As Cities Big and Small Move on Bike Share, LA and LB Wait for Bike Nation

It’s been no major secret that things with Bike Nation aren’t pedaling so well.

Following New York City’s successful launch of the Citibike bike share program —yes, successful even with its flaws—it remains disheartening that two of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation, Long Beach and Los Angeles, have yet to have their moment when they can share themselves (although there remains an irony that Portland is hitting many bumps as well).

The promises of delivered bicycles and bike kiosks by certain dates ultimately failed. Now it’s nigh impossible to get Bike Nation to provide new launch targets for their Los Angeles and Long Beach programs because they don’t want to disappoint (again).

The reason for the delay in Los Angeles? A (supposed) major company somehow not knowing the advertising parameters set by the second-largest city in the U.S.

Even worse is the criticism and issues that have faced the location it has actually managed to get kiosks into: Anaheim.

Anaheim didn’t receive the amount of kiosks it had been promised; instead of 10, it received three, despite multiple promises before the Bike Nation backed out of the city completely. Add this to bicyclists from Anaheim informing me that their kiosk became unworkable during the rain. Yes, we do have inclement weather in Southern California. Even though Bike Nation had a 24-hour service call line where they never received a complaint, they’ve yet to officially address the claim.

“The City of Anaheim did not walk out on the bike share program,” said Ruth Ruiz, spokesperson for the City of Anaheim. “They chose to walk out themselves.”

Granted: there were restrictions in Anaheim—in regard to advertising, permitting costs, and creating a program within a resort town (gotta love Disneyland). For a company that relies on revenue, these restrictions made the program unsustainable in both the short- and long-terms.

This enters a whole new arena of issues: Given Bike Nation continues to offer the costs of its programs, why would it would back out for… Costs it knew it had to uphold? Even more, what does this say about Bike Nation’s aforementioned issues with advertising revenue with Los Angeles (the other city, mind you, in which it has formed a we’ll-cover-the-costs agreement with, promising kiosk locations everywhere from Venice to Downtown)? Certainly one would hope—keyword being “hope”—that they wouldn’t back out, as they did with Anaheim, because of unforeseen costs that should fall under the umbrella of costs they claim to cover.

One can defend Bike Nation by saying that the program they helped develop in Anaheim was a pilot. In this sense, the City of Anaheim could issue a RFP, following the pilot, for a different bike share program, further proving unsustainable financially from Bike Nation’s perspective. But Bike Nation knew this going into their contract with Anaheim. Meaning, at least from an investment standpoint, they had assumed that Anaheim would be willing to re-invest them.

The ultimate question is not why Bike Nation left a contract but why they didn’t feel they could fulfill that contract once again (feeling antsy, Long Beach and LA?). Which would also, in turn, cause massive speculation for the rumors going around that they are being looked at by other municipalities (according to many, Bike Nation is still convincing other cities, despite having a single successful launch, that they’re the bikeshare program to go with).

This isn’t to say that Bike Nation hasn’t been working with various city officials; quite the contrary. From the Long Beach end, I know they’ve been working directly with City Manager Pat West—though to which extent remains unclear. After all, Long Beach (from a civic government perspective) has remained relatively cool with the project because it has nothing to lose since Bike Nation is forwarding the funds to create the program.

But even if the argument remains that, should Bike Nation finally speak on the record about its many issues, “bureaucracies” are a problem… Hmm… I’ll be honest and say that I still find many cars in the bike path about this.

If there is one thing that makes a bureaucracy a bureaucracy, outside of outright power, it is the dollar sign. I find it perturbingly difficult to believe that something which makes the population more happy, the city more accessible, and the area more recognizable, that all this is being held up by a bureaucracy outside of money, well… I find that whole speculation a bit off par. Even more, the dollar sign shouldn’t be a concern in this equation—because Bike Nation has claimed, via contract (at least with Long Beach) that it will take care of the dollar sign.

