Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Bike-sharing World - Interview with Alain Ayotte

Recently, the Bike-sharing Blog had the opportunity to interview Alain Ayotte.

He is the past President and CEO of Public Bike System Company (PBSC) and one of the creators of the bIXI bike-share system in Montréal. He led the design and development of this first modular “drop in place” bike-sharing system deployed in Montréal in May 2009. Soon after, this award winning system was deployed in Melbourne, Australia; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Pullman, Washington; London, England; Washington, DC; Toronto, Ontario; Ottawa, Ontario; Boston, Massachusetts; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Stony Brook, New York; New York City, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Ohio and Aspen, Colorado.
In February 2013, he left PBSC Urban Solutions.

He can be considered one of the founding fathers of Bike-sharing in North America.

Bike-sharing Blog: So after you left PBSC what have you been doing?

 Alain Ayotte:  I needed some time off to reinvigorate myself and spend time with my family. Then I quickly realized that I wanted to continue to contribute to the urban mobility field. It is a field about which I am passionate and where we really can have an impact on people’s lives.  I could no longer do so in my previous role and that was the main reason which led to my departure.

At the end of 2013, I teamed up with great partners who all shared my vision of urban mobility: Michel Dallaire, the world renowned designer;  Procycle Group, bicycle manufacturers of Rocky Mountain, Miele, and eVox electric bikes, and BikeEmotion, a consortium of three companies and a university, to advance bike-sharing technology. We then created a new company called Bewegen Technologies (Bewegen). Our vision is to inject sustainability into the urban transportation mix. To achieve this goal, we created a shared-transportation solution. Think of it as bike-sharing plus

B-s B: Tell us what does Bewegen mean? From where does Bewegen come?

Ayotte:  As you can imagine, the naming of our company was one of the first tasks we tackled. Hours and hours of research and brainstorming went into finding our name. We wanted to pay tribute to the Netherlands as the pioneers of bike-sharing and of bicycle commuting. We decided on this unique name: Bewegen. Bewegen is simply the verb “to move’’ in Dutch and German. We integrated a lightning bolt into the word to make our logo and to link it with our product.

B-s B: Being an innovator in the bike-sharing industry, you helped create a solar powered bike sharing system with modular docking stations which can be picked up or put down in 20 minutes. This facilitated the ability of removing an entire system from the street during harsh winters and reduced the cost of installation for electrical hook up. This changed the way North American cities deployed bike-share which now has been copied throughout the world.

Innovations have been the hallmark of your work. So with your new system what innovations are you bringing to the world?

Ayotte: We developed a very flexible system in order to give people more freedom and complement the current available means of shared-transportation. With world-renowned partners and multi patent-pending innovations we bring cutting-edge elements such as: 
  • Pedelec (electric-assist) motor e-bikes, equipped with live GPS and semi-flat foot ergonomics, eliminating the need to tilt or dismount the bike while at rest
  • Virtual (non-physical) stations
  • Kiosk-less rentals (with kiosk available for information and casual membership access)
  • Vehicle driven technology
  • Fully integrated front and back office solutions
  • Mobile Phone Applications with full rental capabilities
  • Superb design for easy functionality

Here’s a sneak peak:

B-s B: When will we be able to see these Bewegen bikes and stations?

Ayotte: We will officially unveil our product in early September at Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place in Pittsburgh, PA. The Bewegen team and its partners will be happy to show and explain it to whoever will be present.  As far as full scale implementations, we will be ready to hit the streets of cities and towns in summer 2015.

You can also see the Bewegen experience on our website being launched in the next few days at

B-s B: We know that the future of bike-sharing is going toward “pedelecs” (pedal assisted electrically powered bicycles). Copenhagen, Denmark and Madrid, Spain started pedelec systems this year, Barcelona will add pedelecs to its fleet this December.  Rome just issued a tender offer for a pedelec system. Many Italian cities now have mixed bicycle –pedelec programs. Do you believe that pedelecs will ultimately replace or augment all current bike-share systems?

Ayotte: Conventional bike-sharing was good a start, but has many limitations. The modal share numbers speak for themselves. They limit the impact that bike-sharing can have on the urban transportation mix of a city. This also limits the pool of riders and the types of use they can get out every trip. I believe that shared pedelec (electric-assist) vehicles are truly the missing link in urban mobility and will soon become the norm.

B-s B: So tell us how do cities planning bike-share or cities with existing bike-share programs plug into this electrifying change for bike-share?

Ayotte: Our flexible technology allows us to integrate Bewegen into an existing system or have it available as a stand-alone system. However, every location has a specific reality and we do not want to generalize a procedure. We prefer to evaluate extensively each demand and adapt to each potential customer’s situation. With our partners, we can count on over 200 dedicated and experienced people to fulfill any demand. We are ready to serve and we’re only a click away at:


The first Annual Meeting of the North American Bikeshare Association (NABSA) will be held in Pittsburgh, PA next month on September 7th and 8th. For more information: NABSA Annual Meeting

images: Bewegen Technologies

Russell Meddin  

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