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Would you sign up for a Flexbike?

Posted by on November 28th, 2006 at 2:28 pm

[The Aerorider]
Photo: Ready to Ride

Flexcars are everywhere in Portland. So are bikes. So why not have Flexbikes?

I’m not talking about a snazzy, European style bike-rental program (like the one being discussed by Commissioner Sam’s office), I’m talking about pedal-powered vehicles that you’d rent when your regular, everyday bike just won’t cut it.

Portland cyclist and journalist David Rowe — the man behind the Ready to Ride website — might have found the perfect “bike” for this application.

While at the Interbike trade show, he took a close look at the Aerorider, which its inventors call the, “ultimate single seat hybrid” (it has electric assist). Here’s a shot of David in the cockpit:

“With gas prices still quite high, with hybrid automobiles coming into vogue, with ride-sharing organizations such as Flexcar reaching critical mass, and bicycle commuting entering the mainstream, the timing has never been better for HPVs in America.”
–David Rowe

A Flexbike would be more affordable than a regular Flexcar membership and it would be perfect for folks that just aren’t going to ride in the cold, wet winter. A Flexbike — like the Aerorider — would be quicker around town and more comfortable than a bicycle, and easier to park and nicer to the planet than a hybrid car.

Human powered vehicles (HPV) are where it’s at. I personally think regular old bicycles are just fine, and I’m excited by the influx of bakfiets and other utitlity bikes in the U.S., but slap on a fairing, maybe an extra wheel, some cutting edge design, and maybe a lot more (mainstream) people will get excited about people-powered vehicles.

Bottom line: If Flexcar offered an HPV, would you sign up?

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More HPV reading:

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15 Comments
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    gabrielamadeus November 28, 2006 at 2:44 pm

    would there be only one in town? The main advantage to flexcar is that there is a flexcar within a few blocks of most places. A flexbike wouldn’t really work if you had to ride your reg bike to pick up the flexbike.

    And it would have to be considerably cheaper than reg membership.

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    Bill November 28, 2006 at 2:44 pm

    I hate to sound like a naysayer, but theyd be easily stolen, probably get ridden beyond their means and therefore require constant maintenance beyond the required routine maintenance, and wouldnt likely be at the right spot at the right time for the individual. Bikes are also affordable enough that the luxury of having one at your place for whenever you need it is a HUGE advantage. I just cant see this working. The idea is nice, but I feel impracticle, especially with the liability involved. Just ask any shop about the liability and constant maintenance of their rental fleet. Additionally, most shops wont rent bikes for these very reasons. I realize bikes may not be the literal description of the HPV of intention, but any HPV is going to be similar to a bike in its mechanics.

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    Chris Smith November 28, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    It would have to have a point-to-point usage model (unlike Flexcar’s round trip model) to make sense for me. Otherwise in 99% of cases it would be easier for me to just bring my own bike.

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    Andy November 28, 2006 at 2:54 pm

    “that you’d rent when your regular, everyday bike just won’t cut it…”

    Or is stolen. Seems awfully complex for bicycles. Like a paradox.

    But no, wouldn’t pay for one. With many alternative modes of transit, it would be easier to hop on the tri-met site.

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    tom November 28, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    I had the same idea (in my head). Bill stated one of my primary concerns: velo getting stolen. Hiding a GPS device may help alleviate the problem.

    I think we’d need 3-4 of them at the minimum …and the Aerorider costs near $10000. This velomobile looks promising ..

    http://www.lightfootcycles.com/velo_proj.htm

    at 6-7000 estimated price. (more if adding electric assist)

    I’d use it if priced reasonably. I’ve been toying around the notion of purchasing a velombile. Either the one above ..or the Mango velomobile.

    Within the last year a velo dealership open in Canada: http://www.bluevelo.com
    There’s also a guy in Texas who sells velo kits and finished velos. Check out http://www.velomobile.net for additional info.

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    tom November 28, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    Article on velomobile owner in Texas

    http://www.oaoa.com/lifestyle/life072306a.htm

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    adam November 28, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    yes, sign me up.

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    Todd Boulanger November 28, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    I think the car sharing ‘industry’ is more open to the concept of adding pedal powered vehicles than they once were – for example, back when we proposed the EPA funded GreenFleet in Vancouver (providing shared hybrid cars and electric bikes/ folding bike for members) in 2001. The initial problem of vending rental bikes has been surmounted through the use of the BikeLink.org card with the eLock smart lockers in use locally.

    The new operational model might be to add a Bakfiets (or other specialized freight bike) to the fleet or providing each ‘bike member’ with a folding bike (like a Brompton) – useful in reaching isolated car share cars and in storing the bike during the rental. (Who wants to leave their bike parked on the street for a weekend or evening car rental? – Just fold it into the trunk.) The cost of the bike could be dealt with as a peruse surcharge or as a monthly payment towards ownership (~$60/ month).

    Think of this program as a bridge for car drivers adopting more bike habits (with a well designed and outfitted bike) and conversely bike riders adopting access to car sharing technology.

    Zipcar in the past has worked with a bike manufacturer to offer a specialized bike for car sharing members. Zipcar tends to be the ‘hipper’ of the two national providers.

    Flexcar supported bikes earlier than Zipcar and has given away a few folding bikes in the past to members.

    But I do not know of either company doing anything right now other than general support of bicycling (reduced membership fees, etc.). (I am a member of both groups and have not seen any information recently on this topic from them.)

    Perhaps Portland would be the car sharing market where such a program could succeed? It would fit well with the City of Portland’s objective of becoming the most bike friendly city.

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    Sam Livingston-Gray November 28, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    I’d rent a bike like that once or twice just to be able to test-ride it. (As I recall, I originally joined Flexcar when I was thinking of buying a Honda Insight.) However, I can’t see how I’d actually use it on any regular basis. Either I’d have to ride my own recumbent or the bus to the velomobile, and in almost all cases it’d be faster to complete the trip using the same mode. Without a velo located within walking distance of my house, it simply wouldn’t be worthwhile except for occasional recreational use.

    They’d also need bulletproof tires, because dealing with flats would be a logistical headache!

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    BURR November 28, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    I don’t think his target audience is current die-hard cyclists. I think it is transit riders, carless downtown apartment dwellers, motorists who want to drive less, and casual cyclists; all of whom might use one of these on lunch break for an errand or as part of a transit/bike round trip. The round trip model with small fleets of these bikes located at convenient locations in downtown, NW, the pearl, etc., and at selected MAX stops, might actually work for many people.

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    organic brian November 29, 2006 at 3:21 am

    Needs More Luggage Capacity.

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    Dabby November 29, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    This idea is ludicrous at best.

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    Greg November 29, 2006 at 8:39 pm

    Even if it was flexcar offering me HPV (www.hpv.com) I’d pass.

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    nate November 29, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    how fast can it go?

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    Mitch Nussbaum July 14, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I don’t live in Portland, so I’m not a potential customer for this service, and I probably wouldn’t be interested in renting an HPV in place of my regular bike — except maybe to see what it’s like.

    On the other hand, I would be interested in renting special-purpose bikes, and bike-related stuff, especially when I needed to move cargo, or go shopping. So a service that made trailers, or bakfietsen, or Xtracycles available might attract my interest.

    I’d be especially interested in a trailer that would allow me to carry my canoe a few miles to various nearby bodies of water. I don’t use my canoe often enough to justify buying such a trailer, but I would like occasional access to one.

    Perhaps there’s a market out there for services like these?

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