So, Bike Nation, let’s break down the questions everybody is asking: Are you okay? Where are we at with the country’s largest concentration of people in a single county? Is it a matter of money and if not, who are precisely the sponsors funding your (rather large) endeavor?

And y’know what? Lemme ask a blunt question to Long Beach and Los Angeles: Should we even wait for their answers?

  • AJ

    Can we talk about the bigger issue of LA’s street furniture advertising contracts? It’s my understanding that this is not only a key issue in bike share, but also for bus stops and BRT. Metro cannot do many bus stop improvements (shelters, etc.) for any local, rapid, or BRT lines within the City of LA because of this same damn contract. Yes, BikeNation appears to be unqualified and lacking the ability to make bikeshare a reality, but Alta Bike Share, etc. would run into the same issues with the City of LA.

  • Bike_Share_Enemy

    I know you don’t want to hear this, but this is VERY GOOD news; it’s a blessing in disguise. Let’s hope that bike sharing does not come to L.A. or L.B. Just focus on bicycle infrastructure, education, awareness, safety, etc. And, no, bike-sharing is not infrastructure. There’s no reason to jump on the bandwagon with the rest of the cities. Those other cities are going to regret their decisions in the future despite the success they may be having now. Yes, I’m asking you to trust an anonymous nobody.

    What really angers me is how you and all the other bike share advocates support ungenuine people like them and pretty much all the other bike sharing service providers. Our society does not move forward with this kind of behavior.

  • Bike_Share_Enemy

    Let me clarify bike sharing service providers. I’m talking about the ones like Bike Nation, Alta Bike Share, Deco, etc. I think Social Bicycles is genuine, can’t think of anyone else at the moment, but hopefully you get the idea.

  • Guest

    Want to see a review for the now non-existent Bike Nation Anaheim system? Check out our video! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZV7930-oMk

    Also check out our coverage of the LA Bike Share Permit here: http://bikeshare.com/2013/06/a-closer-look-at-bike-nations-los-angeles-agreement/

  • Juan Matute

    This will be the nail in the coffin for BikeNation. The Anaheim pilot project likely had 2 objectives:

    1) demonstrate competence in deploying and managing a bikeshare system to public sector stakeholders
    2) show potential investors that the business model can work

    With regards to #2, going into Anaheim was a mistake. Sure, the tourist-heavy area likely commands a premium for advertising space. However, BikeNation never rolled out ads. It would seem that BikeNation missed their shot at attracting a large-scale capital investor, something necessary to rolling out the larger bikeshare system necessary to amortize the fixed costs of bike development and permitting over a large number of advertising impressions. Thus, while it’s possible BikeNation may want to dabble with a series of pilot projects in Long Beach and Venice/Westwood to attract capital, the inability to convert the first pilot project will likely sour all but the least discriminate large-scale investors. The pilot should have cleared up some of the risk/return uncertainty, but instead it seems to have added to it.

    With regards to #1, it seems unlikely that any city would hand their bikeshare systems keys over to BikeNation (subsidized or unsubsidized, advertising or no advertising), given the perceived commitment problems.

  • BikeShareProfesional

    Bike Nation was just an idea, not a real operation. They dreamed big and delivered nothing but failure and disappointment. Their equipment was an experiment that never really worked properly. LA govt failed to follow any type of procurement procedure prior to announcing a grand 10-year program (illegal in most cities) under the guise of a ‘pilot’ program. And the fact that no one at Bike Nation or the city ever looked into conflicts for the outdoor advertising restrictions shows they are all amateurs. Bike sharing is a very specific niche market that requires a substantial amount of legal, technical, governmental and experiential knowledge, which Bike Nation simply lacked 100% (and the same goes for Mayor Villaraigosa and his staff office unfortunately). Every other city in the US has a strict experience requirement for bike share operators to place equipment in the public right of way, again LA failed on this important aspect, only leading us to believe there were substantial back room dealings and NO transparency in government which is normally mandated. There is no reason for other municipalities to wait around for Bike Nation when you have other experienced firms like Alta, DecoBike and Bcycle running major programs around the country. Besides, after walking out on Anaheim and flaking on LA, just how easy they are willing to default on their obligations.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    It looks like you have some strong negative opinions about bike share. I assume you’ve thought about this and written about it elsewhere – can you link to some of your discussion? Right now all we see is your negative emotional response, and not any of the criticisms that you have of the programs that exist in Washington, New York, Toronto, Montreal, etc., which many of us think have been quite successful, and good for the cities too.

