The City of Cleveland and bike advocacy group BikeCleveland are seeking proposals to turn $446,000 in capital into a bike share system with a hoped-for launch by the RNC’s arrival in 2016.
Cleveland is looking specifically for a vendor with experience in operating a citywide bikeshare system. Like many cities, Cleveland is interested in keeping the ownership of the system public.
However, in this case, the owner of the Cleveland bike share system will be Cuyahoga County. The county was awarded a $366,000 grant from the metropolitan planning organization, NOACA, in June. The funding can only be used for the bikes and stations (not ongoing maintenance and operation).
The RFP follows a bike share feasibility study conducted by The Toole Group for Cleveland in 2014 which identified a market potential for 700 bikes and 70 stations. The RFP includes the same geography as the study, with a special focus on downtown in phase one and University Circle included as "phase one b".
The advantages to keeping the bike share system in public hands include access to funds, i.e. the federal air quality, or CMAQ, program that provided the county its grant funding. The other advantage could be more perception. All of the bike share systems in the U.S. are operating at a loss.
Cleveland is taking what may be characterized as a more risk averse stance to bike share than its peer cities of Cincinnati and Columbus which each allocated $2 million to Red Bike and CoGo, respectively, to launch with 300 bike / 30 station systems. Cincinnati’s Red Bike announced expansion plans within 12 months of its launch due to its popularity. The Cleveland RFP calls for a vendor to figure out how to scale up and raise capital with a minimum amount of public finance.
The proposal has two components, according to BikeCleveland.
- To provide initial capital requirements for the amount of funding $446,000 in hand. It asks bidders how many bikes and stations can they provide with that capital?
- Operations and ongoing maintenance—to outline a plan to grow a larger system. A funding plan and business model to grow system and maintain it. Based on systems similar markets i.e. Columbus and Cincinnati.
The Cleveland bike share RFP is actually a re-release. When it was released earlier in 2015, three firms responded: Zagster, B-Cycle, and SoBi.
Zagster has been operating a small bike share system in Cleveland for the past year, growing it from its launch of six stations with sixty bikes into 8 stations and 73 bikes in Ohio City, downtown Cleveland, The Flats, Tremont, University Circle and South Euclid. The company features an image from the launch of the Cleveland pilot bike share system on its website; it currently doesn't list other citywide systems in its portfolio.
B-Cycle, observers note, is the more robust, enterprise system with its permanent kiosks and sturdy bikes. The company owns a longer track record of operating citywide systems, with 30 systems in the U.S., mainly in the Midwest and south, including Cincy’s Red Bike. Observers note, the other advantage to B-Cycle is it offers a membership that is transferrable in those cities.
Zagster is known primarily for operating on college and corporate campuses; it recently won the contract for Ohio State University.
The current cost for a 6-bike Zagster station is $9,000, where B-Cycle is reportedly charging $20,000 for a 10-bike station with kiosk.
The budget in the Cleveland RFP would cover roughly 50 stations and 300 bikes from Zagster or 22 stations and 220 bikes from B-Cycle.
Vendors have until October 19 to respond. BikeCleveland and the city expect to make their selection by October 30.