Product design with sharing in mind's Mary Fallon has a nice article called "Should Products Be Designed for Sharing?" that explores the current state of design for items that are intended for use by multiple people (such as shared-use short-hire bicycles) and looks at what the future might hold for them. Zipcar has just gone public and is looking to source cars that are specifically designed for their kind of use (as opposed to retrofitting standard cars to be used in car-share schemes).
This prototype station-free public bike-sharing system uses mobile communications, GPS, and a big secure lock that can be attached to any bike or bike rack. The appeal of a sharing system like Sobi is that you can deploy it anywhere and the start-up costs are minimal compared to other standard bike-sharing systems. The implication is that such technology can make bike sharing more scalable, and penetrate beyond major metros.
Should Products Be Designed for Sharing? (via Beyond the Beyond)


  1. This is great for people who are not bicycle freaks especially when traveling, it makes closing the downtown area to private cars and using light rail, train, or bus that much much more realistic.
    For me even when flying I just have to travel with my customized folding bicycle as my main luggage and bicycle panniers and handlebar bag as my carry-on and handbag. A random bicycle is just not enough for me anymore.

  2. This would be great in my town. People have been trying to get the city council to get bicycle lanes on the roads for a long time. If there’s a business that can profit from it, they might be a little more willing to put forth the effort.

    There is a non-profit org that repairs bicycles and gives them away. Maybe they could make use of something like this.

  3. Sharing bikes seems to be an odd thing. Bikes are cheap enough, that just about everyone can afford to buy their own. For tourists it makes sense, but they’ve always had bike rentals in tourist areas anyway. Sure it means you can take the bus/subway downtown and then hop on a bike, but that’s kind of the wrong solution. Really they should just let bikes on the bus. In my city (Ottawa) they have bike racks on most major long haul bus routes, making stuff like this completely unnecesary.

    1. As someone who both owns a bike and is a member of my local bike-sharing service (Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC), I think I can speak to why the systems make sense. The main benefit for me, at least, is that I can use them for one-way trips, since there are stations all over the city and you can pick up from one station and drop off at another. This means that while I often ride my own bike to and from work, with bike-sharing I also have the option to, say, take the bus to work on a rainy morning and bike home in the evening. I find that in practice I end up being able to ride a fair bit more, because I don’t need to plan ahead to make sure I have my bike with me when I need it, and to figure out what to do with my bike if my plans change.

      I also think that while I don’t fall into this category, a fair portion of the clientelle of the service here in DC is probably made up of casual, fairly-infrequent riders, who might use the service a few times a month. For them, owning, storing, and maintaining a bike of their own probably wouldn’t make sense, but the availability of this service means that they at least have the option of biking occasionally, rather than driving all the time, and every little bit helps as far as I’m concerned.

  4. There’s just not way I’m parking my butt on a seat a hundred other dirty rears have sat on. :p I’ll ride my own bike, thank you.

    we have lots of bicycle lanes in the city near me. Problem is, nobody uses them. Ever. It was really just a waste of money moving lanes over, repainting streets and changing road signs.

    And I can understand why they don’t. Would you feel safe riding along busy roads with just inches and a yellow stripe separating you from the cars racing by? I wouldn’t. I’ll stick to sidewalks and less busy side streets.

    They do have a bike path that gets tons of use though. Probably 3/4 by people walking or jogging, but still sees a lot of bikes.

    1. There’s just not way I’m parking my butt on a seat a hundred other dirty rears have sat on.

      So, then, I take it you don’t go to restaurants, or the movies, or on airplanes, or basically out in public at all.

      1. Oh boy. Do I really need to point out the difference to you? Is that… ok fine, here ya go.

        The seats you mentioned are not directly up your ass crack like the nice skinny bike seat in the photo. Furthermore, those other seats don’t normally have someone sweating and scooching around on em with said body area.

        Good grief.

        1. I ride on main arterial routes a lot. In fact, I prefer them. Most commuting cyclists do. They go directly from point A to point B with a minimum of stop signs and other interruptions. And they are generally designed to be safe.

          Riding on the street, is a whole lot safer than riding on the sidewalk or a separated bike path with 3/4’s pedestrians and the rest folks who often don’t know how to ride safely. It’s a common fear that is unfounded in reality. But, you need to learn how to ride safely as part of traffic. Best start is Effective Cycling by Forrester. He’s a bit over the top about it, but his method is the best “core” I’ve seen. Then modify it to account for reality a bit better. Reading a few more books on urban riding will complete your “education”. It really is worth it.

          As to your seat phobia, they sell rain covers for saddles. Kind of like a shower cap for a saddle. But really, your phobia makes no sense. The saddle is not jammed up your anus ;-> And it really doesn’t, or shouldn’t go up your crack. It’s made for your pubic bones to sit on comfortably. And “said body area” isn’t touching the saddle. Their pants are. And your pants are protecting you from it. But if that still bugs you, the rain cover is very small and easy to carry.

          Restriping lanes is dumb. Bikes can ride safely as part of regular traffic. I do like a recent traffic marking change. Rather than putting in a separate bike lane, existing lanes are marked with a symbol designating where bikes should ride.

  5. I just want an affordable bike with one click lock and one click unlock. Cars have had that for a couple decades. seems like such an obvious idea.

  6. It’s a particularly good idea for cities that get a lot of tourists who might want to bike around, or for places where only part of the city is really bike-friendly.

  7. Here in Paris, France (land of godless socialism), the reason you use the bike sharing services is simple : they are a LOT cheaper than owning a bike. One way or another, unless you already own all the tools you need and are a good mechanic, a decent bike is going to cost you around a hundred euros, more like two hundred if you want a new one, and you have about a 50% chance every year that it will get stolen. Our bike sharing is 30€ a year, and you only pay rental fees if you take the bike more than half an hour. It’s a quick calculation, really. Plus the bikes aren’t so bad…Real heavy, but reliable.

  8. While I meant the seat comment half jokingly, it is kinda gross when I think about some of the coworkers I’ve known with extremely poor hygiene. Regardless of pants, there’s no way I’d sitting on a seat that’s been between their crotch. :-( But you’re right, it shouldn’t be up a person’s crack… if it’s adjusted to fit them properly. Which might not always be the case with these bikes. If others find a use for these bikes and are fine with it, whatever. It’s just not my cup of coffee.

    I ride in the street, I do it all the time. Just not in busy ones where cars are flying past me at 45+mph. That’s dangerous. That’s when I find a sidewalk or some other means to stay out of the road.

    pKp has a reasonable point about being stolen. I had around $1300 in my last bike and it wasn’t much fun carrying around a backpack full of heavy chains, lock and long cables to loop through the wheels to keep it from disappearing. Even then I didn’t make a habit of being leaving it alone for too long, and always took it in the building with me at work. So not having to lug around a heavy bag or worry about it being stolen would be pretty nice.

  9. If you’re a hardcore biker you already have a bike and if you’re not it’s virtually certain you rarely if ever will be interested in this. Still, put them out there, prove me wrong. I’d love to see it succeed but I’m thinking people will wind up trashing the bikes too often to make it work.

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