Cycling Visionaries Awards – Project Details

BYKER™ - Bike Sharing for All

BYKER™ – Bike Sharing for All

BYKER™ is a new generation of cycle hire system developed around a live scheme in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. The aim of the project is two-fold;
1. To make it possible for any city, university or organisation to introduce bike sharing.
2. To improve on the traditional heavy infrastructure docking station approach.
The solution does not require docking stations and is much quicker and cheaper to in

Rob Grisdale and Jack Payne first saw a cycle hire scheme whilst visiting Barcelona in 2008. They wondered why bike sharing hadn’t quickly become more widespread. Research on their return revealed that high costs, intrusive groundwork and the inability for suppliers to supply small schemes were the main reasons why generally only large cities had introduced schemes. They were disappointed that their city might never have a cycle hire scheme.

Driven by their love of urban cycling Rob and Jack dedicated themselves to reinventing the concept to prove that bike sharing could be, and should be, much simpler. They devised an SMS based rental system and launched ScratchBikes, a 150 bike hire scheme at Newcastle University. The scheme was a success and was then sponsored by a local company, Newcastle NE1, which allowed the scheme to be expanded city-wide and opened to the public. ScratchBikes was re-launched in July 2011 with 22 stations across the city and suburbs. With 2,500 members and 8,500 rentals in the first 15 months, ScratchBikes is proof that low infrastructure systems work, even in a city like Newcastle which is not very cycle friendly.

Very quickly other cities, universities and large organisations across the world took an interest in setting up their own schemes, so in 2011 Rob and Jack began to develop a new generation of system that was sufficiently scalable and robust to take bike sharing to the masses.

Everything they had learnt by operating and observing ScratchBikes users in Newcastle was rolled into the design and development. The importance of minimising on street infrastructure was upheld with the technology being designed around the bike rather than on-street docking stations. The system was later named BYKER after an area in Newcastle where it was developed and Grand Scheme Bike Share was launched as a vehicle to deliver the solutions.

BYKER is turning the traditional approach to bike sharing on its head by introducing the idea of ‘intelligent bikes with dumb stations’. The system requires nothing more than standard bike racks and a sign post at each station making it more affordable, flexible and easier to install for any city or organisation. Perhaps more importantly, it is simpler and more intuitive to use. Riders use the bikes much like they use their own.

The system can be integrated with any standard bike making it possible to automate the hire of an existing fleet of bikes. Poorly used public bike racks can also be adopted by the scheme or used as temporary stations during large events.

Each system is provided with a dedicated web platform through which people register, check bike availability and monitor usage. The platform has been very carefully designed and is socially connected to give each scheme a community feel.

GPS, motion sensors and wireless communications provide the scheme owner with data to show how the scheme is being used. This can be used to make informed decisions on new locations.


Users register to a scheme online to get their own ‘Access Code’. They can then hire any bike by entering their code using the on-bike keypad to release the key from the drawer and unlock the bike.

During the hire the bike can be locked up anywhere meaning users aren’t restricted to docking stations, for example a user can lock their bike outside a shop to buy a loaf of bread before returning to complete their hire.

On board GPS is used to report back to users how far they rode and also ensure the bike is at a dedicated rack before allowing the user to end a hire using their Access Code. Users are automatically charged each month for the hires they have made to date.


Grand Scheme is delivering three new BYKER powered schemes in Sunderland, Oxford and Galway (Ireland) over the coming months. Rob and Jack have aspirations to take their solution global. They are currently seeking international partners to help them do this and will be exhibiting at Velo City 2013.

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Rob Grisdale

Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

Category: Science, Research and Development

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