If you’ve been hiding from the Internet for the last five years, you can be forgiven for not knowing about the collaborative consumption economy. It’s everywhere. It’s like this: You have stuff. You don’t use it all the time. Others pay to borrow it. Today, you can rent out your rooms on Airbnb, let your car on Getaround.com, or find a bidder for (almost) everything in your life, even your dog, as Rob Baedeker recently proved in Newsweek. The next big thing is probably your bicycle.
Bicycles have not had an illustrious history (PDF) when it comes to sharing. Amsterdam’s abortive attempt in the 1960s lead to widespread theft and canals filled with the unfortunate white bikes. Other modest programs followed. None with much success. It would take another 45 years for the technology to make bike sharing a practical reality. Spurred by French experiments with 1,500 bikes in Lyon, and now 20,600 bikes in Paris’ own bike‐sharing program called Vélib’, the idea has gone mainstream. More than 100 initiatives are spinning around the world, as you can see on this Google map. Most are run by city governments, allowing riders to use the bikes for short trips at a small fee or annual membership.
Spinlister has different idea. It wants everyone to post their bike online, choose a price, and then let the collaborative economy commence. Those who want to see their bike roam free can post a profile, and accept any bidder who sends in their price and preferred time. According to the website, a "system of reviews, Facebook Connect, and renter credit cards" are on file allowing Spinlister to investigate any theft or foul play. Common sense applies: If you break it, fix it, and late fees apply if you’re running behind.
But will it work? So far, it’s only just getting rolling. Spinlisters’ founder Will Dennis emailed in with an update:
Co.Exist: How long until you go live in various places?
Dennis: We are finalizing some paperwork and are looking forward to launching our pilot in Santa Monica and Los Angeles in the next few weeks. We’ve been getting a great response from the biking community around the country. The best areas thus far look to be San Francisco, L.A., New York, and Portland, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of listings from around the world. There’s something pretty cool about going to a site and being able to rent a bike from someone in Australia, Romania, Paris, or Austin, Texas.
Why is now the right time to launch a bike sharing/rental service?
It’s a mixture of social and business trends. People are becoming more comfortable connecting online using their real identity and people seem to be increasingly looking for more authentic experiences. Of course, being able to make a few extra dollars off your bike when you’re not riding it is pretty appealing. Being able to pay your utilities or take your girlfriend out to dinner just for renting out your bike is something that people can connect with.
The emergence and success of other peer-to-peer businesses is continuing to raise awareness and support for the business model. Luckily, they’ve dealt with and have disproved a lot of the early skepticism surrounding P2P business. As far as biking goes, it’s the most popular recreational activity in the U.S. Individuals and cities are starting to see the numerous ways being pro-biking can improve quality of life.
What’s the average cost? What’s the typical type of bike?
We have a wide range of bikes, from vintage Dutch cruisers to fixed gears to professional road and mountain bikes. If you’re looking for a great bike we should have something you’ll be excited about riding. We let the bike owner set their own price, which has ranged from $4 to $50 a day.
What is the biggest challenge for your business?
Exposure! We’re currently bootstrapped (in the process of fundraising) and are looking to get as many people listing as possible. We’re having great response from people around the world and we just need to keep getting the word out to fun-loving travelers, bikers, innovators, and people looking to make a little extra change.