Smart city

Connected bikes: a more socially and environmentally responsible mobility solution

  • 13 Feb
  • 2 min

While there is no shortage of predictions nowadays about the progress about to be made with driverless cars, two-wheeled human-propelled vehicles – commonly known as bikes – are also having their say in designing the Smart City of the future.

One of the topics aired at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was urban mobility. And it wasn't all about autonomous vehicles: two-wheeled transport also looks likely to help shape the future. Two new innovations caught the eye in Las Vegas last month: the Wink bar, a connected handlebar invented by Velco that provides both geolocation and secure GPS navigation, and also incorporates a set of headlights; and Cosmo Bike – a smart braking light system made by Cosmo Connected, which also detects falls and alerts family, friends and the emergency services in the event of an accident. And if you enter your planned journey in advance into the associated app, the system will also serve as an indicator, either manual or automatic, for your turns. So as these and other startups work to make road journeys safer for cyclists, this is in turn likely to encourage more people to start pedalling.  Tech players thus appear to be keen to promote this environmentally-friendly and economical mode of transport. Systems for sharing bicycles are especially in fashion just now, mainly because these arrangements are highly inclusive, often improving access to urban transport services for people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods. In the United States, close to a quarter of these providers offer targeted price reductions for those of lesser financial means. Self-service bicycles and data exploitation have recently really changed the way people get about in cities. Users can now locate bike pick-up points easily, verify that a bike is available at the rack – when there is a rack, that is – and the system enables City Hall to measure frequency of use. NACTO reckons people in the United States made a total of 88 million bike journeys between 2010 and 2016, and points out that the number of bike-sharing systems has risen from four to 55 since such arrangements began. Given that San Francisco is ranked number 5 on the list of the world's most congested cities, it's hardly surprising that new partnerships are being set up all the time, one such being Uber's arrangement with JUMP, a competitor to the E-bikes about to be offered by Ford. Last week JUMP launched a pilot program for making electric bicycle reservations via a mobile app. This collaboration deal looks an exciting initiative for the Bay Area, where the number of shared bikes available has risen from 700 to more than 7,000 over the last two years.

By Marie-Eléonore Noiré