How Will Cities Bike-Share With No Bikes? | Bloomberg Views

What happens when the last bike goes? Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
The Official Blog Spouse and I are avid users of Washington’s bike-share system, Capital Bikeshare. After having several bikes stolen, including two that couldn’t possibly have been worth the effort, I’ve given up on bike ownership in the District of Columbia. Plus Capital Bikeshare offers you almost all the benefits of biking (zero marginal cost and it lets you slack off at the gym) without the inconvenience of figuring out where you can lock up the damn thing. Sure, I’d rather it wasn’t subsidized by the government, but this wouldn’t even make it onto my list of Top 100 Inappropriate Subsidies From the Government of the District of Columbia. So my conscience does not pang me too much as I glide through the bike lanes of our nation’s capital.
But it looks as if my favorite government program may be in danger. Bixi, the Montreal company that makes the bikes, seems to be having some serious financial problems. It may be bankrupt, but no one can tell, because the Montreal authorities are having trouble getting the company to cough up its 2012 financial statements. For that matter, we don’t actually know that it has 2012 financial statements.
What we do seem to know is that it's been losing money despite the wild popularity of urban bike-share systems, for which Bixi (actual name: PBSC Urban Solutions) manufactures most of the bikes and docks. This is obviously not a viable long-term business plan, and Bixi seems to be cycling toward disaster at a rapid clip.