  • Bike_Share_Enemy

    At this time, I can’t reveal the primary reason I’m against bike sharing, but I’m highly confident that it will prove that bike sharing will hurt the long-term goals of the livable streets community.

    Fortunately, I recently was able to come up with a secondary and tertiary reason. The secondary reason I have already begun discussing publicly, you may read it at the following link below. I think you’re going to have to read the whole discussion to get a better understanding, but if you want to skip to the heart of my secondary reason, just read the last post of the discussion.

    Hopefully, by the end of this year or early next, I’ll have a website dedicated to my efforts to end bike share in the U.S. At that time, I will reveal my tertiary reason, and eventually, I’ll finally reveal my primary reason.

    http://bikeportland.org/2013/07/05/guess-what-nycs-bike-share-system-is-popular-and-working-well-89689

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Interesting perspective. I would think that anything that makes life more pleasant for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users should count as a good thing for livable streets advocates, assuming it doesn’t increase injuries and fatalities.

    I think that getting people out of their cars is a good thing, even if it just means someone who used to use a car for 50% of their trips now using it for only 10% of their trips. I also think it’s good for people to get to their destination twice as fast, and to have four times as many destinations within a 10 minute radius, even if none of those people are habitual motorists. And the ability to get a larger part of the city on the transit system is also good (in places like Manhattan everything is already on the transit system, but it still facilitates crosstown connections in places where they are currently lacking).

    I still don’t see how anything you’ve said is a downside for bike share – this particular series of complaints is just a response to certain claimed benefits of it. But I’ll be interested to hear if you ever make your primary reason for opposition public.

  • Bike_Share_Enemy

    Keep in mind that what I wrote in that post was in the context of NYC’s bike share system. And, in that post, I emphasized that one of the primary goals of local transportation departments and livable streets advocates is to make streets safer. Currently, NYCDOT and livable streets advocates in NYC are making an effort to make the streets safer AND working on making transportation convenient. I don’t believe working on convenient transportation is the right thing to do at this time. The focus should be strictly on safety. Why? Every Friday, Streetsblog NYC tallies up the fatalities on the streets of NYC in their “The Weekly Carnage” list. When I read that list for the first time, it really struck a chord with me because I didn’t realize there were so many fatalities per week! I actually thought the average was 5-10 fatalities per year, not per week! I can’t help but think that at least one life next year could have been saved had safety been the sole focus, and not spending any resources on convenience. You understand what I’m trying to say here?

    I will definitely be making my primary reason public, I just can’t at this time. Vaguely speaking, the system is setup in a way that makes it extremely difficult for people like me to move forward. You have to give up something in order to move forward. I have no intentions of doing that even though I would stand to benefit immensely if I did. I see the bigger picture and know what the consequences would be if I were to give in, so I’ve had to figure out another way to move forward. This additional effort that I’ve had to put in is the reason it’s taking me so long to share with everyone what my primary reason is.

    I’m pretty sure I’m going to be the only vocal person against bike sharing, so you’ll eventually find my website when I get it up. We can discuss more at that time.

  • Anonymous

    Why does LA always have to go with unproven vendors?
    Couldn’t we just go with Bixi like every other city that has rolled out a successful bike sharing system? If its good enough for Boston, London, Melbourne, Minneapolis, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, DC, NYC, and Chicago, its good enough for us.

