At its worst, the spate of vandalism and damage that has rocked Biki during the Covid-19 era slashed the fleet of distinctive, aquamarine bikes nearly in half. 

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However, representatives of Honolulu’s first major bikeshare system say they’ve managed to replenish more bikes in recent weeks after police identified a person of interest in some of those vandalism cases. 

 

No arrests have been made, although the Honolulu Police Department has multiple active investigations that involve the theft of Biki bikes and parts, according to spokeswoman Michelle Yu.

That effort has helped Biki replenish its fleet from a low of just 600 bikes in service in July to nearly 1,000 bikes currently, says Todd Boulanger, the executive director of Biki’s parent organization, Bikeshare Hawaii.

At its pre-pandemic peak, Biki had nearly 1,300 bikes available for rental at some 130 docking stations from Iwilei to Diamond Head. Biki officials have previously stressed that for the bikeshare to operate effectively — and to attract customers — it needs to have a sufficient number of bikes available for use across the entire system.

Biki still faces a separate, steep obstacle to restoring its fleet to the nearly 1,300 bicycles in service before the pandemic. An international shortage of bicycle replacement parts persists, part of the much larger shipping and logistics issues experienced during Covid.

“The worldwide search for parts … continues,” Boulanger said. Obtaining replacement parts can take anywhere between six and 18 months, he added.

Biki Executive Director Todd Boulanger walks into the entrance of Biki offices in Kakaako filled with damaged bikes.
Biki Executive Director Todd Boulanger walks into the entrance of Biki offices in Kakaako filled with damaged bikes. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Community members helped identify some of those responsible for the widespread Biki vandalism, including a lucky break of closed-circuit television footage that caught someone in the act, Boulanger said. 

Biki has turned a corner not only in curbing the vandalism but also in rescuing its long-term viability, he added. The bikeshare now expects to stay in service through 2022, largely thanks to Hawaii’s pre-delta variant surge in tourism.

In April, Biki had announced it would have to cut service by up to 50% after it saw ridership plunge in half in 2020 compared to pre-pandemic levels. Ultimately, it didn’t have to make such deep cuts, Boulanger said. 

Ridership rebounded to about 95% of pre-pandemic levels for several months before the delta variant sent Covid-19 cases soaring in Hawaii. Biki also benefited from a scarcity in local rental cars. The service only removed seven stations and it’s currently in the process of restoring those, he said.

Ridership has fallen again since the delta variant hit, although not as much as 50%, Boulanger said.

“It’s kind of a roller-coaster,” he said. “It’s down, it’s up. We hope to see it back up again for the holiday season.”

The service mainly depends on what Boulanger described as a “four-legged stool” of customers. That includes tourists, local college and high school students, Waikiki and Kakaako residents who don’t depend heavily on cars and workers who commute downtown and then use the bikes to run short errands.

For the service to thrive, all four legs of the stool must return following the Covid pandemic, he said.

Biki reports that there have been some 4.3 million rides on its bikes around urban Honolulu since it launched in summer 2017. Those rides have removed some 9.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, the service estimated in a media release last week.

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