This immediately caught my eye as it mixes two things that I love. Technology and cycling.
TfL opened up their cycle hire API earlier this month to allow access to information around bike hire locations and pricing.
I think this, mashed up with a few of TfL’s other APIs and a bit of smart phone magic would create an amazing mobile app service. It could help promote the scheme, encourage adoption and, vitally, aid TfL in defining future hire station locations and in adjusting and augmenting their current cycle path network.
Here’s how it could work
Build an app that allows users to create a profile which includes their height, weight and age.
The app should provide the facility to plan a route between two points in London, showing the user the closest hire stations to the start and end of their journey.
Provide the user with different route options. For example: ‘quickest’, ‘scenic’ or ‘cycle paths only’. The latter being provided by TfL’s own recognised cycle route maps.
Track the user’s journey time and actual route.
Record the user’s total miles cycled and calories burned over time (this is why we need height, weight and age).
Create leader boards on the TfL site of total miles, highest average speed, calories burned. Leaderboard-based mileage competition is something that TfL is already running through their Cycle Challenge programme.
Generating intelligence for TfL
On top of the service benefits to the user there is a whole raft of data and information that TfL could harvest. Popular start and end points for journeys – do we need more bikes in those locations? Most active boroughs. Most used cycle paths – do they need to be widened? Why are users rarely riding a particular cycle path? The list goes on.
The utility could be extended to allow riders to report badly maintained paths or dangerous obstacles. Take a picture which is geo-tagged, add a comment and submit it to TfL.
The cycle hire scheme as it is currently set up looks to have its own separate card system. Ideally the service would run off your existing Oyster card.
How about, though, a mechanism to link the bike and your phone? Check-in (for want of a better expression) to the hire station, ‘scan’ the unique ID of the bike you’d like to hire and it automatically gets linked to you and your phone. The money is taken from your online account. No need for more bits of plastic in my wallet.
I could go on. I think the possibilities are very exciting.
I’m just throwing this idea out there at the moment. I’m already involved in another Made by Many side project so if anyone wants to build this, drop me a line and we should talk.
UPDATE [1 July 2010]
A comment on a Guardian Technology blog post pointed me in the direction of Cycle Hire app. This plots the locations of the hire stations and should also allow some route planning functionality using CycleStreets. Although not yet launched, this looks like a great start. I can’t help feeling though that our thinking should be much more ambitious.