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Capital Bikeshare Supplier Bought, Reopening Door To Expansion

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The supplier of the D.C. area's bike share system now has a new owner.
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The supplier of the D.C. area's bike share system now has a new owner.

Planned expansions of the Capital Bikeshare system may avoid long delays after all. Public Bike System Company, the sole supplier of bicycles and bike docks for D.C.'s bikeshare program, now has a new owner.

The Montreal-based company, more commonly known as Bixi, went bankrupt in January. But the uncertainty over the firm’s future is clearing up some. Bruno Modi, the owner of a Canadian furniture empire, has purchased the company out of bankruptcy.

Beyond Capital Bikeshare, Bixi supplies equipment to bike sharing programs in fifteen cities, including New York City, Chicago and the Bay Area.

"But that doesn't mean that we are able to expand immediately," says Kim Lucas, who heads the bikeshare program at the District Department of Transportation.

Bikeshare is supposed to expand within D.C. and Alexandria and enter College Park for the first time.

"We have 40 stations we want to purchase to expand within the District of Columbia and we have to wait to place that order," Lucas says. "Even once our operators accept those orders, it could be a number of months before we receive delivery."

Supporters of Capital Bikeshare say Bixi’s problems provide the District an opportunity to re-evaluate how it delivers the system.

"I think municipalities did take a risk when they started launching these large systems, and I think in D.C. we see that risk has really paid off and we have a really popular program," says Shane Farthing, who heads the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. "Now there will have to be some regrouping in D.C. and other places that use this equipment to figure out how the structure changes, how the business model changes, how the data changes, and how to adapt to this."

Saul Leiken is the general manager of City Bikes, a shop in Adams Morgan. He says he has a financial interest in seeing Bikeshare expand, and hopes it isn't thwarted by a Canadian bankruptcy case.

"When people see more bikes out there, that more people are doing it, they will think of it as more of an option for themselves," Leiken says. "So the more bikers on the roads, the more bikers who are going to come into our shops."

DDOT says it is exploring options to purchase bikeshare equipment from other companies to avoid getting tripped up if one company fails.

Neither Bixi nor Alta Bicycle Share, the operator of Capital Bikeshare, responded to requests for comment.

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