With the huge success of the bike-sharing scheme around the country showing that the Irish can responsibly borrow things, isn’t it high time we considered other everyday objects that our community can rally behind in a sharing scheme? Or perhaps that should be rally under.
In what could easily blow apart the small trade in useless umbrellas that explode with even the most breathless puff of wind, a Canadian company has developed the world’s first automated umbrella sharing service, allowing people in Vancouver to pick up one whenever it unexpectedly starts to rain outside and they’ve left their brollies at home.
Much like the bike schemes, of which the Irish one is heralded as one of the most successful worldwide, UmbraCity asks users to sign up with a credit card and email address, in order to keep tabs on any umbrellas that are removed from their base station.
It’s free to sign up to the scheme, and an umbrella can be taken from one of its stations free of charge for a period of up to 48 hours. Provided a pedestrian returns the borrowed brolly within two days, the service is entirely free. But those forgetful folks who absentmindedly fail to return their umbrellas will incur a charge of $2 per day, up to a maximum charge of $20 (€13.60).
In a country where the average number of rainy days per year varies from 151 along the east and southeast coasts to 225 days in parts of the west, remembering to carry an umbrella should be second nature to us. But for those of us who are forgetful, or who look at the sky in the morning and get conned into thinking it’d be better not to carry one, UmbraCity could proved to be a very welcome addition to our towns and cities.
As it stands, the company is only just beginning to trial the service, with four stations set up on the campus of the University of British Columbia. If it proves a hit, they hope to expand to other parts of Vancouver – and then to every rainy place in the world.