Spinlister and Vanmoof Launch a Decentralized Bike Share System

The owner-based smart bike rental system could change public bike share.

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Spinlister, a peer-to-peer bike sharing platform often referred to as the “Airbnb of bikes,” has teamed up with Dutch smart bicycle manufacturer Vanmoof to launch the world’s first owner-based smart bike share system.

The system aims to decentralize bike shares by eliminating the need for government support or third-party funding, as well as docking stations or any other bike share infrastructure. With this new collaboration, every bike will be fully owned and rented out by individuals, who will in turn pocket the revenues from the rentals.

The system is simple. An individual purchases one of Vanmoof’s smart bicycles which are specially designed for Spinlister. It is shipped to them and is ready to roll out upon arrival. From this point, the system is not unlike Car2Go. The owner locks the bike up outside using a bluetooth-enabled chain lock, and lists it as available in the Spinlister app. Any potential renters in the area are alerted to the bike’s availability through their app. They click to reserve it and simply pick it up and go. Since the lock is bluetooth-enabled and therefore keyless, there’s no need for a person-to-person handoff. When the renter is done, they just lock the bike up wherever they want, list it as available again, and walk away. With all transactions contained in the app, it is a no-hassle system for both the renter and the owner.

Numerous high-tech features within the bike make it an attractive investment option for anyone considering ownership, and a dream ride for a potential renter. The GPS-enabled bike automatically updates its location, allowing the owners to not only keep track of the bike’s daily activities, but to easily retrieve it in case of theft. The bike has an easily-adjustable seat-post, a built-in USB charger and integrated dynamo lighting powered internally by a front dynamo hub.

While details on the cost of the bike, the potential rental price and the legality issues involved in the system have yet to be publicly released, they could potentially look similar to the company’s current policy. In the existing policy, bike owners set the rental price and pay Spinlister 17.5 percent of each transaction. Spinlister in turn insures each bike for theft or damages up to $10,000 USD, and renters agree to a contract releasing the bike owner from any liability in case of renter injury. Spinlister and Vanmoof are set to release more details on the system at a SXSW media event at 7 p.m., March 13, 2015.

This collaboration marks the first significant instance of privatization of the bike share model. If successful, it could prove to democratize the system. In cities where government support for bike shares is low or infrastructure concerns render them economically unfeasible, a decentralized bike share model could enable residents to take control of the public bike share process, thereby getting more visitors and residents alike on bikes. This is definitely a system worth keeping an eye on.

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