A NEW WAY TO GET AROUND
Shuttle bikes may start next spring
By Dave Dondoneau
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dave Dondoneau
Bike sharing, popular in several European countries and in its infancy in many U.S. cities, may be coming to O'ahu next spring in a privately funded pilot program.
Nguyen Le's Momentum B-cycle proposal would allow people who pay for the service to hop on a bike in Manoa and leave it at a designated rack in Waikiki without worrying about where to park. Riders could also bike to and from Aloha Tower, Ala Moana Center and Downtown.
The rack locations haven't been secured yet, Le said, but several business owners have expressed interest.
"It's so early in the process right now that the bikes and racks are still being tested by the national vendor," Le said. "We should have them on order by late November or early December and we'll have contracts signed soon with businesses who want the racks at their locations."
Momentum B-cycle is targeted to launch June 1. Le's goal is to eventually have bike racks across O'ahu and within a five-mile radius of rail transit stops.
"The intent is to make it easier for residents and tourists to connect to mass transit and key locations," Le said. "It's good for the community.
"The beauty of bike sharing is we're not going to ask people to ride long distances. It's designed for distances of five miles, max. This program will make it easier for people to use TheBus, TheBoat and the rail."
Chris Sayers, bicycle coordinator for the city Department of Transportation, said the city will monitor bike sharing because it could work well with mass transit.
"The devil is in the details," Sayers said. "Right now, the bike-share program doesn't have much to do with us, but in theory, it looks really good."
FEES ON SLIDING SCALE
Le said daily, weekly, monthly and yearly bike-sharing passes will be available.
To ensure quick use of the bikes, Le said, the first half-hour of ride time will be free. The next half-hour costs riders $2, the next 30 minutes is $5 and so on. Billing will stop at $100, but if a bike isn't returned within 48 hours, the user's credit card will be billed the cost of the bike — currently $900.
"One reason bike sharing has failed in the past is people would keep the bikes overnight," Le said. "The way we're looking at it is, if you're not responsible enough to have a credit card, you're not responsible enough to bike share."
To start, 100 bikes will be available at 10 solar-powered bike racks with locks that are released with the swipe of a bike-share pass or a credit card.
Bikes will be available 24/7.
The startup cost is about $400,000 and will be privately funded, Le said.
Sayers said the state looked into bike sharing about 10 years ago, but it was a modest plan to use older bikes and it had no real security system. It never got off the ground, he said.
Technology, such as being able to connect the bike racks and locks through wireless communication, has given this generation of bike sharing a better chance at succeeding, he said.
Another thing working in favor of Momentum B-cycle is the planned rail system. The city's master bike plan, scheduled to be released next summer, is expected to include bike paths near rail stops, Sayers said.
"If rail is on schedule and the master bike plan is implemented, the two could come together with bike sharing to make it easier to use mass transit," Sayers said. "With bike sharing you need critical mass to make it work. I know if it were available when transit comes I could see taking the rail to get to Kapolei, then bike share over to the West O'ahu campus."
Le said he sees the pilot program in constant growth.
"Our target is to deploy two to three additional bike stations per month continually around Honolulu after the initial launch," Le said, with many more coming with the start of the rail system.
Paris launched a bike-sharing system in July 2007 that has doubled in size and now uses 20,000 bikes at 1,450 automated stations, Le said.
He said similar rapid growth has occurred in Barcelona, Spain; Munich, Germany; Helsinki, Finland; Vienna, Austria; and some other European cities.
In the United States, SmartBike was inaugurated in Washington, D.C., this year and Minneapolis, Denver and Portland are developing or using similar programs.
"It really has some interesting merits, especially for short trips in given areas of town," said Ed Kurzenski, an 'Aina Haina resident who works downtown.
"A rack at the King Street and Punchbowl bus stop would be perfect," he said. "If you work Downtown and need to go to Honolulu Hale, bike sharing is great for that, or to get to Ward or Ala Moana."
Ricky Armstrong is a McCully resident who works for Japan Airlines at Honolulu International Airport. A bicycle enthusiast, Armstrong said that while bike sharing may not be for him, he believes it's perfect for college students in Manoa who need to get to Waikiki.
"I ride for my health and never catch the bus," Armstrong said. "But for others, this could be great.
"I could see racks used near the zoo in Waikiki and at UH. Downtown, I don't know. It's illegal to ride on the sidewalks and those stretches of road are so bad for traffic, it's dangerous for bike riders."
Reach Dave Dondoneau at email@example.com.