Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is Bike Share at the Mercy of a Guy Named Bruno?

Terrifying news:

The world of bicycle sharing has been thrown into uncertainty over the past year.  I hate uncertainly, except in great novels.

Barclays pulled out of their sponsorship of London's bike share, and Citibike of New York City reported financial problems after Hurricane Sandy, a polar vortex and possible financial mismanagement.   Bixi is the company that owns Montreal's bike share and it is the sole supplier of docks and bikes for Capital Bikeshare.  Bixi also supplies equipment to 15 other cities, including New York.  This week, Bixi headed into a bankruptcy court in Montreal.  The impact was immediate.  Capital Bikeshare put the breaks on new stations, and everyone with a key fob held their breath.

For the past two years, Bixi has been in trouble financially.  There were two offers to purchase Bixi: one from REQX company of New York, the spawn of Equinox and a real estate outfit, and one from a guy who sells sofas and is named Bruno.  REQX must have violated some Canadian rule regarding the escrowing of deposits, or the fix was in, because even though REQX offered many more millions of dollars in cash, the bankruptcy judge ruled in favor of Sofa Guy Bruno.

Frankly, I am less than sanguine, bike share being among my favorite things in life.  The problem is that I lack confidence in Bruno, which may come from my comparison of Bruno to others.  When I think of sofa magnates with facial hair, I tend to think of Bob of Bob's Discount Furniture.  Bob's late night ads on local Washington television stations are a dazzling combination of annoying and tasteless.  Both Bob and Bruno can probably holiday in Capri because everyone needs a sofa, except perhaps zen monks.  However, I do not know if either man can ensure the success of bike sharing in North America, and this leaves me filled with a sense of alarm.

It was even more unsettling to find out that Sofa Guy Bruno looks like a less effusive version of Bob. They both wear knit hats.  They have similar facial hair (see the Van Dykes).  They both sell sofas to the average man.

So who is Bruno if he is not upholstered furniture?  Is he a bike advocate, or a cut-throat businessman who will oversee the demise of one of the single greatest urban assets of the new millennium?  According to his bio, he has climbed the highest summits on seven continents.  It might even be true, or he might have been dragged up Everest by a half dozen barefoot Sherpa guides who regularly scale that peak in their underpants with their eyes closed.  Bruno apparently retraced the path of the Tour de France with a guide.  My guess is that he was shadowed by a sag wagon equipped like an Onassis yacht.  But perhaps I am just a little nervous about Bruno.

In the six days since the Bruno purchase, there has been a delay in the opening of new bike share docks in the Maryland suburbs.  But what makes me wake up screaming in the middle of the night in a daze is the news that all bike share contracts might be cancelled except two.  Guadalajara and Dubai are to be the survivors of this carnage?  Guadalajara (can you say narco-traffic-dooring-decapitation fatigue?), and Dubai (a petrodollar construct with 130 degree summer heat?).  It begs the question raised by the head of the Washington Area Bicycling Association.  Why have all these bike shares come to rely on one supplier that could easily be purchased by a wealthily diabolical madman?  Is it time to diversify for the sake of mankind?  Is this not a public health concern?  As a friend asked, where are Bill and Melinda Gates in this affair?  They are concerned with world heath, and bike share is now being prescribed by doctors in Boston.
Stay tuned.  The bike share saga will be updated.

We tend to think one bad thing portends another.  No sooner do we hear news that makes us fear the demise of bike share, then we hear that people attending the cargo bike festival in The Netherlands were unable to reach a tulip display on their bicycles because they were blocked by car traffic.  If this had occurred in Midtown Manhattan, I would be nonplussed, but in Holland?  The bike Mecca?  I hope this does not mean that we are Armageddon Adjacent.  I was prepared to hum a happy song to forget this anecdote when I saw this website for cycling singles, and looked at the photos of the alleged participants.  Suddenly I feared we had entered a phase of devolution from which we might never recover.  (Why are they all wearing sunglasses or photographed through gauze?)  Or we might be on the verge of the apocalypse, complete with hellfire and whatnot.

But enough about that.

Delightful News:

When you are on the cusp of full cycling demise panic, it is important to focus on the progress.

Curb protected cycle tracks now appearing on M Street, NW, and First Street, NE.

Contraflow bike lanes are coming to I and G Streets, NE

The DC area is not on track to respond to climate change, so any added cycling infrastructure can only be positive.

Did you know that a mere 1% of cyclists feel confident in traffic?  These dedicated bike lanes will help you feel safer and more likely to ride.

This past weekend there was an International Cargo Bike Festival in The Netherlands.  (Sigh. Yes the one where the bikes got blocked en route to tulips by cars.)
There were many take-aways for the cycling advocate and the urban planner.  First, DHL is now using cargo bikes for deliveries.  The cargo bike is deemed more reliable than motorized vehicles that get stuck in traffic.  I guess if people delivering goods switched to cargo bikes, then bikes would be blocking the bike lanes during deliveries instead of box trucks.  The creation of a European Cycling Logistics Federation was announced at the conference.  And there was a fabulous presentation on how architects can design to promote cycling which you can watch.  This presentation should be mandatory viewing for all the people in D.C. considering the parking minimums requirements for new buildings.

In Motion is a program in Washington State that tries to nudge people away from their cars to alternative forms of transit, including bicycling.  Let's hope it if effective.

Frontier Airlines will give you a bike share pass if you take one of their flights to Denver.

San Francisco is suggesting the Bike to Work week concept be expanded to include a Bike to Worship week.  Between Passover, Easter and whatever the Zoroastrians having going, this seems like the right week for that.


April is distracted driver awareness month.  Are you kidding?  How about distracted driver public shaming month instead?

A motoring magazine in the U.K. has written an excellent article educating drivers on why bikes use the middle of the lane and how to avoid hurting cyclists.  This may seem to state the obvious, but apparently a lot of drivers need to learn.

California stuff:

Pasadena used to a be a hot smog pit.  Now you can learn bike safety basics in Pasadena from Cal Tech cycle lab.’s-traffic-basics-class-2

Ride, Roll and Stroll in Pasadena afterwards on May 17, 2014.  The streets will be closed.

Or ride from USC to the beach on April 19, 2014, or do both.

New bike lanes may go into Washington Heights in NYC.

National Association of City Transportation Officials tweets that bike ridership has quadrupled in NYC since the year 2000, and the risk of serious injury from cycling has decreased by 72%


The Women's Bike League is looking for a bike manager.  Maybe you are the right person.  Do it now, before you have a big mortgage.


Tokyo Nice is a sweet little blog about the understandings between cyclists and pedestrians in the Japanese Capital.

Random weird event for the week:

So a cyclist gets pitched into the back of a moving truck in a freak accident.  The driver never notices, and the injured cyclist has to call emergency services from his phone in the back of the truck.

Just a thought:

You are not stuck in traffic, you are traffic.  Don't be traffic.  It's like being pollution, or disease, or pestilence.

So, if I see you in the bike lanes, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

No comments:

Post a Comment