We chatted with Biki's operating partners, Secure Bike Share, about what it's been like running an essential service during the pandemic. They share how they've adapted their standard operating procedures and strategy over the past year and explain some of the challenges they have faced as a result of COVID-19.
Q: After 3 years of successfully operating Biki, Secure Bike Share had rebalancing and maintenance down to a science. How has your team had to change its operations strategy since COVID-19?
Considering the COVID-19 pandemic that has unfolded over the last 12 months, we adjusted our operating procedures in a concerted effort to curb the spread of the virus and prioritize the safety of our resident members. This was done by dedicating a large portion of our operations to sanitization. This meant the following:
Another consequence of COVID-19 has been the constant need to adjust to new trends of system usage. Our original operations strategy had been evolving around common ridership patterns since 2017 and when COVID-19 impacted Honolulu in March 2020 those common trends disappeared almost overnight.
With borders being closed to international travelers and the quarantine requirements, our visitor market was also severely impacted due to COVID-19. We responded to this by relocating stations to better serve residents, including installing a Biki Stop at Don Quijote Kaheka and expanding to Kaimuki. All of the above was done while our revenues were severely impacted due to the restrictions caused by COVID-19.
Q: How much has ridership dropped since last March?
Please refer to the yellow line in the graph for 2020 ridership trends. As you can see, rides have steadily been increasing since our April 2020 lows, but are still severely below 2018 and 2019 data.
Resident ridership is steady despite many employees working from home, while visitor usage has decreased due to travel restrictions and a depressed visitor market. Resident members currently make up ~85% of trips, compared to about 65% of trips in 2019.
Q: Have you noticed any interesting trends or changes in ridership?
We've noticed that riders are taking longer trips. Based on our 2020 Member Survey, more members reported using Biki for exercise (70%) compared to only 56% of respondents in our 2018 Member Survey.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced as Biki's operators?
We've had to balance the need to provide a 24/7 essential service and adapt to the increased sanitation requirements, all while our revenue has dropped by as much as 60% in some months. The revenue we receive from memberships and rider fares directly funds our day-to-day operations, including rebalancing, maintenance, and equipment.
Unfortunately, Biki has also seen a spike in vandalism. In the last three (3) months we've come across more than 200 deliberately slashed tires, over 15 bicycles destroyed beyond repair (see photo) and large increases in graffiti. These instances are very costly, requiring time, labor and replacement parts.
Q: How can Biki riders stay safe?