Bike share systems rely on readily available docking stations that have both bikes and empty docks. If there are no bikes, people wishing to use a bike can’t get one, and if there are no docks, people with a bike can’t get rid of it.

The people that operate bike shares spend considerable time and effort ensuring that this does’t happen. However, despite their efforts, system users are bound to find themselves in need of a bike or empty dock from time to time. In order to aid system users, there are maps and other devices to locate bikes and docks. New York’s bike share program rolled out with real-time information available on their website and in a mobile app.

While these work well, in my experience, I’ve found them not to be so real-time. Plus, I really don’t want to be fumbling around with my phone on the street–and certainly not while riding a bike.


Mount a status light atop the docking station’s solar panel (see mockup below).
Bike Share Station Status LightThis is a somewhat low-tech solution, and is not a replacement for the website or mobile apps. It is meant to be used in conjunction with the maps by a user in the immediate vicinity of several docking stations. Users walking or riding around an area would be able to see from a distance whether the docking station has bikes and docks available.

The light would glow green if the there are both bikes and docks at that station and red if the station is either empty or full. It might be good to have an additional color, such as amber. This would allow for all statuses to be displayed (full, empty or otherwise). But, this additional information might be confusing and it might be best to keep it simple.

Original Photo by *Bitch Cakes* on Flickr

NYT Bike Map ScreenshotThe Times’ Your Biking Wisdom in 10 Words is an interactive map that has some (mostly*) good advice on route choice from local cyclists.

* I say mostly since not all of this “wisdom” is wise. Case in point, the Brooklyn resident who suggests using a whistle to clear the way on the Brooklyn Bridge in order to take in the “beautiful view”. My advice to them is to take the Manhattan bridge, or swim.