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AUSTIN, Texas — Choosing to ride a bike instead of driving in crazy busy traffic seems like a good idea, but in reality its usually only practical if you live within a downtown area and own a bike. For everyone else, it’s just not always an option.
“Most people would probably rather take a bike across town if they didn’t have to lug it around all day, especially in Austin. Austin traffic sucks,” said Nate McGuire, the founder of bike-rental subscription service Spokefly.
Spokefly enables people who aren’t using their bikes to rent them out to others. Those who wish to rent a bike, but don’t really want the responsibility of keeping up with it all day, can choose to sign up for a monthly subscription service. So when you’re done riding, you just lock up the bike and check in with Spokefly’s iOS and Android apps. You can even reserve a bike ahead of time. Right now the service is only available in Austin, where the startup is based, but it’s geared the service to work for big, dense cities. (McGuire said he does plan to expand into other cities in the future.)
McGuire, who’s participating in a demo day pitch event at the Capital Factory at SXSW 2014 today, said he doesn’t really see bike rentals as replacing other forms of transportation.
“Being able to rent a bike should be just one more option you have of getting across town next to taxis, Car2Go, and buses,” McGuire told me.
The service also seems far more economical for those who regularly drive their cars into the city but don’t want to pay for parking when they from one place to another. Spokefly offers monthly subscriptions for $15, which provides for five bike rides. It also has a $30 unlimited ride plan. For those that really want to make a commitment to riding bikes, Spokefly also offers a $80 monthly plan that gives unlimited rides and access to premium bikes (nice road bikes that are valued at $3,000 or more).
Spokefly is using all of the foot traffic from SXSW to help spread the word about the service. For this week, you can get unlimited bike rides for $60, but rides are limited to under two hours. That price is equal to what you’d pay to rent a single bike for just 24 hours, which doesn’t give you the flexibility of droping off the bike when you’re done using it.
Not counting the SXSW riders, over 500 people have signed up for Spokefly’s service, which launched just two months ago.
So where do the bikes come from? Well, largely they’re coming from people who own and never use their bikes. Spokefly rents them out and cuts owners a check at the beginning of every month.
Founded in 2013, the Austin, Texas-based startup has two employees (both cofounders) and currently bootstrapped but seeking additional funding.