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Implement a home-grown, dockless, peer-to-eer bike sharing network using open source technology.

A dockless bike sharing system that empowers G.Rapid citizens to share their own bikes with each other.

Photo of Varun Adibhatla

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Location sensing technology has matured to a point where it is no longer required to use dedicated GPS hardware to locate an object within a city. Wireless positioning technology combined with open source hardware make it possible to implement a low-cost, peer-to-peer bike sharing network across the city. Applied Research in Government Operations (ARGO) is proposing that Grand Rapids can implement and operate their own home-grown bike sharing network by developing a simple hardware kit and a simple mobile app to let Grand Rapids residents (Rapidians?, Rapidos?, Rapidites?) to share each other's bikes. The hardware kit will include an electronic bike lock, location sensing system, and bike generator (for power) that sends the bike's location every 30 seconds. A citizen can simply create an account on the mobile app and add details about their bike. Upon verification, the city sends them the hardware kit that they can install themselves and leave their bike out for the public to rent out. Every month, the city analyzes trip data from bikes and pays owners. A citizen who leases out their e-bike can make more money than a citizen who leases out a regular bike. A rider can simply open the app and check for bikes in their area. They can pay for the ride on the app which unlocks the bike for a specified period. After the reservation expires, the bike should be locked. Any violations are paid to the owner. The city can receive a fixed % of each bike transaction.


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Photo of annie young

Hi Varum - I am watching for your proposal. Great Concept.
Wondering how you will address maintenance and potential damage (broken spokes, flat tires, derailer issues etc).

Photo of Varun Adibhatla

Thanks! annie young 

Great question and Thank You. I've been mulling on it for a bit. I think here is where the city can play an active role by offering bike owners with free service (upto a certain limit) at local bike shops. Bike shop owners can either be paid by the city or get a tax credit for servicing bikes on the share.

This could be easily implemented through a voucher system where a bike owners takes in a bike, uses a voucher to get it serviced and then put it back into the system.

The city can also offer support to owners whose bikes are repeatedly vandalized.

Photo of annie young

I am wondering if a intermediate step would be beneficial. I am presuming this is a means to extend or substitute public transportation or driving. Why not create bike hubs as the intial step where bikes could be checked in and out of the hubs by a person. Repairs could be made there, individual retuning the bike would know if they were being charged. Hubs could then extend biking oit ot the urban areas into the suburbs and could potentially be positioned to work hand in hand with the bus routes.

Photo of Varun Adibhatla

Would the hub approach still preserve the idea of individual bike owners lending their bikes but have them be stored in secure hubs near bus stops? Payment would be flat-rate based I would presume?

The only issue I see here is a bike allocation problem. Whenever there are docks or hubs, some hubs will be stocked with way too many bikes and some hubs not used at all.

Using a dockless approach allows the network to organize organically based on demand.

The city can incentivize bike owners in underserved areas by offering better lending rates.

Photo of Tom Bulten

The conversation about docked and dockless bike-share is an important one for Grand Rapids which has yet to adopt a bike-share model (although a few small scale projects have been tried). Varun Adibhatla , I hope you'll post your idea to the "Propose" phase of the Grand Rapids Challenge:

Photo of annie young

Are you from Grand Rapids Varun? This is an idea that GR would embrace, I really hope you post a proposal.

Photo of Varun Adibhatla

annie young I live in Boulder, Colorado and have lived in NYC for 10+years. I have Master's degrees in Urban Informatics (NYU) and Human Computer Interaction (Penn State)

We co-founded (a non-profit) to collectively imagine and deliver a future of collaborative, community-powered urban technology.

Thank you so much for your enthusiasm, and optimism. .

I have submitted the proposal here

Team ARGO looks forward to empowering the city, and residents of Grand Rapids to prototype a home-grown, locally owned bike sharing system that enriches the local experience and economy.

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