Booming and growing: despite pandemic, Bikeshare Hawaii Island is growing

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Bikeshare Hawaii Island has thrived and grown since its inception five years ago.

The program, which was the first of its kind in the state when it started in August 2016 with three Kona stations and 32 bikes, has grown to 130 bikes at seven stations in Kona and four in Hilo. And despite the pandemic, which has led to a 50% drop in ridership, forcing the program in Honolulu to shut down stations, ridership remains strong on the Big Island.

“We did not suffer at all during the pandemic. We had the opposite experience as a Bikeshare from Honolulu. We’ve actually seen exponential growth in our Bikeshare, ”said Jessica Thompson, executive director of PATH, or Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii. “Part of the reason is a huge shortage of rental cars. Our passenger rates really started to increase in November 2020. They increased all year round but exploded in November. We are actually above pre-pandemic levels. “

Tina Clothier, former executive director of PATH, said the nonprofit program received nearly $ 50,000 in Hawaii County grants during the pandemic to provide free Bikeshare membership to Island residents. Hawaii for three months so they can exercise while being socially distant.

“It was done at the request of the county. We have had over 700 residents registered, ”she said. “They recorded thousands of trips. When tourists started to return rental cars were scarce and expensive, so our Bikeshare program was incredibly busy. We have definitely proven the concept and it seems to me Bikeshare is here to stay.

Bikeshare Hawaii Island was established in 2016 as a joint effort of the Hawaii County Department of Research and Development, the Mayor’s Active Living Advisory Council and PATH.

The program recently received a federal grant of $ 950,000 from the Transportation Alternatives program to expand Bikeshare further on the island.

“Some of the money will be used to do an analysis of the best investments,” said Thompson. “Right now, we are in conversation with the University of Hawaii-Hilo. We would also like to install a station at Palamanui Community College, but this will depend on the extension of the Ane Keohokalole highway ”,

She said that while the four resorts in Hilo don’t have as much traffic as they do in Kona, they do have a fair amount of activity and once they spread to college, they expect to see more.

Thompson said the program is also working with the Hawaii County Transit Agency to ensure Bikeshare stations are aligned with Hele-On bus stops to help develop the multi-model transportation plan. .

“We are also exploring what it might look like to offer e-bikes, as there are a lot of hills here,” she said. “It’s in its infancy because it’s a lot more expensive and you need a lot more electricity. Right now, the electricity we use is completely solar to run our kiosks. It’s far away, but something we’re looking at.

Thompson said it’s pretty amazing the program has held up.

“This is a testimonial from Tina Clothier and the board,” said Thompson. “It started as a pilot and we are there now. There is a lot of information on Bikeshare in large urban areas, but not as much in small places.

She said PATH is happy Bikeshare continues to deliver healthy, climate-friendly and physically-friendly action for transportation.

“We are very happy to see what the future holds for Bikeshare,” she said.

For more information and the locations of Bikeshare stations on the island, visit hawaiiislandbikeshare.org.

Email Laura Ruminski at [email protected]

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