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Big Island bike-share program thriving despite pandemic

Hawaii Island Bikeshare

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaiʻi — Despite the pandemic, bike-share ridership remained strong on the Big Island partly because there was a rental car shortage.

Bikeshare Hawaii Island, or HIBike, was the first of its kind in the state when it was introduced in Kailua-Kona five years ago. While the pandemic put a strain on its counterpart in Honolulu, the Big Island program grew.

“We didn't suffer at all during the pandemic,” said Jessica Thompson, executive director of Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii, or PATH. “We had the opposite experience as Honolulu's bike share.”

Honolulu's bike-share Biki experienced a 50% drop in trips due to the pandemic. To deal with losses, it decommissioned seven stations and reduced services.

Rider rates on the Big Island started picking up in November 2020 and surpassed pre-pandemic levels, partly because of a rental car shortage, Thompson said.

Grants from Hawaiʻi County allowed the nonprofit to offer free bike-share membership to residents for three months for socially distanced exercise.

“We had over 700 residents sign up,” said Tina Clothier, PATH's former executive director. “They logged thousands of rides. When the tourists started coming back, rental cars were scarce and expensive, so our bike-share program was incredibly busy.”

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