Last week, a rollback car transporter arrived at the corner of 10th & Dodge in downtown Omaha, Ne. The young operator, supervised by his father, quickly and efficiently secured the blue and green 20 ft shipping container to the tilted bed and reeled it in and off the bare ground where it sat for the last three-and-a-half months collecting data... and impressions. In less than 30-minute's time, all that was left was a bare batch of dirt and the 10 ft x10 ft concrete pad required by the city. The grand Quikbyke experiment was over, at least this phase of it. We'd learned many lessons and answered many questions over one of the warmest and occasionally wettest summers on record for the region.
Because we'd been funded by a matching grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, we're required to write a feasibility report due on the one year anniversary the grant was awarded: October 26, 2015. I finished that report this morning and thought I'd share one of the things we learned, especially since we found ourselves within mere feet of one of the 12-bike stations of Omaha's Heartland B-Cycle bike share system.
It would be easy to see each system as competitors and in some sense we were. As I manned the Qiosk - our name for our first-of-its-kind solar-powered "rental shop in a box" - over the summer, I more than once chaffed as people walked right past our electric-assist bikes and checked out B-Cycles. Sometimes I asked them why?
"We thought you were the same (as B-Cycle)…
Or… "We want to exercise," wrongly assuming they wouldn't on a Quikbyke…
Or… "They're cheaper." True. They charge $6 a hour, we charge $15.
Sometimes, in a group renting B-Cycles, one or two members opted to try out a Quikbyke. Invariably, when they returned, the manual bike riders agreed they should have gone with Quikbyke.
But perhaps more intriguingly was the complementary nature of the two enterprises, Heartland B-Cycle, with its dozens of stations and hundreds of blue pedal bikes, most festooned with local corporation logos: Blue Cross Blue Shield, Conagra, Union Pacific; and Quikbyke, a single location with half-a-dozen Prodecotech Stride 300 electric-assist bicycles.
As near as I can tell, Heartland doesn't publish its performance numbers, but the really big systems do: Citi Bike in New York City, Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C. and DIVY in Chicago. All have ten times the number of stations as Heartland and a similar magnitude of bikes, most of them similar or even identical to the B-Cycle. So, while I can't compare usage of Quikbykes with our Omaha compatriot, I was able to glean some interesting comparisons with the "Big Boys" starting with how long renters ride each type of bike.
Almost invariably, both member and "casual" users of Citi Bike, Capital and DIVY use the bikes 15-minutes per ride or less. "Casual riders," people who take out temporary 24-hour or 3-day passes, generally ride longer and as a result further than system "members" who either have monthly or annual memberships in a particular system. Translating into miles ridden, the "mean" distance (average) is 1.81 miles for Citi bike, 1.3 miles for Capital, and 1.7 for DIVY. In Chicago, less than 30% of members rode more than 2 miles per trip and only 5.8% rode further than 4 miles. In New York City half of the trips are less than a mile. In Washington, D.C. if you take the number of trips per month (300k) and divide that into the total miles ridden in, say, 2013 (2.5 million miles), the average is just 0.69 miles, but that assumes a steady 300,000 rides every month year-round, and no system does that. As the temperature drops, so does ridership, peaking in summer, falling in winter.
The current generation of bike share systems can track when a particular bike is checked out and where and when it's checked back in, allowing operators to understand how people are using the system and to a degree where they are going. Check out Todd Schneider's impressive animation of actual Citi Bike movements on Manhattan.
In Quikbyke's case, since we are still in early testing as a newly minted startup business, we only know how long our guests had the bike and how deeply they've discharged the battery. We offered three rental options this summer: 1-hour, 2-hour, and 3-hour rentals, largely set by the unknown capacity of the battery. We didn't want renters "running out of juice" on their ride, though had they done, they could still pedal the bike back: it just would have been more physically demanding. None of our renters ever depleted the battery below an estimated 80% state-of-charge. That was indicated by a single green LED light out of four still glowing on the Samsung SDI 10.4Ah lithium-ion pack. Generally, more renters opted for the two-hour rental and usually returned with the battery roughly at 50% SOC or two of the four lights still lit.
I made it a point to make a number of test rides around town myself, venturing as far west of our 10th Street location as 33rd St, in the neighborhood of Joselyn Castle. By the time I returned to our rental location, I'd used about half a pack and, according to Strava's app, ridden 9.1 miles over a 70 minute time period with lots of stops to take photos, including the Joselyn Art Museum above.
Assuming our renters covered a similar distance over their two-hour rental period, I have to believe they easily rode at least 10 miles, possibly even more. To underscore this, the very last person to take one of our bikes out for a test ride the day before we moved the container is the co-owner of the property on which we were located. Mike Moylan is a local property developer who lives in the building just behind the Qiosk. His original "spin-around-the-block" ended up taking him on an estimated 3-4 miles ride west to the Midtown area, near the headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway and WOWT Channel 6. That particular ride is pretty much all up hill. (Historical fact: over the years in the late 19th and early 20th century, city engineers shaved off some 60+ feet of elevation from the first range of hills west of the Missouri River to make it easier for horses and electric trolley system.) When he returned, he wrote the following on our "memory wall."
AWESOME! Great & Fun way to see Downtown Thanks! - Mike Moylan
All this suggests to me, at least, that Quikbyke riders can and do ride further for considerably longer periods of time than the average bike share rider. In practical terms, Quikbyke enables riders to travel to destinations further out than what most bike share riders are willing to reach. For a city that can translate into increased patronage for those businesses that would normally be outside the one-to-two-mile circle of a particular bike share station.
That's why I say the two systems can be complementary. Bike share is good for local point A-to-point B commutes. Quikbyke really allows those "casual" rider to "see more and do more." I think that's worth of the price difference, don't you?
Posted By: Bill Moore [12-Oct-2016]
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