Palo Alto has a bike lock problem, and a pair of software developers and a designer took a shot at trying to solve that problem in 24 hours in New York this weekend.
Eugene Tonev, Alexander Sivura and Yuri Dymov — currently at health startup HealthTap — put together a model of the kinds of bike racks you might see on the streets of Palo Alto. But this rack has a connected lock on it, paired with a social network, that can activate on demand. It’s part of an app called BikeParking.Club, which is a network for bikers that might install structures and locks like this to make sure they always have a spot somewhere nearby for their bikes. All this was thrown together and actually worked onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt New York’s hackathon this year.
“You always need to carry all these chains, or buy two chains and leave one in office or one in home,” Tonev says. “You always have a lock around your places. So, if you have chains everywhere, why share them [to make sure you always have a spot somewhere].”
The prototype they showed onstage was a mock-up of pipes and plumbing pulled from Home Depot nearby — but it’s something that resembles what a lock network might look like in the real world. Users connect to the app, which helps them find a nearby open spot and then gives them the ability to lock their bike on the rack. The three bike to work every day, and that’s why they figured it’s a problem that probably needs an answer at some point.
The big problem is twofold, Tonev says: having enough spots around that bikers can access; and not having to carry locks around everywhere to make sure those bikes (hopefully) stay in those spots. So when a user installs a lock, they’ll automatically get access to the parking network around the city while always having access to a spot in the lock they installed.
“The lock is an entry point, after that — If even half of the [tens of thousands of cyclists] will install that [in Palo Alto], we’ll immediately have something like 350,000 parking lots for bikes.”
It’s a hack, of course, but according to the trio, HealthTap encourages them to try out new ideas. Opening up the biking universe might not be such a foreign idea for a healthcare startup, though the software developers suddenly having to deal with a hardware problem was a bit of a taller order. So, who knows where it goes, but at least when they fly back to the Bay Area they’ll have another neat project to throw on their portfolios.