If you’ve ever tried to get around Austin during SXSW, you already know that cabs are impossible to find, pedicabs are plentiful but slow, and Uber — while here during the festival — is a bit fickle. One of the best ways to navigate the city and avoid the hassle of traffic is biking, but rentals can also be difficult to come by due to limited supply.
Enter Spokefly, an Austin-based startup that is hoping to make it easier for users to find (and rent) bikes in the city. It operates on a peer-to-peer basis, allowing folks with bikes to make them available for use by others on a short-term basis. And unlike other services, which typically work on a per-use model, Spokefly operates as a monthly subscription.
Through Spokefly’s website or mobile apps (available on iOS and Android) users can sign up, choose a monthly subscription, and start looking through the service’s inventory of available bikes. You pick one out nearby, reserve up to 30 minutes in advance, Spokefly gives you a code you use to unlock the bike, and you’re on your way. When you’re done, lock the bike up and it becomes available for rent by someone else.
Subscriptions start at $14.99 a month for five rides a month with a limit of two hours per ride. Or you can pay $29.99 a month for unlimited rides, with a five-hour time limit for each. Or, if you’re a power user, you can pay $79.99 to ride as much as you want anywhere, and you get access to nicer road and mountain bikes. (Although one could argue that if you’re THAT into biking maybe you should just, um, buy a bike.)
For SXSW, Spokefly has introduced a seven-day subscription, which is aimed at Austin visitors looking for a way to get around. It’s $59.99 for the week and includes unlimited rides with a two-hour time limit. During the conference, SXSW passes are restricted to the downtown and UT campus area, which also includes South Congress, South Lamar, Barton Springs, and East Austin.
Spokefly has a few things going for it: for one thing, it’s not dependent on carrying its own inventory since its users sign up and make their bikes available to others. And the subscription model sure takes advantage of a larger trend that moves to access from ownership.
But really, it’s just nice to be able to get around Austin without being caught in traffic downtown.