From new mobile apps to electric assist bikes, bike share technology is rapidly developing. But, in terms of transportation planning, the most useful recent development has undoubtedly been the implementation of real-time GPS technology.
Social Bicycles, a bike share equipment company that recently launched operations in Hoboken, NJ and will be launching in Tampa and Phoenix in the coming months, has employed real-time GPS technology on its bikes. This enables officials to determine where bikes are at any given moment and understand trends in bike routes and bike share usage.
Below is a video of a week’s worth of trips on Social Bicycles in Hoboken from August 18 to the 24th.
The data can be used to make the case for additional bike infrastructure in heavily traveled routes that don’t have designated bike lanes, or be used to reaffirm the implementation of bike infrastructure in other places.
“Understanding where bicyclists are riding — and just as importantly, where they aren’t riding — can be a tremendously useful planning tool,” said Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “It will allow us to focus our resources regarding network upgrades and bike parking needs so we can make our streets safer and more accommodating.”
The technology has additional implications as well. Because it is real-time, riders can be pinged on their mobile devices as they are riding with information and promotions based on geographic location. If a road is notably unsafe for cyclists, riders can be pinged with a warning as they approach. If a local coffee shop has promotional material to offer–say, 10% off all purchases with proof of bike share membership–a user can receive such a notification as he/she rides near the shop.
Social Bicycles is one of the few bike share companies that uses primarily stationless technology. Unlike bike share programs in Chicago, New York, Miami Beach and elsewhere, Social Bicycles allows for users to lock the bikes to any municipal bike rack. This generally enables greater flexibility for the user and can reduce capital costs by limiting the need for stations (though, stations will be placed in Tampa and Phoenix).