We know many of our customers are experiencing challenges finding bikes where they need them when they need them, with enough battery charge to get them where they want to go.
We also know many of you rely on RideKC Bike to get to work, school, shopping, etc. Several of you even rely on bike share to maintain a no-car or car-lite household!
Many of us on the RideKC Bike and BikeWalkKC team rely on bike share ourselves, so we know how frustrating it is when a bike is not available or accessible.
So we want to give you a peek behind the bike shop curtain to share how things are going, the challenges we are facing, and what we are doing to make bikes more reliably available.
- Record ridership has led to particularly high demand on the fleet
- Supply chain disruptions are still a big deal, making it difficult on operations to keep up with the high demand for our bikes
- Hub parking incentive programs are being evaluated as a way to improve operational efficiency and make more bikes readily available for the public
- Inflation means that money that could be going to buy new bikes instead gets used on parts and supplies
- RideKC Bike supports a bi-state, multi-county, and regional transit funding solution
- How you can help us pedal through the growing pains
Questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
You LOVE bike share, and it shows. Nearly every month since 2021, y’all have broken ridership records. June 2023 was the biggest month we’ve ever had, with more than 6,300 rides completed.
“It made me actually experience parts of KC instead of just driving through them. I realized how much of the city has just passed by me through windshield glass, and how little I had truly explored.” – RideKC Bike Rider
“RideKC Bike allowed me to drop down to a “car sharing” household. I share a car with another household and make 90% of my trips via transit, RideKC Bike, or carpooling.” – RideKC Bike Rider
These numbers are phenomenal, but it means our operations crew is stretched thin. They are working seven days a week to keep up with re-balancing bikes around the city and doing maintenance to keep the bikes in good working condition. We admit that it has been a challenge for them to keep up with demand. Unusually bad air quality and frequent ozone alerts in Kansas City g this summer make it even more difficult to work as fast as we’d like. It’s doubly frustrating for us, because we know getting more people out of cars and onto bikes is critical for addressing the climate crisis.
If you see our crew out in the field, be sure to say hello and thank them for all they do! It means a lot to hear your encouragement when they are working extra hard to get you bikes.
You’ve seen the headlines. Supply chains are still recovering from pandemic disruptions. The bike industry is no exception. The timeline is still significantly longer than normal to get things like tires, wheels, and tools. Batteries for e-bikes are especially difficult to get.
This year we started upgrading to a new battery that lasts 40% longer so you can take longer trips and we can spend less time swapping batteries. But that upgrade is going slowly due to the supply chain and limited funding. We have started reconditioning old batteries to squeeze a bit more life out of them. And we upgraded our battery charging infrastructure to ensure we can keep all batteries charged and ready to deploy at all times.
Inflation is affecting all of us. Higher prices for bike hardware as well as operational expenses like vehicle maintenance and labor mean less money available for buying more new bikes. Even as costs have consistently risen over the past several years, RideKC Bike has kept prices low for both our riders and our funding partners.
How new bikes and hubs are funded
We get requests for more bikes and new hubs all the time, and we’d love to fulfill every one of those requests, but…
RideKC Bike is operated by Bike Share KC, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit partnership between BikeWalkKC, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), and local counties and governments. KCATA is our title sponsor (thus “RideKC Bike”) and local governments provide about 60% of funding needed to operate, maintain, and deploy bikes. The user fees you pay to unlock and ride a bike only cover 20% of what it costs us to maintain, repair, and insure the bike.
As a mission-based nonprofit working towards mobility justice, we keep our prices as low as possible. We have not raised our rates since we began transitioning to e-bikes in 2019. We are currently in active discussions with local governments about increasing their investments in the bike share system. Those discussions are positive, but it takes time to secure new funding and procure new equipment.
Corporate sponsorships and advertising are also important parts of our revenue model. Unfortunately, the pandemic prompted many corporations to change or scale back their charitable giving and corporate social responsibility programs. Cities with more corporate headquarters have better luck getting big investment in bike share (e.g. Nike in Portland, Hulu in Los Angeles, Citibank in New York).
SHOUT OUT to great corporate citizens like Tiehen Realty, Woodside Village, Aspiria (the former Sprint Campus), Boulevard Brewing, and others for investing in bike share hubs for their tenants, customers, and visitors. HINT: We need more businesses to become bike share sponsors! If you are a business owner and want to learn more about becoming a sponsor and promoting bike share to your customers, email Eric Vaughan at email@example.com.
Foundations and philanthropy are important for nonprofit bike share programs in many cities around the country, but here in Kansas City the philanthropic community has not been as receptive to investing in bike share specifically, and in transportation and mobility generally. We are very grateful for some early investments from Founding Sponsor Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City (now the Health Forward Foundation), and the H&R Block Foundation. The reality is we need more funders willing to invest in transportation solutions that mitigate climate change and are accessible to all residents.
The Kansas City region has underinvested in public transit, including bike share. Per capita, we spend less on transit than almost all comparable midwest cities. That’s why RideKC Bike and our partners at BikeWalkKC support the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance’s work to advocate for a bi-state, multi-county, and regional transit funding solution that will reduce the reliance on KCMO taxpayers for a transit system that adequately serves the entire region.
“As new residents and businesses continue to move into the neighborhood we need to refocus our transportation strategies away from a strictly car centric approach and begin to enhance our pedestrian and bike experiences.” – Nicholas Grünauer, owner of Kansas City Freight House and the Grünauer restaurant, which sponsors a RideKC Bike hub to benefit their customers, staff, and neighbors.
How you can help
- Use the RideKC Bike app to locate bikes and to find out their battery status for any advance trip planning.
- As much as possible, please return bikes to a hub at the end of your trip to cut down on the time it takes our team to retrieve bikes and restock the hubs.
- Let your city know that you want more bikes! Reach out to the mayor and city council members in your community.
- If you work for a company that offers grants or sponsorships to nonprofit organizations, please reach out to the leadership and ask them to consider adding bike share to their philanthropic priorities.
- If you work for a real estate development or property management company, ask them to sponsor a bike share hub at their office building or apartment complex.
- If your business is located in a community improvement district, ask them to partner with RideKC Bike.