New Orleans’ bike share program has gained the support of a familiar sponsor, which will give it a financial boost when it returns to the city’s streets this fall.
Not only that, it will allow the program to keep its well-known name: Blue Bikes.
Insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, which was the title sponsor for the bike share program when it was managed by a former operator, will return as the title sponsor under the program’s latest manager, the nonprofit Blue Krewe, program officials announced Thursday.
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The financial terms of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s sponsorhip were not divulged.
“We’ve remained committed to Blue Bikes because we know from our experience that this program is successful and fills a vital need in New Orleans,” said Rod Teamer, Blue Cross director of Diversity Programs and Business Development.
Public bike share came to New Orleans in 2017 under an agreement between Social Bicycles and Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office that saw 700 traditional pedal bikes at 70 hubs in various city neighborhoods.
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Locals and tourists embraced the program, which lets residents rent a bicycle at one location and drop it off at another. Later, the bikes were swapped out for electric bikes that travel as fast as 20 mph.
But a series of corporate buyouts left the program in the hands of a new owner, Lime, a few months after the pandemic began last year.
Lime, based in California, wanted to bring electric scooters to New Orleans, a move city officials would not support. The company washed its hands of the bikes and moved on, making room for Blue Krewe to form.
Geoff Coats, who managed the old Blue Bikes program, stayed on as the nonprofit’s executive director. Blue Cross is now back on board. Uber, a former program manager, recently donated all of the existing bike racks in the city to New Orleans, so the program will be able to continue to use them, Coats said.
Blue Krewe plans to have 350 bikes in service by September, and 725 within the next four years. Blue Cross will remain the title sponsor for the next five years, according to program officials. When the program launches Sept. 1, it will likely again feature electric bikes, Coats said.
“Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s continued dedication to the bike share program is a vital component to ensuring as much continuity as possible as we work to bring the program back into service,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement. “We appreciate their decision to sponsor Blue Bikes and their partnership to improve the health of our residents.”