  • Bikeshare Friend

    Um, ya. So, told ya so.

    I would love to see a historical analysis of the comments on all LA Streetsblog comments on Bike Nation articles. Personally, I sent all the information I had to the LA Times, the OC Register, and even the OC Weekly. All the BS connections, missed deadlines, BS subsidiaries, and issues with copyright were fairly well-detailed.

    But still others like myself and Bike_Share_Enemy were fairly vocal about all the behind-the-scenes dealings. We knew Bike Nation would be horrible for the Southland. Though Enemy and I have different motivations, we both knew that Bike Nation was bad.

    Hopefully, someone plans to do a proper expose. If Streetsblog plans on it, let me know and I’ll share what I’ve had for quite a while.

  • Bikeshare Friend

    Because Bike Nation promised “FREE!!” (pending unlimited access to advertising revenue and an unreal number of tourist users). OCTA, Anaheim, LA, and Long Beach fell for the “FREE!!” line so hard that they didn’t want to hear any other voice.

  • Anonymous

    What’s the expression? Something about getting what you pay for? ;)

  • Bike_Share_Enemy

    Bike_Share_Friend!!!!! we need to keep in contact somehow, what’s the best way to do this? Do you still access that email you gave me?

  • Bike_Share_Enemy

    And yes, Bike_Share_Friend has a lot of info on this, more so then I was expecting. That’s why I’m really curious as to who you are. I love the passion you have even though we’re currently not on the same side of the fence.

  • Bike_Share_Enemy

    Btw, Bike_Share_Friend!, the last time we talked here on SB, I couldn’t discuss in detail the primary reason why I’m against bike sharing, and I still can’t. But, I was able to come up with a secondary reason that I am able to discuss in public. I mentioned it in my replies to Kenny Easwaran below. I was wondering what your thoughts were in regards to my secondary reason?

  • Anonymous

    The city of Los Angeles was not intending to spend money on bike sharing through an arrangement with Bike Nation, in much the same way as they do not for bus benches or shelters. This was going to be another form of street furniture provided for free if the vendor could get enough outdoor advertising to make a profit off of it.

    The Bike sharing system in New York City is not costing the city anything other than for some oversight and research into the viability of it, which so far has cost less than $2 million.

    Enough storage space for vehicles in large cities is a problem whether it involves bicycles or motor vehicles. A huge problem for New York City for increasing the rate of bicycling was what to do with your bike once you reached your destination and the fear of it being stolen if you left it outside for any length of time.

    Having a bicycle share system where each bicycle is used 6 or 7 times a day reduces the amount of parking spaces needed in much the same way as having taxi cabs which give rides to several people a day. It would take a lot more space if each person who took a ride in a taxi cab would have instead driven their own car.

    Creating parking spaces for bicycles which takes away space from other uses is much easier to do if those bicycles are made available for use by a large segment of the population.

    It also doesn’t cost NYC anything to install those bicycle share docking stations, the vendor does it. Literally, in a matter of months, thousands of bicycle parking spaces were created that can accommodate what would be the equivalent of several times that amount if it was for bicycles that each user owned.

  • Bike_Share_Enemy

    I completely understand the two points you’re trying to make.

    Your first point: there is little to no taxpayer money being used on some of these bike sharing systems because they’re being treated as street furniture in which advertising/sponsorship and membership fees would cover their costs. In the case of NYC, a little less than $2 million of taxpayer money was used, and the rest of the costs are being covered by sponsorship and membership fees. But, I would also like to add the at least one PAID federal employee at NYCDOT who is responsible for their part of the bike sharing system in NYC. In addition, I would also like to add all of the PAID non-profit employees working at organizations such as Transportation Alternatives, Streetsblog, etc. who promoted and/or assisted in anyway with bringing bike sharing to NYC.

