Test-riding Bike Share Hawaii's new Biki system

Date
Text Ikaika Hussey

I'm not a bicyclist. I don't understand how the gears work and I don't know how to pronounce Derailleur. So last October, in a fit of compulsive urbanity, I hopped on a bike—for the first time in a decade—and rode through the streets of Manhattan, courtesy of Citibike. My plan that afternoon was to cruise through Central Park as just another carefree tourist. But I soon found myself careening down Avenue of the Americas, past the statue of Simon Bolivar, trailing behind buses and yellow cabs.

And so of course I wanted to try Bike Share Hawaii’s Biki service as soon as possible. Two hours after its launch on Wednesday, June 28, I downloaded the Biki app and signed up for a monthly pass. $15 for unlimited 30 minute rides—perfect.

Using the app, I found a bike station on the corner of Isenberg and Beretania, in front of Old Stadium Park. The app said that there would be five bikes waiting for me; check, there were five. But I ran into a day-one snag: the kiosk wouldn’t recognize the account I had just created. Now, in NYC there are attendants near the Central Park stands, ready to help the people (me) who are obviously tourists. Here, on day one of Biki, I had the next best thing: phone support. Rebecca was very helpful; my membership card would be coming in the mail, she said. In the meantime, the app would issue me a code that I could enter into the bike stand to retrieve my vehicle of choice.

I had a difficult time finding the keypad. The codes only have three possible numerals—1, 2 and 3—so the calculator-style interface I expected wasn’t there. But the buttons for 1, 2 and 3 were right there, on the left side of the bike, just like Rebecca said. I entered my code, tugged on the bike and alighted. I was free.

Biki has one clear benefit over the NYC system. In NY there isn’t an easy way to carry a bag. I jury-rigged a system involving my bag strap to secure it to a slot over the handlebars of my Citibike. If I had been wearing a belt I probably would have used that too. But for Honolulu, Biki has the same slot, plus bungee cords that kept my laptop bag from flying into King Street. A very nice touch.

Biki received a warm reception from two pedestrians I pedaled past along the King Street protected bikeway. One man in front of Anabel’s Snack Shop at 1314 S. King Street waved. Another gave a smile. I saw one other Biki rider; he was a hip 20-something guy, so I knew that I was in good company.

I took a left on Ward Avenue, and broke the law a bit by riding on the Diamond Head-side sidewalk down towards Aupuni Place at Ward Warehouse. There isn’t a Biki stand in front of Ward Warehouse, which makes sense I suppose given that the entire area will soon be under construction. I was approaching the 30 minute limit on my ride, so I parked the bike at the stop alongside the Blaisdell, fronting Velocity Honolulu, near the future rail line. One might think of that area as transportation central: all it's missing is an airport.

I tried to use the app to get a new code so that I could continue onward to Aupuni Place, run an errand, and then head back to the bike stand before my next 30 minutes would be up. The code didn’t work. I thought perhaps that I wasn’t allowed to rent another bike so quickly. But Rebecca was there for me again; she told me that, no, it shouldn’t be a problem to rent another bike. I realized that the code I was using was still for the King St. bike stand. My mistake. I found the Blaisdell stand in the app (#221), got a new code, and I was off again.

While in the Ward area, I discovered that perhaps the only downside of multimodal transportation is that it renders multiple stops very convenient. A stop at the Ward Center Ben & Jerry’s makes perfect sense when moving between walking and bike sharing, more so than if I were in an Uber or on TheBus. I blame Biki for the additional calories. Perhaps with sufficient use it can be both a calorie-neutral and carbon-negative means of transportation.

I made an attempt to work off the cookie and chocolate brownie ice cream on the last leg of my trip, towards downtown Honolulu. My goal was to rendezvous with my car, which is still the preferred vehicle for transporting little kids. I deposited my bike at the station in front of the Capitol—one of three stations nearby—and walked to my car. I can’t wait for Biki to come to Kalihi. Until then, this is a great way to get around our city.

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Ikaika Hussey
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Mae Ariola
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Will Caron
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Michelle Garcia
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Karen Shishido
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James Charisma