July 17, 2012. 1:51 pm
Source: Montreal Gazette
First Chattanooga, now New York City.
The Big Apple this week admitted it will not be able to launch its Bixi bike-sharing system in July, as originally promised.
The bike systems were sold to Chattanooga and New York by the Public Bike System Co., a company controlled and financially supported by the city of Montreal.
Chattanooga, Tenn., has blamed its delay on a glitch in Bixi’s new software. Bike Chattanooga missed its scheduled May 1 launch and is still not operating.
In New York City, officials have not explained the delay, saying only that the launch of its Citi Bike system has been delayed until August.
Contacted by The Gazette on Tuesday, Bixi spokesperson Michel Philibert said he could not comment on the delay in New York.
Asked if New York’s delay is related to a software problem, Philibert said: “What I can tell you is that we are in line with our delivery schedule – we are delivering the bikes and stations,” he said. “We are respecting our contract with Alta Bike Share.”
Alta Bike Share is Bixi’s Oregon-based U.S. partner.
The PBSC provides the bikes and bike stations. Alta installs and operates the systems in the U.S. Alta has done so in Boston and Washington and is responsible for the set-ups in Chattanooga and New York.
Alta Bike Share did not respond to a request for comment from The Gazette.
Bixi is in a legal dispute with 8D Technologies Inc., the Montreal firm that, until recently, provided the software for all Bixi stations.
8D has launched a $26-million lawsuit against Bixi, and Bixi is suing 8D for $2.5 million.
8D’s software is still used in Montreal’s Bixi stations and all other previously-sold Bixi systems around the world.
Bixi has developed new software to replace 8D’s software. That new software is used for Chattanooga’s bike stations and also will be used in New York’s system.
Philibert said software testing in Chattanooga “has now been completed and it’ll be launching in the coming days or weeks.”
Bike-sharing is getting a bit of a rough ride in Chattanooga and New York.
In Chattanooga on Tuesday, the Chattanooga Times Free Press referred to Bike Chattanooga as a “bicycle boondogle.”
Could someone pinpoint the precise moment when it became the responsibility of non-bicycle-riding Americans to foot the bill for others to ride?
Federal lawmakers and bureaucrats obviously believe that it’s the proper and constitutional role of government to force taxpayers to underwrite the expense of buying and maintaining bicycles for public use.
As you may know, Bike Chattanooga snagged $2 million in taxpayers’ money to pay startup costs and operations for the first year of a program to let people use a debit or credit card to check out bicycles at dozens of “bike share” locations around the city.
In New York, city comptroller John Liu recently criticized Citi Bike. Among other things, he wants helmets to be mandatory in New York.
An excerpt from Liu’s June 25 press release about Citi Bike:
“In the rush to place ten thousand bicycles on our streets, City Hall may have pedaled past safety measures, a move that risks significantly exacerbating the number of injuries and fatalities of both bikers and pedestrians, especially those most vulnerable like young children and seniors,” Comptroller Liu said. “Aside from the human toll, there is a real possibility that the Bike Share program will increase the number of legal claims against the City.”
Montreal taxpayers are still waiting for Bixi’s 2011 financial statements to be made public. On Tuesday, Philibert said the financial statements will soon be sent to the city’s auditor. He could not say when they will be published.
Montreal executive committee chair Michael Applebaum told The Gazette last month that the city is considering several options for Bixi’s international operations.
“Does Montreal keep Bixi? Divide Bixi between local and international? Does Bixi get sold to private (local) investors and Montreal keeps a percentage? These are all scenarios that are being looked at.”
Last year, Montreal bailed out Bixi, providing $71 million in loan guarantees and credit lines. Bixi still owes the city about $34 million of the $37 million it borrowed.