AirDonkey is the latest attempt at being the AirBnB of bikes

Airdonkey bike
© Airdonkey bike chained to a pole

AirDonkey is not the first attempt at being "the AirBnB of bikes", see Want to rent a bike? Have an extra ride gathering dust? Spinlister is the AirBnB of bikes. Spinlister has been struggling, but AirDonkey has one big advantage: it's starting in Copenhagen.

Bikes are so ubiquitous in Denmark that they don't get stolen very often; most likely they are "borrowed" by people leaving bars and not able to find their own bike through the drunken haze. They are usually locked with those little rear-wheel locks that wouldn't last ten minutes in New York or London, where bikes have to be chained to something solid. (They do offer a cable, but it is shown running through the rear wheel lock, which makes it next to useless)

phone app and lock© Airdonkey phone and lock

This allows AirDonkey to have a very simple-to-use lock that can talk to smart phones via bluetooth; you reserve your bike using the app and when you get to the bike, the lock just opens for you. No need to deal with chains and bike racks. The lock is designed to run for up to 500 days without needing a recharge.

Founder Erdem Ovacik tells Peter Walker of the Guardian:

We’re a new bike-sharing service that’s going to disrupt urban transport. We want to also kind of have a political advocacy side of things: how can cities become more bike friendly? And this is where Copenhagen really is a benchmark.

AirDonkey concept video from Donkey Republic on Vimeo.

It certainly looks early to use in the video, certainly easier than Copenhagen's bike share where I tried twice to sign up and couldn't make it work. At €10 per day it's half the price that the hotel charged me for a daily bike rental. But can a rental system succeed in a city like Copenhagen? Peter Walker raises some concerns:

To an extent the company faces a contradictory set of challenges. In cycle-friendly nations like Denmark and the Netherlands, where leaving your bike locked to itself on the street is more normal, many commuters will have their own machines while tourists are often well catered for by traditional rental shops. In many places in the UK, meanwhile, a supply of people happy to leave their bike outside could be the difficulty.

kit of parts© Airdonkey kit of parts

However in the long run, I suspect that these app and GPS based systems are going to take over from the bike share programs as we know them, which have those expensive fixed rental stations competing for parking spaces and sidewalk space. If it can all be done with just a phone, a kit of parts and lock on the bike, who needs all that expensive hardware? If it can be added to any kind of bike, who needs those expensive and heavy custom bikes?

They're just gonna need a bigger lock.

Tags: Bikes | Bike Sharing

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