The (Kinda Sorta) Update on Bike Nation and Long Beach

The lane has been long, the rack has been non-existent as of now–but it seems that the many questions to arise out of the Bike Nation bike share program that is to be implemented in Long Beach are at least half-answered.

The announcement last August that Bike Nation would invest some $12 million into a bike share program here in Long Beach was met with astounding cheers (and a few naysayers who, confused about Bike Nation fitting the bill as well as the correlation between increased bike usage and decreased crime, thought the investment was pointless).

It was resoundingly positive because it feels like Long Beach–particularly for a mid-sized city, is keeping up with its attempt at being bicycle-centric. After all, New York announced some five years ago that it will create a bike share program and just last week, set into motion the nation’s largest bike-share system, Citi Bike. The $41 million investment by Citigroup has 330 locations with 6,000 bikes–soon to be 600 locations with 10,000 bikes. Within a few days, the program was already hitting over 10,000 trips a day.

The success isn’t relegated to New York–one of the most bicycle heavy cities since over half of its population lives without a car–but is becoming a nationwide phenomenon. Bike sharing programs are unquestionably on the rise–with some 22 programs existing as of now, that number expected to double by next year, according to the Earth Policy Institute, with the current 9,000 fleet of shared bikes expected to hit more than 36,000.

So amidst all this grandeur and brouhaha, where does Long Beach sit? Bike Nation (finally) gave its first update with the ability of Long Beach citizens able to nominate kiosk locations… But tangibility seems to have been left entirely out of the question, particularly given that the company announced it would host its first kiosk downtown back in February.

Crickets.

However, there is a small light at the end of this seemingly up-and-down path: the city signed its contract with Bike Nation on March 1, effectively solidifying that the program will indeed go through.

“We’ve focused our efforts on effectively implementing important components of our operations plan, including completing the permitting process and determining station locations,” said Jeff Pomeroy, Bike Nation spokesperson. “We are currently on schedule and look forward to rolling out a robust bike share program to the City but are not to release a timeline and station locations until the completion of the permitting and site selection process.”

Continuing to work side-by-side with the city, it seems the bike share program–which Bike Nation also plans on creating for Los Angeles–will open, well, soon. We hope.

The mediocre response that remained so broad that it seemed scripted (shocker) continued when asked as to why April Economides–a local favorite amongst Long Beach bicyclists and one of our largest advocates–was laid off shortly after announcing that her firm, Green Octopus, would lead the public outreach for the program.

“We have put [our original consulting agreement with April] on hold as Bike Nation focuses its attention on operational implementation,” continued Pomeroy. “We think very highly of April and her company and hope to work with her again post-launch.”

So, here’s the ramble in succinct terms: the bike share program will happen at some time and they hope this some time will be soon and they might work with some of the locals they originally intended to.

  • ikegawataro

    yawn. These guys were supposed to have a station in LA last fall. Seems like a lot of hype with little execution.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Why would the city sign a contract with a company that has missed so many of their self-imposed deadlines? Speaking of which, is there any update on the plans for downtown LA, which they said would be operational back in April?

  • Bike Share.com
  • James C.

    Bike Nation’s business model hinges on their ability to get advertising rights in the cities they promised bike share. After all, Bike Nation is a subsidiary of Media Nation Enterprises, LLC (a company held by First Pacific Holdings); they are in the business of generating profits through advertising. Media Nation Enterprises cannot outbid the larger CBS and JC Decaux for advertising rights in these cities, so they are attempting to capture outdoor advertising market share through bike share advertising (and at a bargain price). Citibank paid $41M for their five year sponsorship of CitiBike; Mastercard contributed $6M to CitiBike; a total of $47M for five years of advertising rights. Bike Nation promised Los Angeles $16M worth of bike share and Long Beach $12M but how many years of advertising rights where they hoping to get in return?

    In my opinion, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Anaheim, and other cities that partnered with Bike Nation are making a mistake handing over a valuable revenue stream and the decision-making power that comes with control of that revenue stream. In NYC, the NYCDOT secured the $47M sponsorship deal with Citibank, giving them full control of the funding and decision making. This allowed them to set up NYC Bike Share LLC to manage the funds and hire Alta Bike Share to operate the system. Most importantly, NYCDOT will have access to operations data to make sure that the system is serving the public.

    As it looks now, LA will not be able to give advertising rights to Bike Nation. Some other company paid millions for those outdoor advertising rights for several years. Giving rights to Bike Nation would infringe on that companies market share and expose LA to a multi-million dollar lawsuit. I am not sure if that is the case in Long Beach. From a business point of view, I don’t expect Bike Nation to set up any bike share infrastructure until they secure advertising rights. The recent layoffs at Bike Nation are a sign that things are not going so well.

  • ikegawataro

    ughhh… I knew this deal was crap. I predict Santa Monica beats LA and Long Beach to the punch and has the first running bike share system in LA County.

  • Anonymous

    citibike big, but outdated

  • Anonymous

    though posted a social bicycle, also recommend looking at viaCycle and NextBike and for certain situations Zagster. Current approach too expensive.