    Your second point: there is a bicycle storage space problem in NYC and so bike sharing would help alleviate that problem. Let me also add that it would also help alleviate overcrowding issues with public transit, alleviate first/last mile issues associated with public transit, alleviate travel time issues such as enabling pedestrians to more quickly reach their destinations, and alleviate any other issues of inconvenience as well.

    Now that we’re on the same page, I’m wondering, are you aware of the inordinate amount of fatalities on the streets of NYC? All you have to do is take a glance at Streetsblog NYC’s “The Weekly Carnage” posted every Friday to get an idea.

    When there is an appalling amount of people being killed on the streets unnecessarily, the focus on street safety is suppose to be above all else. And, you scrounge up every possible resource available to fix the problem. Or, demonstrate that every possible effort is being made to fix the problem because the families and friends of those who were killed on the streets deserve that at the very least.

    But, no, leadership in NYC says they need to make transportation convenient FOR THOSE ALREADY CONTRIBUTING TO MAKING THE STREETS SAFER.

  • Bikeshareguru

    Bike Nation is very bad for bike share, very good at So Cal Politics. If Fullerton/OC had chosen another vendor (any other vendor), they would have a real system on the ground by now. These guys are a joke.

  • Anonymous

    There seems to be a correlation between more bicycle riders, or pedestrians and a lower injury rate for bicycling or pedestrians. Drivers seem to pay much more attention to whether there are cyclists or pedestrians when they regularly see them in an area.

    Out of the first 500,000 Citi bike trips in NYC there were only 3 reported collisions. That’s a fairly low rate of injuries per 100,000 bike rides.

    A much larger quantity of people riding bicycles creates a greater awareness of the need for better bicycling infrastructure by those who use it.

    The annual memberships to Citi Bike is approaching 90,000 in less than four months and has hit 40,000 rides a day on several occasions. That’s a lot of bicycle riders for its modal share in NYC.

    This data creates more political awareness of how much the bicycle infrastructure is used in the area where bicycle sharing is available. Thereby countering the pleas from those who would like to have the existing bike lanes removed.

    Judging from the 70% approval for bicycle sharing for a recent poll in NYC, the instantaneous success of Citi Bike may have saved some bike lanes from being removed by the next mayor. In fact, with probably 100,000 annual memberships in Citi Bike signups by the end of the year and at least 1,000 more bikes expected in the system, it would be very difficult for the next mayor to start trying to remove bicycle infrastructure in lower Manhattan or upper Brooklyn where Citi Bikes are located.

  • Hector R.

    I hope that leaders in Long Beach move on from Bike Nation and use their previously awarded Metro grants (that were specifically intended to implement a bike share system) to bring in an experienced bike share operator. Dreams…

  • Bike_Share_Enemy

    When I finally was able to come up with a sound argument against bike sharing that I could publicly discuss, I specifically mentioned what you have said. One of the reasons a local transportation department would implement a bike sharing system is because it may prove beneficial from a safety perspective. A bike sharing system would produce a near instantaneous increase in the number of bicyclists on the streets. As a result, the “safety in numbers” effect would come into play, bicyclists would be more pronounced on the streets, motorists would be more attentive while driving, so the number of collision incidents with bicyclists/pedestrians would decrease.

    Now, I also mentioned that in order to determine the efficacy of a bike sharing system from a safety perspective, all you would have to do is see if there is a significant drop in the number of fatalities on the streets a year or so after the implementation of the bike sharing system. The reason we want to look at the fatalities number is because it’s always reported, non-fatal incidents may or may not be reported.

    I do not agree with your assessment that without bike sharing in NYC, it would be possible that the next mayor would have bike lanes removed. The momentum of bicycling in NYC has reached a formidable level, so it unlikely the mayor would do anything without risking a severe backlash from the livable streets community. And, even if it did come to a point where the mayor started removing bike lanes, I have high confidence that the livable streets community would be able to fight back.

  • Anonymous

    Its very unlikely that there would have been as many bicycle parking spaces created by now in New York City or Chicago without bicycle sharing. This is the equivalent of putting in hundreds of bicycle corrals all over each of these cities. Portland is the leader in the number of bike corrals with about one hundred and this took many years to install.

