Social Bicycles (SoBi) is developing a new bikesharing system that does away with the need for expensive parking stations and special bikes. Instead, SoBi would rely on a wireless enabled on-bike checkout and locking system that interfaces with cell phones.
The new system would enable users to find nearby bikes by cell phone and lock their bike to almost anything. In addition, the system attaches to almost any bike. This combination of technologies promises to drop the cost of bikesharing system by two thirds.
This innovation reminds me of the evolution of carsharing, though SoBi is not a peer-to-peer system. But like peer-to-peer carsharing, it does away with the need for dedicated parking locations. This greatly reduces the expense of implementing new systems and could accelerate the growth of the industry.
To illustrate, it's possible that a SoBi system could be implemented without the need for a municipality's involvement beyond standard business licensing. Normally, a city needs to be intimately involved in order to secure real estate for parking stations and must be paid for real estate. And there's the possibility that a SoBi system could operate in parallel to a standard bikesharing system to augment it and also provide some healthy competition to what is typically a monopoly.