Bike Share Program Getting Attention -- But Will It Work?
Ryan Rzepecki is dashing in between sponsorship meetings when he tells the Voice on the phone that all this media attention over his new start-up SoBi (Social Bicycles) is a blessing and a curse. He hasn't stopped getting e-mails from bicyclists, hipsters, urban planners from as far away as Helsinki and Ukraine all wanting to know when they can see one of the first wireless bike share systems.
"The last 24 hours have been just nuts. It went from like no attention to tons of attention," he says. After TechCrunch yesterday wrote about Rzepecki's company that will provide bikes to on-the-go hipsters the way ZipCar provides cars to on-the-go Yuppies, he's been hit with a deluge of attention. And now the 31-year-old needs to make sure his idea is actually going to work.
"If I can deliver what I think this system can do, we can get a really wide range of interest," he says. The 'system' is where one can potentially access a bike through their smart phone by walking up to a bike locked to any bike rack.
The Chinatown resident bicyclist says that in order to get the bike share working he needs money, and support. The media attention can help get SoBi the $50k grant money he is competing for in the Pepsi Refresh Project that ends September 1st. Rzepecki has been shuffling money out of his pocket for the last year after he quit his job as a Urban Planner with the DOT. With all the press attention, SoBi's rankings for the Pepsi Refresh Project have gone from #300 to #186 in the last day. The top ten winners will get the grant money to fund their projects.
By at least November plan to see around 20 'demo' bicycles floating around the city with electronic lock-boxes attached to the back that accesses a rider's account information. SoBi is juggling with a few bike companies at the moment to figure out which bike will work best. Rzepecki says that he's working to put some bikes inside Central Parking Garages throughout the city. The idea is that by 2011, Social Bicycles will provide bikes throughout the city with a web component that can track reservations, calories burned, frequent routes along with a myriad of other things you don't think about while riding a bike around New York.