    Literally overnight, bicycling became more mainstream instead of a just a niche in New York City when Citi Bike went into operation. People in suits and dresses riding upright on bicycles in Manhattan are now seen routinely. No longer is it just mainly those using sporty bikes who look quite different that the typical person walking or riding the subway, or in a cab. Now, they look more like all the same people.

    This has got to be absolutely trans formative in terms of political will in supporting bicycle infrastructure improvements. Plus, any profits from the NYC bicycle sharing will be split with the city. This could provide more funding for bicycle infrastructure.

    There is very little downside to having a bicycle sharing system in NYC. The fierce competition for space, difficulties in finding locations to install bicycle parking, problems with theft and no place to store your bicycle inside makes New York a ideal city for bicycle sharing. Its a win-win situation that created results would have been much more difficult to duplicate in such a short period of time using any other method.

  • James

    bikeshareenemy has blessed us with quaternary, quinary, senary, septenary and octonary reasons for opposing bike shire! I can’t wait for him to reveal his great wisdom and wow us with his, tertiary, seconday and finally his primary reason for his opposition. Is he a futurist with a great innovation that will render bike sharing redundant or just stuck in the basement, typing under a bare light bulb?

  • James

    If you and your city are stupid enough to fall for InsoldoBreda (insolvent bread uh?) you are probably also stupid enough to fall for bike nation.

  • Bike_Share_Enemy

    You’re deluded to think that bicyclists in NYC were mainly sportive types before bike sharing arrived. The streets of NYC are not even conducive to sport cycling. Sure, there are sportive types that congregate in certain areas such as Central Park, but they barely make up the majority of all bicyclists in NYC. The majority of bicyclists have been and always will be as you have described: every day people in every day attire.

    All profits, not just a portion, from NYC’s bike sharing system should be going towards better bicycling/pedestrian infrastructure until fatalities on the streets have dropped significantly. It’s unfortunate that the livable streets advocates in NYC have enabled ungenuine / the 1% enabling / the 1% sympathizing / the 1% aspiring people to have a share in the profits. I’m hoping better leadership comes to NYC in the future.

    While bike sharing may be a short-term/overnight success, it also brings with it two very significant downsides. First, the long-term goals of the livable cities/streets community will be negatively impacted; this claim I will prove in the future. Second, since resources was squandered on bike sharing in order to provide a convenient transportation option, rather than being used on effective initiatives to make streets safer, the chances of someone being killed on the streets by an automobile is increased.

  • Bike_Share_Enemy

    JimmyJames!!!

    You’re close. Stuck in a car, typing under the shade of trees in a parking lot during daylight hours and under a fluorescent lamppost in a parking lot during nighttime hours.

  • Dennis Hindman

    Its very unlikely that there would be a bike sharing system in NYC if it wasn’t started by a for profit company. This additional money that the city could obtain would be much less likely to materialize without the profit sharing from bicycle sharing. It cost $50 million to buy and install the CitiBike kiosks, docking stations and bikes and none of that came from the city government.

    What resources are squandered if NYC is likely to get back the $2 million, or so, that they spent overseeing and studying the possibility for bicycle sharing? The only city resource lost is the public space that each bike station takes up.

    More bicycles on the street tends to lessen the risky of injury for each rider. Drivers tend to be much more alert for the presence of bicycle riders when there are more of them.

    Its much easier politically to put in bicycle infrastructure when you have more of the population bicycling. CitiBike has added an average of over 30,000 bicycle rides a day to NYC. That has also likely stimulated a increase in people using their own bikes.

    Bicycle sharing has enabled bicycling in NYC to much more quickly move into the mainstream. Its a win-win situation for NYC.

  • MT

    Does not surprise me that BikeNation is a complete failure it is owned by two complete idiots, Brad and Navin.

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