Open Bike Initiative

Low cost open source bike share

About OBI

The Open Bike Initiative was an ad hoc project that launched in 2013 with a goal of designing, developing, piloting and disseminating a model for bike sharing based on open hardware and open source software. The original project objectives were to:

  • Design and prototype a low-cost hardware device that incorporates a GPS/cellular module and associated locking mechanism, and attaches on to standard, off-the-shelf bicycles.
  • Create client- and server-side software that communicates with the modules and enables the management of bikes in a bike share system.
  • Implement the system in a small-scale pilot project.
  • Openly distribute our results: (a) make the software freely available under an open source license, (b) publish a technical specification that describes the electronics and mechanical design of the device, and (c) document and publish our experiences with load balancing, maintenance, participant management, wireless services, etc.

The idea was to provide a template for a new bike sharing model that could be implemented (relatively) easily and (relatively) inexpensively, even by small organizations. Our hope wss that this will result in a significant increase in the number of bike sharing programs, with corresponding environmental, health and economic benefits.

In the summer of 2013 we operated a 30-bike pilot project on several Intel campuses in Hillsboro, Oregon, using a text message-based lock code distribution system we now call "OBI 1.0." Nike subsequently adapted this model for a large scale system on their Beaverton, Oregon campus, with about 400 bicycles (they subsequently replaced their OBI-based system with "Biketown" bikes). Oregon Health and Science University, Kaiser Permanente and Columbia Sportswear have also implemented OBI 1.0-based systems. The OHSU, Kaiser and Columbia systems were still up and running as of 2017.

In late 2014, Open Bike Inc., an Oregon social benefit corporation, was formed as a vehicle for commercializing the OBI technology and managing the ongoing Open Bike Initiative project. In 2015 we built and tested prototypes of our "OBI 2.0" GPS-enabled smart locks. After assessing the prototype technology and the state of the emerging commercial market we decided that the technology wasn't commercially viable, however, and the OBI 2.0 project has been suspended.

As of 2017, this site is primarily serving as an archive capturing activities related to the OBI 1.0 effort.

The 2013 Pilot

The OBI 1.0 Bike Share Pilot on Intel's Ronler Acres Campus was launched on July 8th, 2013 as a way to address the need for alternative transportation options on a corporate campus located in a suburban setting. The pilot concluded on September 30th, 2013.  Over the course of 3 months, over 300 participants took over 1,100 rides to, from and around Intel's Ronler Acres campus. To secure and check-out the bikes, OBI debuted an innovative low-technology approach to bike sharing dubbed OBI 1.0 (not to be confused with our "OBI 2.0" GPS-enabled smart locks, still under development, with pilots planned for 2014).  Documentation from the 2013 pilot can be downloaded here.  


May 31st : OBI Media Coverage

We’ve been fortunate to be featured on some prominant sites lately. Here’s a short list of recent media coverage:

Dec 07th : Nice project summary by Intel Free Press

IFP published a nice article about the OBI project here.

Sep 10th : Presentation at Portland Art Museum

We were honored to have the opportunity to give a talk at the Portland Art Museum in connection with their fantastic Cyclepedia exhibit.  The slides we used are linked below (note: these are CC-by-3.0 licensed). We also posed for a (partial) team photo.



Aug 15th : Phase I Implementation Materials Available Now

With the first month of running our low tech model (aka Phase I) under our belts, we thought it was time to share our Phase I implementation materials. Check out the White Papers section for the Phase I Implementation Outline and code and files for Phase I. This is the first version of these materials, so we appreciate your understanding that these materials are a work in progress.

Email us at if you have questions or feedback.

Photo Gallery

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Interested in implementing a Bike Share on your campus? Want to do so in an innovative, inexpensive, user friendly way? Below you will find the resources you need in order to do so. In the OBI 1.0 Implementation Guide you will find a detailed, step by step account of the Bike Share Pilot that took place on Intel's Ronler Acres Campus during the Summer of 2013, along with the lessons learned from our Bike Share Pilot and a guide on how to implement your own version. On this page you will also find an explanation of the OBI 1.0 Code, the 1.0 Install Package and the 1.0 Source Code. If you have additional questions, please contact us via the Contact form or by e-mailing us at:
  1. OBI 1.0 Implementation Guide Full
  2. OBI 1.0 Implementation Guide Lite
  3. OBI 1.0 Technical Guide
  4. OBI 1.0  Code Explanation
  5. OBI 1.0 Binary Install
  6. OBI 1.0  Source Code
 (By special request we've also added a stand-alone version of Appendix F of the full Guide; this Appendix describes a method for bicycle seat post retention we call the Keating Technique [.pdf]) 


Many people made important contributions to the project. At the great risk of missing key people, a list is attempted below.

The most recent iteration of the core team, prior to suspension of the OBI 2.0 efforts, included Brad Biddle, Barrett Hafner, Vittal Kini, Raul Krivoy, Joe Schutz, and Scott Smith. Prior active core technical team members working on the 2.0 effort included Kevin Bross, Cailan Collet, Chris Crase, Will Henderson, and Jeff Murry, as well as our partners at Axiom Electronics, particularly Robert Toppel and Lynnda Sorenson. Leonard Cano, John MacArthur, Courtney Martin, and Jenny Cadigan played key roles on non-technical matters in connection with the 2.0 work. Paul Burd created some gorgeous graphics for us.

Significant assistance with the OBI 2.0 technology (mechanical design, electronics and software) was provided by: Carter Anderson, Jeff Eirvin, Matt Groener, Aslam Haswarey, Mustafa Haswarey, Brian Jensen, Greg Perry, Bill MacCracken and Bianca Viggiano. Joel Morrisette made major contributions to the 2.0 technology, as well as to our OBI 1.0 pilot, and designed our logo.

The OBI 1.0 software was developed primarily by John Benner. The OBI 1.0 pilot was managed by Robinson Eaton and Meera Gajjar, and they led the creation of our documentation. Mike Armstrong, Garrett Beecher, Giedre Novikaite and Mordechai Sadowsky made key contributions.

Intel provided support and resources that made the project possible, and many team members are volunteers affiliated with Intel. Special thanks to Ann Armstrong, Todd Brady, Michael Jacobson and Anne Marie McSwiggan. Individuals from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (Rob Sadowsky and Stephanie Noll), the Community Cycling Center (Jonnie Ling and James Keating), Nike (Caitlin Williams and Josh Capps), Portland State's Transportation Research and Education Consortium (Hau Hagedorn and John MacArthur), and the Westside Transportation Alliance (Heather McCarey, Jenny Cadigan) helped create the project and have provided critical support.

Thanks also to our friends at Advanced Sports (Breezer), Bikes Make Life Better, Custom Contract Manufacturing, Eagle Precision Sheet Metal and Urban Racks for their support.

The OBI concept began forming after a 2012 conversation between Heather McCarey and Brad Biddle, and was 'officially' birthed in a meeting between Brad Biddle and Leonard Cano at a cafeteria table at the Intel RS5 building. Courtney Martin and Kevin Bross rounded out the initial founding team.


Drop us a Line!

The team at Open Bike Initiative are fans of rapid prototyping and early feedback. Drop us a line and tell us what you think of the program so far. We won't share, sell or otherwise disseminate your contact info - we just need it to get back in touch with you.

info (at) openbikeinitiative (dawt) org