The Montreal project has managed to re-write the rule book as far as the techno-bike is concerned. Starting with the physical look of the cycle, industrial designer Michel Dallaire has given them a futuristic makeover. Dallaire designed the 1976 Olympic torch, and more recently was tasked with creating new garbage bins for the Montreal streets.
While the modern look will no doubt grab the attention of the passing public, anyone with an interest in IT will surely appreciate the technology that is driving the entire PBS rental concept.
You could simply say that the 2400 bikes will be distributed across 300 modular base units at various locations in the city. Commuters use a smart card loaded with credits, or their credit card, to release a bicycle from the base station and are charged for their time when they dock it at the destination station.
But that would be missing the point, by a country mile.
For a start there is the small fact that these base stations have done away with the need for an external power source. They are solar powered and totally self-contained, meaning the impact upon the urban environment is about as eco-friendly as you can get. No digging up of the street involved, and when the units get moved no trace that they had ever been there.
When docked, the base station recharges the bicycle lights front and back. These are always on when riding, for added safety. A cutting edge, wireless RFID connection ensures that the base station always knows how many bikes are available at any given time.
Of course, just turning up and finding that your local station has no bikes could prove problematical in terms of getting to work on time. Which is why PBS bikes are Internet friendly. Using wireless communication the base stations know how many bikes are connected and reports this back to a central management system.
Commuters are able to report, from the docking unit, if a bike gets damaged so the system is always updated in real time. The management software itself will even monitor traffic patterns to enable PBS to relocate units to different areas of town on demand.
A similar system has been a great success in Paris, and if the Montreal one goes as well this could be just the start of a solar powered, web located, RFID driven bicycle revolution.