Bixi, the Montreal-based non-profit that developed the technology for New York City’s bike sharing program, has filed for bankruptcy. Although the financial crisis isn’t entirely Bixi’s fault, many are concerned about what it means for the future of Citi Bike. According to a report in the Montreal Gazette, Bixi owes Canadian tax payers almost $50 million, due in part to the refusal of its clients – including the cities of New York and Chicago – to pay their bills.
New York’s main reason for withholding payment from Bixi is because the software has proven glitchy and updates slow. “They are not happy with delays in promised updates in back-end software,” explains the Gazette. New York City reportedly owes Bixi $3 million, while Chicago owes $2.6 million.
Interestingly, the software that powers Citi Bike wasn’t created by Bixi in-house. It was provided by 8D Technologies, a company with whom Bixi has been in a legal dispute with since 2012. “The dispute arose after 8D refused to sell all the rights to the software. Bixi hired a company to build software to replace 8D’s in future systems,” reports the Gazette – software that’s now known to be full of bugs. CBS also reported on some of the problems, including a bike sharing station at Union Square that refused to dispense or accept bikes during one day in June, and complaints by some businesses that the racks are “an eyesore” and “unnecessary when there are other alternatives.”
Despite the bugs and complaints, many consider Citi Bike to be a huge success, stating that these issues are to be expected any time you launch a new project at this scale.
“We had 11 million miles covered, 6 million trips, 100,000 people signed up,” said Citi Group spokesman Ed Skyler. “We’ve had the challenges of success, with people trying to find bikes and sometimes not finding slots, people having a bike they want to turn in and having to search for a rack that could accept one,” he continued.
Still, that’s a lot of trips made by bike instead of car, something that reduces congestion, eases parking difficulties, and has undoubtedly helped put New York City ahead of schedule on its greenhouse gas reduction goals.
So is Citi Bike in jeopardy following this recent and depressing news for Bixi? Probably not. As Gizmodo points out, “Bixi’s technology is licensed in the US market by Alta Bicycle Share, which operates eight programs in the United States. In turn, NYC Bicycle Share LLC, the company that operates Citi Bike, is a subsidiary of Alta. Alta Vice President Mia Birk recently told The Atlantic Cities that “No matter what happens with [Bixi], Alta Bicycle Share will continue now and in the future to provide world-class products and services to our clients.”