Is the city's shiny new bike-sharing program a dirty deal? | On Culture | Chicago Reader

Is the city's shiny new bike-sharing program a dirty deal? 

Bike Chicago's Josh Squire smells an inside job

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CDOT spokesman Peter Scales, speaking for Klein (who refused an interview), says "the Commissioner recused himself." Kubly "was never an employee of Alta," and the intern, Pomp, "put on his LinkedIn page that he wrote the RFP, and that is not the case at all." According to Scales, "This is a unique operation, and price was not the deciding factor. The quality of the equipment and the experience of the operator were most important. Alta is the industry leader in bike share. And Alta projected the highest revenues."

Scales also says the evaluation committee determined that "Bike Chicago's proposal suggested a lack of appreciation for the resources, both human and equipment, required to handle a bike-sharing system of this size."

Bike Chicago rents bikes at Navy Pier, Millennium Park, the Riverwalk, Foster Beach, and 63rd Street Beach; manages commuter stations here and in other cities (through a sister company, Bike and Park); and is a 20-year concessionaire with the Chicago Park District. Its team of suppliers and subcontractors for the Chicago bid contract includes B-Cycle, a Wisconsin-based manufacturer, and I-GO, the local nonprofit car-sharing company, which would have handled customer relations, creating jobs here. Under Alta, Squire claims, those jobs will go to Montreal.

Squire, who started his bike-rental business in 1993, when he was a student at UIC, says he's "passionate about bike share," and has long advocated for it. "I invented the automated bicycle-renting machine in 1997," he claims, "and introduced Chicago's first bike-share program." That's Chicago B-Cycle, started in 2010 with a $350,000 loan he took out from the U.S. Small Business Administration and now operating 100 bikes at seven stations (four near or on the downtown lakefront, two on the IIT campus, and one at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum). Squire claims the pilot—which operates without public funding and pays 15 percent of its revenue to the Park District—has been successful as a demonstration project, with more than 10,000 trips logged through 2011.

Last week Chattanooga's bike-sharing program, run by Alta and Jeremy Pomp, missed its May 1 launch date because of unspecified technical issues; at deadline, no new start date had been announced.

In response to a request seeking comment for this story, Pomp wrote, "We at Alta Bicycle Share maintain that we have competed fair and square in a highly competitive process for the Chicago Bicycle Sharing system."

That same day, the LinkedIn description of Pomp's accomplishments as a CDOT intern changed. Where he'd previously claimed to have "Drafted $20M Chicago Bike Share RFP and financial model; Conducted interviews of bike share coordinators and consultants across the U.S. and developed strategic plan for a successful launch of Chicago Bike Share in 2012," he now claims only to have "conducted bike sharing research."

On April 27 Tracetel filed its own protest to the bid process.

The city's only response to the protests so far is a stumper: "The bid protest protocol doesn't apply here because the contract was approved by City Council. It was not a Dept. of Procurement Services contract; therefore the Chief Procurement Officer doesn't have the authority to void the contract or review allegations of wrongdoing."

So who does?

Word is that Chicago's inspector general is considering a ride.

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