Korea Technology Review2009.05.06 13:30

The problem with public bikes is that some bikes never come back. Vélib, Paris' famed public bike system lost near 3000 bikes in the first year of operation and some bikes were located as far a place as in Morocco. The public bike system will never be sustainable without an adequate retrieval scheme, despite its lofty goal to save the earth. 

I guess Korean IT engineers may have figured out ways to save the earth without necessarily pestering bike riders with a cumbersome authentication routine. The answer: your cell phone. 

Prospective bike riders first tap their cell phone numbers followed by social security codes to the touch screen stand. Turn to bike stands, voila!, your bike is waiting for you flashing a tiny green lamp. First two hours are for free, but Mapo-gu office will alert you with a SMS message if you ride pass the two hour limit, charging you KRW1000 per hour after that. The bike rental fees will be added to your monthly phone bill.     

A clever way to protect public bike system from theft and vandalism by making local wireless carriers liable for bike retrievals and billings. Prepaid phones, popular in Europe will not be accepted here naturally. 

The next step: the real time rider locater by signing a LBS contract with the carriers. Your phone will transmit the changing locations of the rented bike back to Mapo-gu office via carriers.  

  
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