Discovering amazing new places can be frustrating sometimes. Maybe you stumble on a great biking trail while out for a run. You walk past the Old Fourth Ward skate park and want to try out some boarding. Maybe you’re driving near the beach somewhere and wish you could get out on the water.
In all of these cases, you would probably be out of luck. Unless you can get home to pick up your surfboard/skateboard/bike or have convenient access to an equipment rental shop, you’re not going to be able to take advantage of the moment.
So many of our favorite activities require specialized gear, from balls to clothing to objects on wheels. And that requires either purchasing costly and bulky sports equipment and storing it, or going through the hassle of renting (after signing a release and leaving your driver’s license with some stranger). A lot of people might entertain the idea of a ball game if they happened upon a good court, but they won’t go to the trouble of going to the store to buy a new basketball.
That’s why I think there’s something to be said for having roaming sports rentals in major urban areas. There’s already infrastructure for it. Uber has been getting deeper into the logistics business with services like UberEats. This just takes that same concept one step further.
Imagine you stumble on a marvelous grassy field with a bunch of friends while out for a walk. You all wish you had a soccer ball to play a quick pick-up game. Normally, you’d be out of luck and might come back another day. With a roaming rental via Uber, you could ping a nearby Uber driver and (upon their arrival) grab a soccer ball from the trunk. Billing happens hourly. You can accept any terms electronically. Everything is seamless and fast.
When done, you’d just call another Uber and pass on the equipment. Or Uber could follow the Bird/Lime model and collect sports equipment at the end of the day, letting customers leave equipment out when finished.*
This solution saves you the cost of buying a soccer ball just for the occasion, and you get to enjoy sports with spontaneity. On the other hand, Uber drivers get to use some of their excess trunk space to carry goods people want to rent. It’s a use of existing resources which fits a need many people might feel on summer days near city parks around the country.
* One day it might be economical to create sports gear that can be tracked and “unlocked” for use by app users, a la Bird and Lime. This would eliminate the need for roaming rentals but still make sports gear easy to find, pick up, and start using.