Is Bike Sharing in Trouble?

Main bike share supplier files for bankruptcy

Bixi, the Montreal-based company that supplies the bicycles and hardware for most North American bike shares, including those in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. has filed for bankruptcy, reports the New York Times.

The non-profit company, formally known as PBSC Urban Solutions, began operating Montreal’s Bixi bike share in 2009 and has since racked up at least $47 million in debt due to expansion to other cities across the continent and software disputes with host cities, reports the Montreal Gazette. New York and Chicago have withheld payments totaling more than $5 million over software snafus, said Bixi CEO Michel Philibert.

UPDATE: Nicholas Mosquera, a spokesman for the NYC Department of Transportation denied this charge in an email. "The City of New York does not run New York City’s bike share system and is not involved with the payments," wrote Mosquera.

The city of Montreal is considering spending $1.5 million to keep Bixi operational there in 2014, but Bixi’s future elsewhere is more uncertain, according to the Gazette.

In addition to withheld payments from major cities, Portland, Ore.-based Alta Bicycle Share, Bixi’s main partner in the U.S., is asking for $11 million in damages because of software delays.

Alta Bicycle Share operates seven high-profile bike shares in the U.S. (and one in Australia), including Chicago’s Divvy, Boston’s Hubway and New York’s Citi Bike—North America's largest.

A statement on Alta’s website reads:

“Our systems across the country—in New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, the Bay Area, Columbus, OH, and Chattanooga, TN—are up and running and ABS will ensure that they continue to operate without interruption. … Given our plans to expand current systems and launch new systems this year, we’re in constant communication with both PBSC as well as its suppliers to ensure we can do so successfully.”

Alta has not yet responded to a call and email for comment. It is unclear how Alta will continue to supply the bike shares it operates. The company is scheduled to launch a new share in Vancouver later this year, according to British Columbia newspaper The Province.

Representatives for Citi Bike and the New York City Department of Transportation, which oversees the program, did not respond to requests for comment as of filing.


UPDATE: A representative for the NYC DOT responded in an email denying the claim that New York withheld payment from Bixi and declined to comment on whether Citi Bike will be affected by the bankruptcy.