboken government has a proven track record of successfully bringing sustainable transportation options to the City.  It has some of the best and brightest working on these issues and we at WalkBikeJersey are hopeful that these concerns have already been addressed.

Along with this innovative bike share system, Hoboken also announced that Bike and Roll will be opening a rental location in the city.  Common in New York City, Bike and Roll gives tourists and others looking for a long term bike rental (greater than 1 hour) another transportation option.


Ian Mills said...

While not exactly the same, Berlin has a similar system.

Andrew J. Besold said...

Yes Ian, I was thinking about making the comparison with the Deutsche Bahn "Call-a-Bike" system. I've seen them in the Stuttgart main train station. My understanding is that system acts more like a rental system than a bike share. In reality it probably somewhere in between.

John Boyle said...

Real world use of this type of system will probably result in an evolution of the locking system. ZipCar for example "engine locks" the car.