Two weeks ago I wrote about BikeLink electronic bike locker fromÂ eLock Technologies inÂ Improving bike access to airports.Â I discovered some new information about the lockers about changes being made to a bike parking facility in San Francisco, California. Later, after watching a Streetsfilm video on the novel system, I realized I mistakenly identified the electronic access method.
BikeLink news in San Francisco
In October 2009, the Embarcadero BART station switched from a valet-based bike parking facility to using a BikeLink-controlled cage. TheÂ San Francisco Examiner thinks the lack of a hired attendant will deter people from parking here. The reason was cost: The labor needed to staff the cage cost $3.22 per bike while the electronic system costs only $0.42 per bike. Members pay only 3 cents per hour between 8 AM and 8 PM, and only 1 cent per hour at all other times.
The writer found three people to go along with the story and question the converted facility’s safety/security.*
The article doesn’t give up further details, but Alameda Bicycle (a local bike shop)Â fills in the missing information:
- New members sign up and pay for an access card from BikeLink online orÂ one of several physical locations.
- The member opens the cage with their card and finds a place to park inside the cage. This is the sign-in.
- The member locks their bike (there may not actually be an object to which one can lock their bike) and removes any easily-removed parts (like lights and bags) and exits the cage.
- The member then exits the cage and inserts their card into the read to perform the sign-out. If 10 minutes has passed and the member has no signed out, an audible alarm will go off, and the cage operator (Alameda Bicycle) will be alerted.
There are some other rules that apply to cage use. You have to also register your bicycle so that the operator knows which bicycle belongs to which member so they can better track misuse of the facility. The operator will conduct random checks to verify this. Because of the way this electronic cage works, members have an incentive to not let non-members into the cage.
*The San Francisco Examiner article went so low as to publish this worthless quote from an individual, “I have plenty of cards already in my wallet,” said E.M., who takes his bike from Richmond to the Embarcadero station daily. “Why do I need another one for parking my bike?” The benefit of having a card to lock your bike is that you can use the same card to securely lock your bike at lockers up and down the state.
Smart card, not magnetic stripe card
I wrote that the “debit card” is a magnetic stripe card (like a credit card or transit fare card), but instead is a smart card, with the member’s data and current balance stored on an integrated circuit chip. Occasionally, some people equate smart cards with proximity, contactless, or RFID cards. It seems more popular though to only identify a smart card as one that has a gold-plated chip visible on the front side. These are more popular in Europe and Asia.
Streetfilms (a sibling of Streetsblog) visited Oakland and El Cerrito, California, in 2007, to show how they work and how they compare to traditional, leased lockers (short story: electronic lockers are on demand and can serve multiple, unique users in a day or week, while the leased locker has one unique user). Watch the video: