Hey Google, Let Us All Use Your Bikes!
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the tech giant needs a better system for corralling these single-speeds back onto campus.
By Sean Culligan
Dear Google Managers,
Gbikes are well-known for being a planet-friendly solution for your staffers to use as they zip around Google’s gigantic complex. But to the rest of us, they symbolize nothing but temptation. You’ve had to discourage visitors to your campus from joyriding, purportedly owing to liability issues. So how can you reasonably expect us mere humans — aka non-Googlers — to resist these brightly colored, two-wheeled treats?
On any given day, these polychromatic teases can be found all over Mountain View— and yet I’m denied the opportunity to ride. I know, I know, you have more than 1,000 bikes to keep track of, and in a bid to keep them free to use for employees, you don’t want to complicate matters by adding bike locks that slow down the fluid process of bike sharing (though I understand you are testing the idea). But this whole endeavor must be costing you a bundle — from the cost of the bikes and maintenance to the expense of searching for and recovering the stragglers (the borrowed and, let’s face it, the stolen).
So I have a cunning plan. It’s one that could make you money while endearing you to the locals. Who knows, you may like this idea enough to expand it nationwide. Bike-sharing firms around the globe are on to something, and I think it’s high time you get in on the act. Ofo’s bike-sharing motto, for example, is “Find it. Scan it. Ride it. Lock it,” and I think with a bit of modification, this could work for Google bikes too.
All you have to do is weld some locks to your existing bikes (I’ve done the hard part and designed a nice little back-wheel lock for you; see below) that unlock, free of charge, via a quick scan from those nifty badges all your staffers seem to have, or via a phone app.
Now, for the moneymaking part: After some of your staffers finish with their big lunches on El Camino (see map below; I’ve photographed and plotted the most frequent locations for abandonment), they’re apparently getting alternative rides back to work and leaving your Gbikes behind. With the same lock design and app, non-Googlers can scan the QR code on the bike lock, pay a small fee — let’s say 50 cents — and unlock it to go for a ride.
And, yes, I know your next question: “What if our employees are enjoying a nice light meal and someone else takes the bike, not knowing our Googlers wanted to ride back on a bicycle?” Never fear. The app can allow Googlers to take bikes off campus and reserve them for when they’re out and about. The locks should have LED indicators, signaling to others that they’re either parked and needed (red) or ready for others to ride (green). And, rather than paying a team of bike shepherds, you could enlist local cycling enthusiasts to do the work for you by crediting them $25 a pop for every bike they return to Google.
No need to write and thank me. Seeing all those green lights on the back fenders around town will be thanks enough.
Sincerely yours, Sean Culligan