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App connects bike owners with renters

By Natasha Baker

TORONTO (Reuters) - As the bicycle makes a major comeback in cities across the globe, a new app is making sure that no bike collects dust in a garage.

Cyclists in more than 500 cities worldwide have access to rentals thanks to the growing popularity of city bike sharing services that provide convenient and affordable access to bicycles, according to the environmental group Earth Policy Institute.

But a new iPhone app called Spinlister is aiming to connect bicycle owners with people who want to rent different types of bicycles and for longer periods of time.

"A lot of people have amazing bikes, but their bikes are just sitting in their garages," said Marcelo Loureiro, chief executive officer of Spinlister, based in Santa Monica, California.

"If you're looking for a three to four block ride, no one can beat the city bike share. But sometimes people want to use the bike for the whole day and not be worried about docking the bike or time deadlines," he said, adding that the average bike rental on the app is for three days.

The app enables renters to find nearby bikes on a map and to filter by the type of bike they're looking for, as well as the price, height and availability.

The average daily rate for a bike on the app is $10, plus a 12.5 percent fee. The cost can be paid with a credit card using the app. The company charges the owner a 17.5 percent fee to list the bike.

Loureiro said an added appeal of the app is the human connection.

"When you rent from a local you can ask, ‘Where's the best path around here?'" or "Where's the best burger in the neighborhood?'" he said.

Bike owners will also include perks, such as a helmet, locks, or lights for no additional charge.

Loureiro said city bike shares have helped encourage a bike culture and he does not consider the programs as competitors.

"People who never thought about biking are now starting to because of city bike shares. This means more bike lanes and more bike respect on the streets. This is all helping the culture," he said.

Renters using the app sign an agreement that they are responsible for damages and repairs such as flat tires. The company also provides insurance for owners against theft in the United States and Canada. Bike owners and renters can also review each other in the app.

Many bike share programs also have apps to locate nearby docks and available bikes. Spotcycle, for iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones, aggregates listings from bike sharing services across the world.

Spinlister, which launched last month, said it has more than 2,000 bicycles listed and is available internationally.

"It's really becoming a real cultural thing, a lifestyle," Loureiro said about cycling.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Mary Milliken)

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