Bike Share Expansion to East Bay Approved Despite Manufacturer’s Bankruptcy

April 24, 2014 0:06 am · 16 comments

The Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved $8.7 million in funding this morning to expand the Bay Area Bicycle Share program to the East Bay in 2015 despite delays in existing expansion plans caused by the bankruptcy of a key business.

An expansion of Bay Area Bike Share’s existing program in San Francisco, San Jose, Mountain View and Palo Alto planned for this year has already been delayed because the manufacturer of the bikes and docking stations filed for bankruptcy, according to a spokesman for the BayArea Air Quality Management District, which has been overseeing the bike sharing program.

In a statement the Montreal-based Public Bike System Company, also known as Bixi, announced it was filing for bankruptcy because customers had withheld $5.6 million in payments because of delays in rollouts of its technology.

Air district spokesman Tom Flannigan said today that there haven’t been any issues with the company’s technology so far in the Bay Area, as have been reported in cities like New York and Chicago.

“We’ve been really fortunate, we haven’t had those same problems here,” Flannigan said. “Our program is running pretty smoothly.”

But a planned program expansion from an existing 700 bikes to 1,000 later this year has so far made no progress as Bixi is no longer manufacturing bicycles, Flannigan said. He said the company was recently sold but it remains unclear if or when production will resume.

Flannigan said that he does not anticipate that the company will fold entirely. The air district is monitoring the situation closely and still hopes to add 300 bikes to the system by the end of this year, he said.

The air district is in the process of transitioning management of the bike share system to the MTC, which will oversee the proposed addition of about 750 bikes to the East Bay.

The East Bay expansion would place about 400 bikes in Oakland, 350 in Berkeley, and some in Emeryville at locations such as colleges, BART stations, and other transit hubs such as the Emeryville Amtrak station.

MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler said today that while Bixi’s bankruptcy filing “creates a sense of uncertainty,” the underlying business model and idea of bike sharing remains sound.

He said that public demand for the bikes has been positive but that there were still challenges to overcome, including finding a private sector partner for the enterprise.

A report to an MTC board committee earlier this month said that the program has seen significant popularity in its pilot period, particularly in San Francisco, where the majority of the bikes are located.

There are 69 existing bike share stations in San Francisco, San Jose, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City, with 35 of those in San Francisco. About 90 percent of the regions 171,039 bike share rides have been in San Francisco, according to the MTC.

Existing established systems in New York and Minneapolis have about four rides per bike per day, and San Francisco, with more limited infrastructure so far, has averaged about two bike rides per bike per day, considered a successful pilot launch, according to the MTC.

Other cities, particularly on the Peninsula, have significantly lagged behind, such as Redwood City, which has seen only 0.09 rides per bike per day, the MTC said. The MTC will be conducting a more thorough analysis in those cities, reevaluating the location of the bike sharing stations and conducting outreach campaigns to pick up the pace.

But the East Bay, with good access to public transit, major colleges and universities, and a large base of existing bike share users, is considered a prime location for expansion of the bike share program. The MTC is conducting an evaluation of the best placement options for docking stations that will be presented at a meeting later this year.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan lauded the proposed expansion at a news conference outside the MTC building in Oakland this afternoon.

“Our real goal is to get people out of their cars and improve their health and the economy,” Bates said.

Quan said bikes probably will be stationed in the downtown area initially and later on they will be stationed in other parts of the city.

Speaking alongside Bates and Quan, Renee Rivera, the executive director of Bike East Bay, said having the bike share program in Oakland and Berkeley is important because “we have a very dense urban area here.”

Rivera said there is an interest in expanding the bike share program to other places in the East Bay, including Fremont and the Tri-Valley area.

The bike share program allows members to pick up bikes at a station and ride them to another station at their destination.

Membership in the program costs $88 per year, $22 for a three-day membership or $9 for a 24-hour membership. Trips of 30 minutes or less are free for members, 30-60 minute trips cost $4, and each additional 30 minutes costs $7.

The program primarily is intended as a first- and last-mile transit option for public transit riders, with docking stations at train and ferry terminals and at locations 1-2 miles from public transit, enabling riders to bike to their destination without carrying a bicycle.

