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Last Updated: Monday, 5 July, 2004, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Phones power bike rental scheme
Dot.life - where technology meets life, every Monday
By Mark Ward
BBC News Online technology correspondent

Oybike at bike stand, BBC
Oybikes have 24 rental stations
Public transport is part of the daily routine of millions of people, but few are actually delivered right to their final destination.

All too often journeys involve a frustrating combination of buses, trains or tubes - all punctuated by lengthy waits for a service to arrive.

Then there's the issue of what can be a long walk from your stop to the place you actually want to go.

One solution might be Oybike, a new mobile phone-operated bicycle rental scheme designed to make getting around easier and faster.

It is being trialled in Hammersmith and Fulham, west London, where a number of rental stations have been set up, but its inventors hope it will soon be extended.

Rental fees

Anyone wanting to use an Oybike signs up and pays a 10 annual fee, then uses their mobile phone to unlock a bike for as long as they need.

The phone receives a pin number to unlock the bike at the start of a journey and a second one to lock it at the end and to determine how much the rider is charged.

OYBIKE CHARGES
0 - 15 minutes = 30p
16 - 30 minutes = 80p
31 minutes - one hour = 2
One to eight hours = 8

Hire prices start at 30p for 15 minutes and rise to 8 for up to eight hours of time on an Oybike.

The first 28 rental stations are at locations including tube and train stations, theatres and cinemas. There are plans to introduce more, so Oybike collection and drop-off is easier.

Suit wearers will be happy to know that the Oybikes do not use chains, so there's little chance of getting oil on your clothes.

Bernie Hanning, inventor of the Oybike technology and founder of the project, said: "We want it to become another component in the public transport system," he said. "It will be like having a bicycle in your mobile phone."

Mini-city

Hammersmith and Fulham was chosen because it has "a lot of tube stations where people do not get straight to their destination," said Mr Hanning.

Also important was the enthusiastic support of the local council, as Oybike needs permission to put its rental stations on the borough's pavements.

Mr Hanning said Hammersmith and Fulham was like a mini-city as it had 24 tube stations, two football grounds and an exhibition centre.

The rental stations and bicycles have been in place for almost three weeks and have so-far withstood the area's vandals.

"There were a few tires let down and some bell caps taken but that's about all," My Hanning said.

The Oybikes are now being tested by local companies and user groups to see exactly how useful they find them.

Close-up of Oybike logo, BBC
The bikes have a distinctive livery
Mr Hanning said many commuters might want to use them because many train firms running services into London ban bikes at the busiest times of the day.

The recent tube strike also got a lot of people interested in finding out about other ways to get around, he said.

"The interest has been really more than we hoped for because we have not pushed out any PR or properly launched it," he told BBC News Online.

Other bike rental schemes exist, but Mr Hammond believes none are as hi-tech as Oybike.

Smart Bike in France uses smart cards, while others are coin-operated.

At the end of a six months trial, it is planned that the system will be handed over to a social enterprise scheme.

"We expect to be expanding across London quite quickly," said Mr Hanning.


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