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Supporters launch petition asking city to save Biki, Honolulu’s bikeshare program

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                An audit late last year criticized the city’s oversight of Biki, saying that it did not get a share of Bikeshare’s fare or sponsorship revenue despite similar arrangements in other municipalities.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    An audit late last year criticized the city’s oversight of Biki, saying that it did not get a share of Bikeshare’s fare or sponsorship revenue despite similar arrangements in other municipalities.

The Blue Planet Foundation has launched an online petition to support Biki, Honolulu’s first bikeshare program, which is at risk of shutting down.

The petition, entitled “SAVE BIKI: Ask Honolulu Leaders to Embrace Biki as Public Transit,” had 990 signatures as of noon today, well within the goal of 1,000 after six days.

“We wanted to launch this petition to show how many people in our community support Biki and view it as an essential public transportation resource in Honolulu,” said Melissa Miyashiro, managing director of strategy and policy at Blue Planet Foundation in an email. “We know that many local residents enjoy, and in some cases rely on, Biki as an alternative to car ownership. Ensuring that Biki stays as an integral part of Honolulu’s public transportation network can help reduce overall transportation costs for households, relieve parking and traffic congestion, and provide a reliable, healthy, climate-friendly, and affordable way to get around our city.”

The petition asks Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Honolulu City Council to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of Biki as an “essential public transportation service that provides an affordable, reliable, and healthy option to Honolulu residents.”

“These bikes make it easy for residents to drive less and embrace a car-lite or car-free lifestyle, reducing overall transportation costs for households that are already financially strained,” the petition said. “Biking also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the costs we will all continue to bear due to climate change.”

Bikeshare Hawaii launched Biki in June 2017 with $2 million in startup funds from the city and state. Despite a few hiccups at the start, it has been successful, and at its two-year mark became the sixth most used bikeshare system in the nation.

Prior to the pandemic, Bikeshare Hawaii offered about 1,300 bikes at more than 130 self-serve Biki stops from Diamond Head to Chinatown. It was particularly popular in Waikiki, and had done well enough to expand its services further out to Iwilei and Kaimuki.

Todd Boulanger, executive director of Bikeshare Hawaii, the nonprofit which manages Biki, said in a recent “Island Voices” column that all was going well before the pandemic struck.

Bikeshare Hawaii was “poised to deliver on its goal of 4 million rides in 2020.”

But the pandemic took a toll on Biki, and ridership fell due to a drop in visitors, school activity, and downtown workers now working from home. Boulanger said 2020 revenues were about half of those in 2019 from fare-paying customers, and that Paycheck Protection Program grants did not provide enough to compensate for its losses.

An audit late last year criticized the city’s oversight of Biki, saying that it did not get a share of Bikeshare’s fare or sponsorship revenue despite similar arrangements in other municipalities.

That point might now seem moot.

Bikeshare Hawaii recently removed seven Biki Stops from service and reduced its services, including call center hours. Boulanger said up to 50 more stops could be removed in the next few months without additional financial support.

“The COVID-19 pandemic hit Biki hard,” said Boulanger in the column. “Without additional financial support from the community, it will not survive much longer.”

The petition is endorsed by Blue Planet, the Sustainable Transportation Coalition of Hawaii, Ulupono Initiative, Hawaii Bicycling League, Faith Action Environmental Justice Task Force, Sierra Club, Oahu Group, and Blue Zones Project – Hawaii.

Blangiardi expressed support for Biki.

“Not only was the idea for bikeshare on Oahu borne in the City, but the current bikeshare system provides a clean, healthy and low-cost transportation option for residents and tourists in urban Honolulu,” said Blangiardi in a statement. “The effects of the pandemic on our economy are many and I have asked DTS to gather the financial and operational data for bikeshare so my administration can evaluate the need and consider options to keep our City’s bikeshare system alive and well.”

Boulanger will be featured on Spotlight Hawaii on Friday.

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