Unlocking Bike Shares For Everyone

In January, a major player in the bike sharing, Montreal-based Bixi, declared bankruptcy – a turn of events that, if not surprising, was certainly an eye-opener for the industry. With the company that built the bike share equipment used in New York, London, and Chicago having to restructure its business, bike share providers and partners alike are now taking a hard look at the cost and feasibility of their service offerings.

At Zagster, we believe that implementing modern technology both on and off the bike is key to operating a successful bike share, but that can’t come at expense of simplicity and affordability. Biking is a fun and effective mode of transportation, but one of its greatest advantages is that it’s so affordable – so, as cool as the latest gadgetry can be, we want our technological solutions to enable a straightforward, enjoyable and inexpensive experience.

Bike sharing is about much more than bikes. Although our partnership with ASI, the manufacturer behind brands such as Fuji and Breezer, allows us to roll out a sweet fleet of custom-built, award-winning Breezer Uptown cycles, even the shiniest bikes are nothing without the hardware and software solutions that allow us to bring them to the masses.

Simple and free

One of our key design principles is to avoid reinventing the wheel – or any other part of the bike that already works. For example: the Kryptonite lock. It’s well designed, effective, familiar, and easy to use. Rather than replacing something that works so well, we designed our hardware to complement it, providing quick, simple and secure shared access. That moment of doubt that accompanies an unfamiliar device is gone for our riders; instead, they can focus on their ride and feel safe locking up in a trusty way they know and recognize with a standard bike lock. It also lets them make all the stops they want without having to worry about finding a station to 'dock’ their bikes. There’s a wealth of places to visit between those stations, and the Zagster locking system allows riders the freedom to explore them.

That simple solution provides benefits for providers as well, keeping costs low by making it unnecessary to roll out those extra dozens or even hundreds of docking stations required for those technologically impressive, but ultimately unwieldy custom locks.

Still, even bikes and smart locking technology are not enough, and so Zagster has spent years developing solutions for bike shares across the country, working to answer one key question: How can we make bike sharing accessible for everyone?

Our solution really boils down to two key aspects: affordability and effective technology.

Affordability means not only making it cheap to ride, but also eliminating the barrier of high entry costs that has made potential providers hesitant in the past. These savings are, in turn, passed on to riders – in fact, most of the bike shares we operate are offered as free amenities or at a nominal cost.

Effective technology means keeping the entire user experience just as simple and easy to understand as that U-lock, while taking a high-tech approach to the back end. This philosophy has yielded a system that’s highly accessible to riders of all ages and backgrounds, while retaining the advanced management functionality that keeps things running smoothly behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, our bikes are continually upgraded without the need for significant further investment by our partners. We’ve begun upgrading our hardware by adding new tracking technology that allows Zagster bike stations to communicate with the bikes parked at them – keeping us informed as to which bikes are at which stations and which ones are being ridden. Our tracking technology keeps things organized, allowing us to make quick and efficient maintenance runs – which means more uptime for the bike fleet. It also offers benefits to the rider experience, including trip reporting and improved tools for managing your ride.

What's next?

Next up in our development pipeline: the next generation of reservation tools. We’re currently testing a mobile application that will offer an optimized rider experience while retaining the affordability and accessibility that makes our system great. To maintain accessibility, we’ll continue to offer the ability to check bikes out via text message for riders with older phones. Stay tuned over the next few weeks for updates on our progress!