Years after Bixi and its competitors set up shop in Canada, another bike-sharing system that some describe as the Airbnb of cycling is making inroads in the country.
Spinlister allows people to list their unused bicycles and search for available ones in a specific area.
The bikes can be rented by the hour, day or week through a website or app, and users can search by type, frame size and rider height.
The California-based company launched in 2012 and branched out to other countries, including Canada, the following year–but a spokesman says the number and type of bikes available in any given location depend entirely on the users.
A few dozen bikes, from sturdy cargo bikes to sleek racing models, are listed in Toronto and Vancouver and spokesman Andrew Batey says demand for bicycles outstrips the supply.
He says 70 percent of people who rent through the site do it while travelling, while others book bikes for charity events or to test drive expensive models before investing in one of their own.
And many of those who rent out their bikes are cycling enthusiasts with more than one in their arsenal.
Each bicycle is insured for $10,000 and those who list theirs aren’t liable if a renter is injured. No bicycle has ever been stolen by a renter, Batey said, largely because renters have to enter a credit card and go through other verification procedures.
“It’s so much easier to walk down the street and find the bike I want and steal it than it is to try and go through this whole hassle,” he said.
Bikes in Toronto go for $15 to $100 a day, depending on the model, and the company takes a 17.5 per cent cut of the rental fee.
Meg Siegel, 28, signed up early on as a way to make extra cash from her spare bikes.
“It’s so hard to find a decent bike when you go to a different city, you always end up with the tourist clunker bikes, so I wanted to put a decent bike up for people to rent while they’re visiting here so that I could also do the same thing when I go to other cities,” the Toronto resident said.
Only one of her five bikes is currently available for rent and so far, Siegel said only one person has rented it: a man visiting from San Francisco for work last summer.
“(The site is) obviously much bigger…where it started, there’s tons of bikes there,” she said.
There are much fewer in Toronto, “and it’s a little bit tricky because some people want a mountain bike, some people want a road bike, it needs to be your size, so the chances of getting a fit for you is pretty small right now.”
Siegel said she faced similar hurdles trying to book bikes for a trip to Barcelona, but ended up getting help from members who put her in touch with local cyclists not on the site.
Spinlister acknowledges that finding a bike may be more difficult in some areas where the site isn’t well-known. “I can see someone searching, not seeing what they need… and then we have no option for them so they don’t rent a bike,” Batey said.
The company targets certain cities for expansion if there appears to be enough community interest, he said, and Vancouver is on the short list.