viaCycle was originally hatched by five engineers during post-graduate studies at Georgia Tech University.
A group of graduate students wanted to implement bike-sharing at Georgia Tech, but all of the existing programs were too expensive.
They decided to start their own.
viaCycle, which launched in 2011, is a "smart bike-sharing" company that currently operates 100 bicycles in three cities: Atlanta (at Georgia Tech), Fairfax, Va., and Philadelphia.
Unlike most bike-share programs, viaCycle does not require docking stations, which makes them around one-third cheaper to set up. Instead, the bikes can be locked to any old bike rack.
The bikes will be GPS-enabled, meaning users can lock and unlock bicycles through a phone call, text, or mobile app.
Siddharth Doshi, the CTO of viaCycle, tells Business Insider that flexible programs like viaCycle are the future.
"When we first launched, most people didn't know what bike-sharing was … Now people are familiar with docking stations, and most decision makers are aware of 'smart-bike' systems as well," Doshi says. "Smart-bike systems still haven't been implemented at city-wide scales yet which means cities will likely go with the traditional solution, but that is changing slowly."
How it works
Existing mostly as a vendor to large-scale institutions, v iaCycle provides everything required of a shared bicycle fleet.
Through hardware, it's able to track bicycle location and ridership.
Once users have their bikes (the app will reveal the nearest location), they can unlock them by sending a text and including the bike's number. Payment is also automatic through the app, so there will be no need to carry a credit card during rental.
The pricing structure is determined by the institutions viaCycle works with. At Georgia Tech for example, rentals are free for the first 30 minutes with a standard membership. After that, for anywhere from 6-24 hours it costs $20.
The future of bike sharing in Atlanta and how viaCycle hopes to fit in
Atlanta is the latest city trying to catch up with bike-sharing programs spreading across the nation.
The Southern city plans by 2016 to have a vast network of bicycle facilities available, with 570 bicycles at 57 stations throughout the metropolitan area.
City of Atlanta
"What I envision is folks getting to jump on a bikeshare bike and travel through major dedicated facilties to get to all the major shopping centers, theaters, parks," says Joshua Mello, the city's Assistant Director of Planning-Transportation.
Atlanta has already allocated more than $2 million to upgrade existing bicycle lanes and build Atlanta's first bicycle boulevard and neighborhood greenway.
The proposed plan will include 1 20 miles of bicycle facilities and 60 miles of bicycle lanes connecting bikers from the west side (Vine City) to Inman Park, in addition to the Midtown area.
Atlanta is considering both fixed programs (those with a kiosk) and flexible systems (bicycles with an inherent locking mechanism like viaCycle's). Mello says there are tradeoffs to both. Fixed station systems allow anyone visiting to walk up to a station and use a bike at any moment without having to be registered. Flexible systems are cheaper, among other benefits.
While viaCycle will not be bidding to be part of the city's bike share program, it does hope to play an integral part in the city's future cycling plans.
"We're very aware of what's going on in Atlanta in terms of bike infrastructure and sharing," says Doshi. "We hope to be a part of whatever we can, not just from a business perspective but because we live in the city and would like to see Atlanta do well."
Either way, expect many more "smart" bikers in Atlanta and across the world.
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