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Ford’s latest vehicle: the humble bike

Pedal power: Ford has almost come full circle since 1896, putting its name to a 21st century bicycle sharing scheme in San Francisco, 130 years after Henry Ford cannibalised bikes for parts for his first car.

Bike sharing next on Ford’s mobility plan as it explores ways to cut congestion

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Ford logo29 Jun 2017

MORE than 130 years after Henry Ford bolted wire-spoked bicycle wheels onto a motorised buggy to create his first car, the Quadricycle, the company he created has again turned to the humble bike as it explores its vision of urban mobility in the 21st century.

Called Ford GoBike, a Ford-backed bike-sharing network armed with up to 7000 bicycles is being rolled out at 546 stations in San Francisco’s Bay Area, including San Jose.

Riders can access the bikes by phone app, either a dedicated GoBike app or Ford’s FordPass app used by 650,000 owners of latest-model Ford cars in the United States to open and start their vehicles, reserve paid parking spots, check fuel levels remotely and other tricks.

Because the FordPass app is location aware, Ford owners who visit San Francisco will be automatically notified of GoBike availability, enabling them to find the nearest bike docking station, buy passes and save the location of stations.

A timer alerts the rider when the rental period is coming to an end and keeps track of distance ridden.

The light but sturdy aluminium-frame bikes boast a continuously variable hub for a wide gear range to help riders scale San Francisco’s notorious hills or coast across the flat lands of other nearby regions. Puncture-resistant tyres remain inflated and lamps automatically light up.

The bike rental scheme is a partnership between Ford and Motivate, a company that already runs bike-sharing operations in nine major US cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington.

San Francisco was picked for the Ford partnership because of the growth in bicycle usage in the area, apparently increasing 184 per cent between 2006 and 2015.

Ford’s City Solutions team is behind the investment as part of the company’s commitment to work with cities to reduce traffic congestion.

City Solutions vice president John Kwant said Ford was working with Motivate and Bay Area communities to achieve more sustainable mobility.

The bikes and docking stations are being rolled out progressively, with 3500 bikes planned to be up and running by the end of the northern summer.

By the end of next year, that should double to 7000 bikes at 546 stations making Ford GoBike the second largest bike-sharing program in the US after Motivate’s Citibike scheme in New York where 10,000 bikes carried riders on 12 million trips in 2016.

The San Francisco project appears to be a toe-in-the-water exercise for Ford, with no indication that yet that it will be spread to other locations.

Ford’s main rival, General Motors, is heavily involved in car-sharing companies, including Maven and Lyft.

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