Oahu Needs A Bigger, Juicier Biki - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Peter Rosegg

Peter Rosegg was until recently senior spokesperson for Hawaiian Electric and he now hosts “The Two-Wheel Revolution” on ThinkTechHawaii.com. He has an electric bike and does bicycle touring in Europe and on the mainland.

Getting to more neighborhoods is essential. Electric bikes could help.

Don’t get me wrong when I say we need a better Biki. Biki is great.

It is one of the nation’s top bikeshare systems (with New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco area and D.C.) and Biki helped Honolulu through the pandemic.

Amid the rental-car shortage, when daily rates shot up to $500 to $700, Biki experienced and managed a nearly 600% growth in casual users as many visitors used Biki bikes to save their vacations from disaster. This happened at a time when Biki expected a year of slow build-back growth with many residents staying home.

As Todd Boulanger, Biki executive director, put it in the latest annual report, “Biki made transportation in Honolulu more resilient, covering for the disinvestment of rental car companies by providing a way for the rapid influx of tourists to move around town affordably and to experience Honolulu.”

Boulanger was a guest recently on “The Two-Wheel Revolution” streaming video interview program on ThinkTechHawaii.com, talking about the present and future of bikeshare in Honolulu and beyond. Visit www.twowheelrevolution.weebly.com to watch.

We talked a bit about two often heard words in the world of personal mobility and bikeshare: equity and diversity. For Honolulu, equity and diversity would mean expanding the Biki footprint beyond the urban core with more stations in Kalihi and further Ewa and out toward East Oahu.

Keeping prices affordable is important, and Biki strives to do that. But getting to more neighborhoods is essential.

One key to equity/diversity is electric bikes. It’s not reasonable for a worker to commute from and to Kalihi or Hawaii Kai to Ala Moana, Waikiki, Kakaako or downtown on a pedal-only bike. Dedicated cyclists do it, sure, but most people don’t want to arrive at work huffing, puffing and sweating.

Todd Boulanger is executive director of Bikeshare Hawaii. (Kelsey Colpitts of Biki/2018)

And for everyone working or living in urban areas, an electric bike is a much more attractive way to go to lunch or a meeting across town and back. Again, the huff-puff and sweat factor!

The report, “Shared Micromobility in the U.S. 2020-2021,” from the National Association of City Transportation Officials, noted, “By the end of 2021, two-thirds of station-based bike share systems had e-bikes, and a quarter of all station-based system bikes in the U.S. were electric. … The popularity of shared e-bikes will only grow in the coming years, especially as e-bike sales begin to outpace those of electric vehicles.”

I asked Boulanger what it would take to match most large bikeshare systems by adding electric bikes and more stations, he had a simple answer: “Money!”

How much? $24 million to $36 million. That’s not small change, compared to the $12 million investment in Biki to date. But compare it with the cost of dozens of rail systems change orders, do-overs and repairs to rails and pylons, it comes into perspective.

And an expansion of Biki stations and addition of electric bikes could be achieved much, much faster than rail and arguably benefit more people than rail sooner.

Everyone benefits from Biki — as from TheBus — not just riders but vehicle drivers and pedestrians, whether they use Biki or not. More personal mobility reduces congestion and noise, as well as emissions and Biki riders also get the health benefits of bicycling.

Better infrastructure is also essential to Biki and two-wheel vehicle riders generally and the City and County of Honolulu continues to expanded the bike lane system and make other improvements through the Complete Streets program.

Better infrastructure is also essential to Biki.

Last year brought 3.8 miles of new or improved bikeways, four traffic calming projects, 600 trees planted on city streets, plus pedestrian and transit improvements. More is planned for 2023. All good.

But if Biki is going to rise to the next level and serve more people and our community more effectively, businesses, individuals and government are going to have to find the will and commit funding to expand Biki with more stations and a fleet of electric bicycles.

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About the Author

Peter Rosegg

Peter Rosegg was until recently senior spokesperson for Hawaiian Electric and he now hosts “The Two-Wheel Revolution” on ThinkTechHawaii.com. He has an electric bike and does bicycle touring in Europe and on the mainland.

Latest Comments (0)

You know what an electric bike is? It's called a "motorcycle". Electric bikes are trying to exploit a hole in regulatory status by pretending to be bicycles, then committing offenses like riding on sidewalks like many bicyclists do. But I digress. As a motorcyclist for five decades, the article leaves out the biggest thing cars offer in Hawaii: rain protection. Unlike California, it's probably raining somewhere between points A and B. Want to experience rain on a motorcycle? Turn your shower on cold full blast, step in fully clothed, now operate a piece of complex machinery with your eyes open facing the water. It's great. At the dawn of the powered vehicle age motorcycles (and bicycles for that matter) were the most common form of transportation since cars were out of reach financially. They were quickly relegated to niche status once people could afford cars. You see the same thing with developing economies in Asia (remember when China was full of bicycles in the big cities, but they are full of cars today). Same thing with young people in the US, how many stick with scooters? Electric bikes are not a signifciant mobility solution, they will always remain a niche player.

EasyRider · 7 months ago

I mean, bike share is great and all, but it's never going to be very successful until we finally fix our infrastructure so that it's actually safe to bike on this island. We need a solid network of protected bike lanes, not the 2-4 ft wide unprotected gutter lanes on stroads with cars going 50+ mph that we have now. Honestly, until it's safe to bike here, I'd argue that it's unethical for the government to enact these initiatives meant to encourage biking--it's like feeding a pig up for slaughter. The city needs to stop messing around with cute little bike racks and biki bikes and actually do the work needed to convert our stroads into streets safe for cyclists and pedestrians.

Mathgal112 · 7 months ago

Most large cities have several bike providers, most without the clumsy, space hungry docking stations. Competition always brings prices down and offers more types of bikes and choices. None of this works without dedicated bike paths, off the main roads and of course bike parking.

wailani1961 · 7 months ago

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