lmb.org: Capital Community Bike Share Looks at New Ann Arbor Start Up

By Lynne Martinez, Martinez Consulting Group, LLC & Keith Porter, Co-Founder of A2B Bikesharecapitol-community-bike-share

Capital Community Bike Share (CCBS) is an exciting new endeavor working to launch bike sharing and promote bicycling as a viable form of public transportation to reduce vehicular congestion, provide opportunities for physical activity, and enhance the livability of Mid-Michigan.

For the past two years, CCBS has been developing plans and partnerships to bring bike sharing to Lansing. CCBS recently obtained official non-profit status, an important step in forming public – private partnerships necessary to create and operate a bike share program.

To provide background, the first generation of bike sharing involved communities buying large numbers of cheap bikes and placing them outside for anyone to ride. Cities struggled to manage theft, abandonment, and vandalism. More recently, a few companies whose systems are structured around kiosk-enabled racks have dominated bike sharing. Similar to Zipcar, users can “check out” a bike for a small fee and then return it within a short period of time, typically 30 minutes or so.

Bike sharing is taking off across the United States, with successful programs now in Washington D.C., Minneapolis, and Denver. New York City and Chicago are launching large-scale projects in 2013. These programs in larger cities, however, tend to be cost prohibitive to smaller communities, like Lansing. At about $4,000 – $6,000 per bike, the majority of that cost comes from the electronically controlled kiosks.

To lower this cost several startups have developed low cost system that remove the kiosk and racks completely. These “station-less” models lower the cost to approximately $1,500 per bike. However, by having no station, those systems tend to lose structure, branding, and reliability.

CCBS faces the challenge of making bike sharing affordable, attractive, and scalable at the mid-size city level. Despite this difficult task, bike sharing may be on the horizon. CCBS is currently exploring emerging bike share technology known as Smart Bike/Dumb Rack systems.

On March 23, 2013, A2B Bikeshare, demonstrated their new system at an event in Lansing. The young Ann Arbor startup, founded by Engineering Students at the University of Michigan, puts all the technology directly on the bicycle. These bikes incorporate a small solar panel over the rear wheel and a touchscreen user interface between the handlebars. The screen will not only be used to make the financial transaction to use the bikes, but also offers the rider route information, a station location map, and allows users to easily submit repair requests. Other technologies can easily be integrated over time with software updates.

A2B-Bikeshare-LogoThe A2B Bikeshare system uses simple racks, which incorporate built in cable locks that engage directly into the frame of their bikes. The bikes even incorporate an alarm if theft is detected. These affordable racks can easily be branded and grouped as needed to create “stations” throughout the community. Since “dumb racks” are not dependent on expensive infrastructure to make the systems work, another advantage is that station locations can easily be relocated as needed.

CCBS is hopeful that such a system will resolve issues of scalability and affordability. By putting ‘smart’ technology on the bikes and incorporating a technologically-dumb rack, A2B Bikeshare provides the structure and functionality of an expensive system at only $2,000 per bike.

Attractive features include:

  • Better customer support;
  • Better operator experience;
  • Lower maintenance cost;
  • Lower bike redistribution cost;
  • Location-based advertising that engages
  • riders when in range of a business;
  • Guided tours that highlight local points of interest;
  • Wayfaring maps to guide riders to their destinations.

Bike Sharing is an economic development tool with the potential to help create the kind of places where people choose to live, work, and play. Multiple studies prove that people, especially young professionals, now tend to decide where to live before looking for a job. The walkability and bikeability of a community are key factors in these decisions. Bike sharing could be a key ingredient in attracting more visitors and talent to the Lansing region.

Learn more about the Capital Community Bikeshare on their Facebook Page. Learn more about A2B Bikeshare at www.a2bbikeshare.com.