Chattanooga bike share operator replaces supplier

Chattanooga bike share operator replaces supplier

February 4th, 2014 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Rental bikes sit near the Sports Barn garage. The operator of Chattanooga's public bike sharing program is switching kiosk suppliers.

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

The operator of Chattanooga's public bike sharing program is switching kiosk suppliers from the financially-troubled Public Bicycle System Company to 8D Technologies.

While Chattanooga's cyclists won't see any immediate change at the city's 30 kiosks, 8D's new "BSSv4" system slated to roll out later in 2014 will include better mobile support and account management, as well as an improved docking mechanism, according to a company announcement Monday.

The Chattanooga Public Bicycle System isn't directly operated by the city, but rather is managed by Portland, Ore.-based Alta Bicycle Share. Until recently, Alta got most of the actual equipment from Bixi, a municipal agency created by the government of Montreal, Canada.

Like the Public Bicycle System Company - which goes by the name Bixi - 8D is based in the Canadian state of Quebec. 8D even developed the technology used by Bixi prior to 2012. But unlike Bixi, 8D isn't stuck in the Canadian version of bankruptcy after software problems and delays caused customers - including Alta - to withhold millions of dollars in payments.

Public biking in North America today is made up of layers of contractors and subcontractors that include suppliers, operators, nonprofits and municipal authorities.

Bixi, itself a subcontractor of Alta, in turn contracts out the manufacture of its equipment to several other companies. Until 2012, 8D Technologies developed the docking stations and payment processing solutions used by Bixi, while the bikes themselves were made for Bixi by another Canadian company: Saguenay, Quebec-based Devinci Cycles.

Alta's latest deal will, in effect, simply cut out an ailing middleman from the process. Alta is still working to find a new source for Chattanooga's actual bicycles. If Alta follows the formula used in signing a deal with 8D Technology, the company could choose another one of Bixi's suppliers, such as Devinci.

"This alliance will provide our new clients with excellent solutions for their systems," said Mia Birk, vice president of Alta. "We are charting a new course with a fully integrated supply chain to support our world-class operations."

Isabelle Bettez, president and CEO of 8D Technologies, said the company was excited to contribute in a "positive way" to the bike share industry.

"We are truly committed to designing, developing, delivering and supporting the best possible bike share solutions that answer the needs of cities now, and moving forward," Bettez said.

Chattanooga initially spent $2 million to acquire 300 bikes and set up its program, but technical glitches and low ridership plagued the system in 2012 and 2013. Lacie Stone, director of communications for the city of Chattanooga, said Monday that the city's bike program now brings in fees and other revenues of about 60 cents for every dollar it spends.

The city splits fees with Alta, which takes 25 percent of the program funds.

Blythe Bailey, Chattanooga's director of transportation, defended the program in December. In its first 14 months of operation, the Chattanooga Bicycle Transit system logged more than 40,000 trips with about 10,000 customers, Bailey said.

Stone said Alta has assured city officials that Chattanooga's system would not be interrupted during Bixi's bankruptcy.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith, or 423-757-6315.