I have to admit, when I first heard the words "Google bike", my first thought was about the Google Car project to build autonomous "driverless" cars, and wondered how that could possibly be adaptable to bikes.
A funny thought, but it turns out the Google Bike isn't at all about technology, its about sharing, convenience, and utility - some other Google traits that we run into with their products.
The Google Bike is essentially a bike-share program on the Google campus, minus all of the hi-tech parking stalls and subscription fees. In fact, they are pretty basic cruiser-type bikes for the most part. All analog. According to another Robert Johnson (no relation), who wrote a piece on the bikes earlier this year, it started in 2007, when Google bought 100 Huffies for their folks to ride to and from meetings and to Google shuttle bus stops (yes, they have a company shuttle service that runs to and from Google temporary housing, equipped with high-speed wireless hotspots and everything you need to keep working while on the go). That quiver of Huffies grew to a fleet in 2009 when they introduced the multi-colored "clown bikes", and they currently have 1,300 of the bikes around campus.
Homer said they are literally everywhere. No locks, just grab one and go. And apparently, the occasional one walks-away, never to return. Homer hasn't said how they manage the fleet, but according to Johnson's article, they are housed and maintained in a building near headquarters, and there are at least a few people on Google staff who take care of them and make sure there is always one handy for a fellow Googler to get to that next meeting.
I wonder if Homer will ever need to use the sweet Bianchi we shopped so hard (and he paid) for this past winter? If not, he knows my address.