There are many perks to bike shares, but there's a distinct advantage for the entrepreneurially minded: you're not allowed to make the bike better. Not by giving it an electric motor. Not by adding a seat to take your kid to school. Nope nope nope. Should bike shares really be keeping such a tight reign on their bikes?
This question comes to us today by way of D.C., where a dad invented a kid's seat that attaches to Capital Bikeshare's vehicles in seconds and without tools. (Bike shares in various U.S. cities go by different names, but they're basically all run by the same umbrella company, Alta, and use the same bike.) Crispen Wilson came up with the idea when dropping off his daughter to school; the 12 blocks was "too far to walk, but not far enough to drive." But Capital Bikeshare stations were conveniently stationed along the route.
Wilson had been perfecting his design and selling beta versions of the kid's seat for about under $80. But today, Alta tells Streetsblog USA that it has sent Wilson a cease-and-desist letter. "[T]he use of the Bicycled Capitol Hill Bikeseat is in violation of two sections of the Capital Bikeshare member agreement which prohibit attachments to the bicycle, as well as the use of the bicycle by more than one rider," wrote Alta's director.
Bike shares, which already have to deal with a boatload of liability issues, are understandably nervous about a little user creativity. Save your tinkering for you own bike! Okay, but where do we draw the line? The user agreement says riders must not "dismantle or modify a Capital Bikeshare bicycle in any way." Does that include coffee cup holders? A mount for your smartphone?
When New York's CitiBike deemed ShareRoller, an attachable electric motor, in violation of member agreements, its inventor told New York Daily News, "I don't see Citi Bike putting marshals in the bike lanes looking for people's ShareRollers." ShareRollers haven't hit the streets yet, so perhaps we shouldn't be so sure.
Rather than sending in the lawyers (and marshals), though, maybe there's some way for bike shares to collaborate so we all benefit from the ingenuity of our fellow bike share users. When people want to tinker with your bike, it reflects a real niche in the marketplace. Maybe there's room for family friendly bikes or bikes with more storage space in our bike share model. What do you think dear cyclists—how should we be policing our shared bikes? [Streetsblog USA]