Previous scholarship on the smart city has expressed concern at the top-down, technocratic nature of smart technologies and the lack of meaningful citizen participation in their development. In this paper, we utilize instrumentalization theory to trace the initiation, design and deployment of a specific smart city initiative: bikeshare
in Hamilton, Ontario. Smart bikeshare is increasingly seen as complicit in processes of social stratification, serving a predominately white, middle-class demographic and particular locales. Our case study reveals the potential of reflexive design praxes to reconfigure bikeshare as a platform for both instrumental and social value. In
particular, we highlight how collaborative, open and inclusive forms
of urban governance can enroll a broad range of civic actors to create a scheme that embodies diverse but complimentary goals and ideologies. We conclude that instrumentalization theory provides a conceptual means to open up the “black box” of urban design to critical interrogation, and to identify how to enact participatory design and citizen-centric smart urbanism.