This pandemic has ruined many great things! Crowds at sporting events, family vacations, weddings and maybe even your local bike share. The pandemic has unfortunately left many micro-mobility companies in the dust. The landscape in the industry has changed drastically in the last 7 months and your local community might be picking up the pieces. Your community may be out money on the project and during fiscally difficult times, bringing back a bike share might seem impossible. On the other hand, your community members LOVED the program. It's an affordable mode of transportation and in reality, the program isn't as expensive as other budgeted items.
So how do you approach your board members in regards to relaunching a program when they still have a bad taste in their mouth from the prior "failures"?
Here are some "musts" for your new bike share and also what to look out for when finding a new partner!
NUMBER 1 - Find a bike share partner that has been around for a few years and has a team to support your project. There are many small software providers with enticing annual pricing. But a successful bike share program takes a partnership that will help you with marketing, customer service and troubleshooting issues. You want a partner that can help you source bike parts, new locks and warranty issues. This value in a partner will decrease your stress and optimize your program.
NUMBER 2 - Don't pick the cheapest option! The old saying "you get what you paid for!" is true in this industry as well. You just got dump by your bike share partner because they were not profitable and the long relationship ended quickly. If you pick the cheapest option, you will find yourself in a much worse spot in a year or two. You want your bike share partner to make money and grow, it only helps your program in the long run!
NUMBER 3 - Look for flexibility in your partner! What I mean by that is simple... Every community is very unique (population, program purpose, budgets, sponsors, etc) and you need a partner that will help you build a program around your unique community. This might include owner/operator software options and turn-key solutions. The flexibility will provide you options from year to year to not only sustain the program but also grow the program. You may want to start with a turn-key option for the first year, but purchase the bikes and operate the fleet using the software provided by the partner.
NUMBER 4 - Don't downsize your fleet! We know budgets are tight but the success of your program will be small if you decide to drastically downsize your fleet. Work with your bike share partner to either maintain previous levels or even increase your fleet size. Chances are, your previous fleet was below optimal size and making it even smaller will drastically lower your daily usage. You may need to work with your bike share partner to find financially creative ways to reach that target, but it needs to be done!
NUMBER 5 - Ask your bike share partner for monthly payment plans. It may be a slight increase annually but you will safe guard your budget and your sponsor's money by exploring these options. If you were burnt once, DO NOT get burnt again. During these interesting times, it is best to explore those monthly payment options and your bike share partner should be able to work with you on a monthly proposal.
These are 5 rules to follow when exploring the possibilities in relaunching your bike share program. Relaunching your program will provide hope to your community and also provide a great amenity for your residents during a time we see everyone exploring outside. I tried to create this post with a non-bias lens, thinking about "what would I do if I was a community leader?". I hope you got a few tips in relaunching your program!
CEO / Co-founder