It’s clear that bikeshare is becoming a practical mobility alternative in urban areas, as shown by the recent proliferation of dockless (park anywhere) bikeshare providers throughout the U.S. Dockless bikeshare builds on the earlier success of docked (bike racks) bikeshare. For instant, in June, bikeshare provider Motivate (recently purchased by Lyft), achieved a total of 60M rides via its 12,000 bikes.
To be clear, bikeshare isn’t just for urban areas, as Matt Dosch, COO of Comporium, indicates that Rockhill, SC (population approximately 73,000) saw 900 trips in June with an average trip-distance of about 3-miles for its sponsored bikeshare program. Electric-assist bikes and electric scooters expand the market even further into something that is more accurately described as personal mobility sharing.
Enter Swiftmile into the mix, which has an offering that could be described as a hybrid bikeshare model. In the above interview, filmed at ProspectSV’s 2018 Impact and Innovation Summit, Swiftmile Co-founder and CEO Colin Roche, explains that their focus is a bit different from other bikeshare companies, as they target corporate and institutional (e.g. government, hospitality, etc.) customers with their shared bikes.
Their self-contained docking station consists of a solar-powered bike-rack that locks and charges their electric bikes. Because these stations do not require connection to the grid, installation is relatively fast, permit-free and, at 2 bikes per station, easily expandable. These stations feature GPS and their on-board computers communicate to Swiftmile’s backend via cellular radio.
Like other bikeshare solutions, an app unlocks the bike, monitors the ride and provides valuable meta-data about the experience. Roche indicates that the average ride is between 7 to 8 miles (which, coincidentally, is what Professor Stefan Heck suggests is about the typical distance where an e-bike is faster than a car in commute traffic in Silicon Valley).
The reason for the relatively long-rides with these bikes could be attributed to their unique business model, which could be described as a hybrid between docked and dockless. During the day, the bikes charge in the docking station and are available for trips around campus. At the end of the day, employees use them to commute home, where they are stored until the return trip to work in the morning.
Roche indicates this is a premium service that has become a car-alternative and an employee-perk for several major Silicon Valley companies and institutions. With a top-speed of 20 MPH and range of 40 miles, the bikes provide a superior experience to the typical e-assist bike. And from this reporter’s brief spin on the bike, it is easy to see how the Swiftmile bikes make for a sweat-free, fun commute.