Stakeholder Spotlight: Bikeshare Hawaii
Bikeshare Hawaii, widely known for launching Honolulu’s Biki bikeshare program, is a non-profit organization that was established in 2014 under a public-private partnership. The need for a successful bikeshare program in Hawaii was recognized by the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) in 2011. Soon after, the City and County of Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting joined with stakeholders including the Hawaii DOH, U.S. EPA, and Honolulu Department of Transportation Services to develop a plan to implement a bikeshare program in Hawaii. In 2014, the Honolulu Bikeshare Organization study was completed, and it recommended that Honolulu set up an administrative non-profit to run the future bikeshare program. That same year, Bikeshare Hawaii was established.
Bikeshare Hawaii launched its bikeshare system, Biki, in 2017. The first phase included 1,000 bikes across 100 stations in Urban Honolulu. Only a year later, in 2018, Biki was named the 6th most used bikeshare system in the nation. Biki’s model, operating under a public-private partnership, is more typical of small city systems. Larger programs, including those who outranked Biki as the top five most used systems, typically have large corporate sponsors or are city-owned assets. Despite the difference in funding and the difficulties that come with it, Biki has proven to be a successful program that offers many benefits to the Honolulu community.
Benefits of bikeshare programs include sustainability, health benefits, and improvements to mobility. Bikeshare Hawaii is doing critical work in helping Hawaii shift away from fossil fuel use by providing and advocating for alternative modes of transportation. They offer a zero-emissions option for transportation in Honolulu at a low cost for residents and visitors alike. 13 million minutes traveled on a Biki bike is equal to avoiding the emission of 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide, saving 136,000 gallons of gasoline, and removing 280 cars from the roads in one year.
Bikeshare Hawaii’s mission is to enhance community health and viability by strengthening the public transportation system and offering people a way to get to all of the places they work and play. Community benefits, as reported in Bikeshare Hawaii’s 2020 report, include saving money, discovering or visiting a new business, exercising more often, weight loss, and connecting to other public transit. The primary benefit, especially to local residents, is weight loss associated with exercise from bicycling. Bikeshare Hawaii’s executive director and STCH advisory board member Todd Boulanger explained how using bikeshare for transportation can provide health benefits. “Incorporating exercise into your daily tasks, like travel, is the best way to make it part of your lifestyle”.
Like many other businesses and organizations, Bikeshare Hawaii faced challenges adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Total riders per month dropped significantly from 2019 to 2020. However, Biki was deemed an essential service, so it did not reduce their services like 45% of bikeshare systems in the U.S. did. Some stations were relocated during this time to better meet the needs of customers, primarily Hawaii residents. In 2020, 80% of total rides were from residents compared to 69% in 2019. Based on customer surveys, the percent of riders that were using Biki for exercise increased by 23%. Even during the pandemic, there were 7,300 new member enrollments, and Bikeshare Hawaii continued to offer important benefits for Urban Honolulu. “The benefits of our program are still the physical activity and green energy aspects,” Boulanger said.
Bikeshare Hawaii has ideas for future improvements, but as we continue to adapt to the pandemic the path they will take is uncertain. There were plans to expand into more service areas such as Kaimuki, Kahala, and Kalihi which would align with plans for city investment in bikeway infrastructure. Other potential projects include introducing electric bikes as a way to provide better access into valleys and residential areas with steeper terrain, expanding service areas, or focusing on existing service areas and making them denser. Moving forward, working with the community and city will help determine the best course of action for Bikeshare Hawaii and Biki.
As Bikeshare Hawaii works to figure out what route to take, they are also looking to expand their sponsorship network. As a non-profit organization, they are able to accept corporate donations that support their missions. Past sponsors include those in public health, green energy, and tourism. “We would love to put some new, Hawaii-based or other larger businesses on our bikes. Over half of the fleet is available for sponsorship right now,” Boulanger shared.
Author: Laurel Ainsworth, STCH Intern