Sharing the Road in Kailua

Leave your car in the garage and start commuting on two wheels.

Illustration: Ryan O’Rourke

Get out your spandex. Oahu just got a little more bike-friendly. Starting this month, 12 high-tech bikes will be available for rent at two solar-powered kiosks in Kailua. The bike-share program, called Hawaii B-Cycle, is a one-year pilot project operated by Momentum MultiSport, a Kaimuki triathlon store owned by Nguyen Le.

“The aim is to encourage people to ride bikes as part of their daily commute to stay healthy, to alleviate traffic congestion and to see if a program like this can be successful in Hawaii,” says Le. The program is funded through a $100,000 grant received from the Department of Health’s Healthy Hawaii Initiative. (The money comes from tobacco settlement funds, not taxpayer dollars.)

To rent a bike, a user goes to a B-Cycle station, selects a bike, swipes her or his credit card and is ready to ride. The bikes are all the same cruiser-style model, with multiple speeds and made of aluminum. They’re smart, too, with computers that calculate distance traveled, calories burned and carbon-offsets. To avoid thefts, the bikes have integrated locks that prevent them from being removed without a credit card or subscription. They have separate locks, too, for securing them while at the market, or elsewhere.

Photo: iStock

Sharing bikes in high-density areas is nothing new. Similar programs, each with its own fee structure, already exist in places such as Denver, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis. Some European cities have even longer relationships with the concept. In 1995, Copenhagen, Denmark, became the first city to introduce a bike-share program.

The benefit to the environment is clear. “Cars pollute and consume the most fuel during the initial minutes of their use, particularly for short trips,” says Le. “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 center would be significant.”

Le believes that Kailua residents will be the bikes’ main users, renting them for quick trips around town. In the long term, he says, “Once we have a network of bike stations throughout Kailua, six to eight of them, then commuters can use them in conjunction with other public-transport options, such as TheBus.”

If the concept is a success, the program may expand to other well-populated areas including Kapolei, downtown Honolulu and Hawaii Kai. And who knows, maybe Oahu will even get a few more bike lanes on which to ride the B-Cycle rentals.

The Costs

Riders can buy a bike subscription, or get a temporary day pass, but non-subscribers pay more than double. If users have a subscription, the first half hour is free; after that, the riders pay the daily usage fees. If a bike isn’t returned within 48 hours, the card on file will be charged $900.

Daily – $4
Weekly – $10
Monthly – $25
Yearly – $50

Daily Usage Fees:
31-60 minutes – $2
61-90 minutes – $5
91-120 minutes – $8
120+ minutes – $10/hour