The London cycle scheme rolls out... and so does the iPhone app

London is finally launching its much awaited bicycle rental scheme which will allow commuters to get around the City easily while reducing their carbon footprint. I've tried other public rental schemes in cities like Barcelona and Paris, but the experience didn't come hassle free. Damaged bikes, difficulties to pay, roads without a designated cycles or the locking systems... and getting lost. With the high smartphone use in the capital, releasing an app was a no brainer. Has London learned the lesson from its neighbours? We will find out by the end of the month!

Last week, London Mayor Boris Johnson, called for help from developers to build apps using the official data they are willing to provide. Things like maps with routes and stops are out of the question, what the user is going to need is an app to check how many available cycles are at each docking station. Since the scheme will run on a "first 30 minutes free" for members, many will wonder where to drop the cycle before that time and if there will be one available to swap and continue the journey for free. The data will be provided at the docking stations, but is Transport for London (TfL) willing to make this data set available for developers?

The novelty here is that TfL is opening up some of the data for commercial use. Yes, devs will be able to make kickass paid apps and not the predictable free app with a map. We have seen in the past how the TfL was very restrictive with the use of its maps, service updates and they wouldn't allow to check the credit on the cashless paying system Oyster, even if they didn't provide their own alternative.

Here goes a quote from their press statement. Are you guys with it?:

“Barclays Cycle Hire has got everybody talking and app developers are already recognising the opportunities that the scheme offers. They are incredibly creative people and I’m really looking forward to seeing and using the new apps.” Kulveer Ranger, Mayor of London’s transport advisor.

The promise now is that the TfL Barclays Cycle Hire (its official name) will provide real time information along with the official graphics and logo - Yes, you can advertise Barclays on your app for free... More information and data examples will be available here. I read on LondonCyclist that developer Futureshape is already working on its "Cycle Hire App", which will include information on available bikes at every station, and will be available for free.  


The Guardian also notes that the station updates are already available via Layar links, but will be updated once the the Barclay's Cycle Hire launches later this month.

Developer Richard Markiewicz, the creator Bixou, has been in the AppStore for over a year now and supports the hire schemes in Montréal, Melbourne and Minneapolis. I see The app includes real-time updates that show amount of bikes available at each stop and other features work off-line, which will be useful for iPod Touch users. There is a Lite version if you want to try it out here.

For those Londoners interested, I bumped into two of the new stops in Southwark and took some pictures to share them with you guys.