Nguyen Le, principal of Momentum Multisport, has long been a cycling enthusiast and competitor. So when he moved to O'ahu in 2001, adding triathlete to his repertoire was the obvious next step. After opening the retail sports store in August 2007, he has been working closely with the Hawai'i Department of Transportation and the City and County of Honolulu's Department of Transportation Services to improve conditions for bicyclers on the roadÜimproving bike lanes and bike routesÜbut it wasn't until Le spent some time in Paris, France in 2008 and saw a successful bike sharing program in action that he decided he would also bring bike sharing in Hawai'i to fruition.
"The environmental and health benefits of cycling are significant," says Le, explaining the benefits of bike share programs across O'ahu. "Cars pollute and consume the most fuel during the initial minutes of their use, particularly for short trips. If we can eliminate the need for most of these short trips in cars, then the impact on the environment and traffic congestion in the town centers would be significant."
After writing a feasibility study for a bike share program on O'ahu, getting bike and kiosk manufacturer B-cycle on board, applying and receiving grants to fund the pilot project and holding community meetings to get public input, the decision was made to launch the bike sharing program in Kailua. The windward community was chosen for its level and relatively bike-friendly roads, small town center with a high population density and short commute distances. In addition, property owners in Kailua were the first to volunteer sites for the modular, solar powered B-cycle bike stations.
The first two bike sharing stations will be at 151 Hekili Street and 417 Kailua Road, with 12 bikes available for rent between the two kiosks. The sleek and sturdy cruisers are slated to be road ready in March 2011. If people catch on to the benefits of biking and the one-year pilot program gains traction, then the number of bicycles would increase and up to eight bike stations could serve Kailua. In addition, bike share stations could concurrently open in Waikiki, U.H. at Manoa, and U.H. West O'ahu and Ho'opili, with the overall goal to alleviate traffic and bring a healthy alternative to short-distance commuting across the island.
"We expect that residents will use the bikes to make short trips around town instead of using their cars," explains Le. "Once we have a network of bike stations, then commuters may use them in conjunction with other public transport such as The Bus or the future rail system to go the last miles of their commute."
The high-tech, multi-speed bikes are unlocked from the kiosk using a credit card for one-time users or a personal access card for program subscribers. For members, each B-cycle will automatically calculate and upload information to their personal user profile, like distance traveled, calories burned and carbon offset. The rugged bikes have a basket, wide tires for comfort and safety, an onboard lock and are completely adjustable to suit the rider. And they can be returned to any B-cycle kiosk.
Le is confident the program will take hold, "As more people rediscover the joy and utility of getting around on a bicycle, they will hopefully leave their cars idle and pursue a healthier, happier way to get around and enjoy life."