Sometimes it would be really handy to have a folding bicycle, that you could easily take with you on public transportation, then open up and ride to your final destination once you reached your stop. The question is, would you use it often enough to justify the purchase price? If not, then you're just the type of person the Brompton Dock project was designed for. Users get a Brompton folding bike from a dispenser, use it for as long as they want, then return it and get billed for the time it was used.

The Brompton Dock pilot project began on July 1st, with a facility at England's Guilford train station. Users pay an annual GBP 50 ($US81) fee, which gets them a smartcard. When they show up to rent a bike from the dispenser, they just swipe that card, and a display on the dispenser will indicate which of the 40 lockers has been unlocked. They then just go to that locker and take out their bike, then carry it onto the train, stick it in their car, or unfold it and ride it straight from the station to wherever they're going.

When finished with the bike, users just repeat the same process to find an empty locker, which they put the bike in. They are automatically billed at the end of the month, for the number of days they used the bicycle. Rates range from GBP 1.60 ($2.60) per day for a one-month rental, to GBP 4 ($6.50) for a single day.

The bikes themselves have three speeds, a built-in dynamo light, and frame-mounted caster wheels that allow them to be towed easily when folded. They are worth around GBP 650 ($1,058) each, so if you rented one every day for a year, it would come out to slightly less than buying one.

Should you live in the area and be interested in taking part in the project, pay a visit to the Brompton Dock website.

View gallery - 2 images