The Realist April 24, 2014 at 12:49 AM

*cough* Solyndra *cough*

BlackHole April 24, 2014 at 1:08 AM

Why not piss $$ down a rathole huh?

The District is also considering.... April 24, 2014 at 1:36 AM

purchase of a fleet of Yugos.

hot wheels April 24, 2014 at 5:51 AM

When the majority are riding bicycle, and not paying tax on gas/diesel/or having to pay the utility monopoly monster, what is the state going to doing when all that cash stops flowing? I will give you a clue….they will just jack us up for higher taxes.
All in the name of a made up environmental disaster about to happen.

Pedalin' Pinhead April 24, 2014 at 6:03 AM

I’m a tree huggin’, granola eatin’, bicycle fanatic that believes bicycles can save the world, or at least the soul of this petro-choked nation, but this socialized bicycle scheme stinks on ice.

The economic beauty of bicycling is that for less than $1000 you can buy a very decent bike, custom fitted and outfitted for YOU not a “people’s bike”, maintenance costs are near zero, no use taxes, and you can go wherever and whenever the heck you want. There is not space in this forum to list all the reasons this is a dumb idea.

Who are ... April 24, 2014 at 6:09 AM

the customers that aren’t paying?. The cities,
or the bike users?.
This system works in many countries, why not

KenInConcord April 24, 2014 at 6:36 AM

REALLY? Let’s spend the tax payers money on a failing Canadian company because it is environmentally cool and supports the BAAQD’s unpopular agenda.

I wish these government employees would be required to invest their life savings in any project before a dime of tax payers money was spent there. Let’s see how far the high speed rail project would progress if that were the case.

Use that money to encourage a place where the FREE MARKET could thrive! Not social engeering at the tax payers expense!!

Safety Second April 24, 2014 at 6:48 AM

Socialist programs can’t survive in a free market society. Cheap-ass people need to get a job and buy their own bicycle. Even the whores at BAAQMD can’t piss away enough taxpayer money to keep their utopian bike program alive.

Greg Merritt April 24, 2014 at 7:08 AM

Bummer about the delays. This program is fantastic! I’ve used similar systems in other cities, and it is a great way to make travel better for everyone, as many short trips can leave the car or taxi behind and clear up the roads for everyone.

bumper morgan April 24, 2014 at 8:22 AM

Wow…who’s surprised? idiotic government strikes again.

Read above April 24, 2014 at 9:00 AM

negative comments to understand why nothing
works in California or anywhere these people exist.
there is no “free market” in America, just look
at the re- alignment of the major drug companies,
each getting their own market segment to control
rather than compete with each other.
Oh brother!

Connie Dobbs April 24, 2014 at 9:17 AM

There’s already a bike-share program in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. It’s involuntary….

Beacon April 24, 2014 at 10:08 AM

I used this program in NYC. It was a very convenient way to move around a crowded city. Think of how long it would take to drive 10 blocks and the expense of parking once you’re there. Or the time it takes to hail a cab.

Yes, bikes are green and some people have a problem with anything that doesn’t burn petroleum, But a bike is also a great option for a short trip in an urban environment. I hope this company is able to work through the business issues.

KenInConcord April 24, 2014 at 10:49 AM

Connie Dobbs!!!! your hilarious, Love it!

Concord Living April 24, 2014 at 11:17 AM

Actually Connie, we have a “bike share” program too, at the Concord and North Concord Bart stations. Pick up a bike and ride from station to station or anywhere else, apparently.

MrDioji April 24, 2014 at 10:51 PM

@pinhead #5
Can you at least name one reason why it is a bad idea? There is room in the forum for that.
Sure people can spend $1000 on a bike. Guess what, that’s a lot of money to a lot of people. Also, although BART has lessened the restrictions on bikes on trains during rush hour, it is unreliable to count on being able to get on an uncrowded train to the East Bay at 5:30. This is a great last-mile alternative for those who do not wish to lug their bike around (I personally don’t mind doing that). I imagine for many people, $88 a year sure beats $1000 + worrying about places to lock it, etc.

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