Sunday, December 21, 2008
As part of the bike co-op's mission to increase bicycle usage in Athens, we have been working on a new community bike-sharing program.
It's called the Athens Yellow Bike Taxi Service, or AYBiTS for short.
We start with old Huffys, Roadmasters, and Magnas of the rusted variety. They get stripped of parts, (which is not always possible) roughed up with a wire brush, and painted a bright canary yellow.
After a few coats of yellow and a few clearcoats, they get stickered and decorated with gorilla tape. All are given a name and a 3-digit taxi number. A coroplast insert goes in the frame triangle to make it extra conspicuous. Then they are rebuilt, sans derailleur. Setting them up as single-speeds will reduce maintenance and make the bikes simpler to operate. However, they must be geared to climb the steepest hills in Athens, which prevents them from going very fast, unless coasting down those steep hills. They need to have adjustable seats, though measures may be taken to prevent seat theft. The wheel's axle nuts will possibly be secured with threadlocker to keep them on. (though that makes patching tubes difficult) To prevent most flats, tubes will be filled with slime and no-flat strips will be put between the tubes and tires. If possible, we will provide the taxis with a noisemaker, a mirror, fenders, and a cargo basket on the handlebar. For fun we could also give them notepads in zippered bags for people to record their trips, draw pictures, or write random things in.
To help defray the costs of building the taxis, we intend to provide advertising space on the taxis for local business to rent.
Eventually, a whole fleet is produced. At some point this spring, (probably at the beginning of OU's spring quarter) we will unleash these taxis upon the town. Each will be chained and padlocked, all accessible from a set of identical keys.
To use the program, one would first sign up at the Athens Bicycle Co-Operative and provide us with a full name, phone number, and e-mail address. We'd suggest a donation, either in the form of currency or volunteer time. Then we'd give the person a key that unlocks all the bike taxis. From there they can use any available taxi for free. We'd ask them to leave the taxi in a public place and lock it back up when they are done with it, preferably on a bike rack. Initially, when there are fewer taxis we would ask users to keep them within the OU campus area, so that they are easier to find. Once more taxis are produced, we could enlarge their scope of operation to the greater Athens area. For convenience, we would allow users to provide their own lock, with their full name clearly visible on it, and "double-lock" a taxi for no more than two hours in order to keep it from disappearing on them. That way they could be taken to class, store, or eatery and secured for the person when they returned. If a person happens to forget about a taxi that they've double-locked, we can contact them about it and ask them to remove their lock.
To maintain the service, our users are encouraged to know how to look for problems and inspect the bikes as they are using them. In case of a problem, they can contact us and give us the taxi number, its problem and location so that a volunteer can be dispatched to either fix the bike on-site or bring a bike trailer to haul it back to the co-op for repairs. It may also be necessary for volunteers to relocate taxis from low-lying areas up to the hilltops, which they will tend to gravitate away from.
To launch the program, we hope to have at least 25 taxis. The idea is to stage a steeplechase-type event in which participants sign up to race the taxis to each advertiser's location and pick up a spoke card, bringing all of them back to the starting location and winning prizes.
We really hope this program will be well-received and effective in getting more Athenians into practical cycling.
Funds for parts, paint, sticker paper, chains, locks, etc!
Materials! like sheet metal, pet toy squeakers, coroplast signs, thin plastic, or anything else we may find useful
If you want to help in any of these areas, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org