Fairfield Interview #9: CityRyde’s Timothy Ericson

Bike sharing programs have proliferated in recent years. Renting a bike at one location, riding it around, and dropping it off somewhere else is, it turns out, just what many city dwellers need.

When a city or organization wants to set up a bike share program, they call CityRyde, a company that helps people set up and manage successful bike sharing programs. Timothy Ericson co-founded CityRyde after witnessing the world’s biggest bike share program launch in Paris. CityRyde I caught up with Timothy to learn more about bike sharing around the world–and got an impromptu lesson on carbon credits along the way.

BP: Can you tell me a little bit about your background with bikes?

My business partner and I started this company back in 2007. We were both actually living in London at the time, and had traveled to Paris for the weekend.

We just happened to be in Paris for the launch of the world’s largest bike share at the time. We said we needed to bring this here to the States because no one was doing it at the time. That’s how we got started.

So, we love the concept. I’ve been riding a bike since I was a little kid and, you know, wanted to see this happen in Philadelphia. It was our original passion for starting this, because that’s where we were coming back to. Now, we’re a world-wide company and grown to be the world’s largest bike sharing company in the world.

BP: Was Philadelphia the first bike sharing city in the States then?

No, actually. This is kind of funny. Philadelphia did not have one. The first one was in Washington D.C.

BP: What’s the deal with Philadelphia?

Philadelphia just notoriously moves slowly on anything progressive. So right now they’ve launched a feasibility study and are in the process of looking at impacts to the system.

BP: How big is bike sharing around the world?

Basically, every European country has a bike sharing deployment, and then it is the fastest growing form of transportation worldwide. And right now there are over 300 deployments worldwide.

BP: Are they mostly in Europe and America, or are they in other countries as well?

It all started in Europe. It’s mainly in Europe now, but a lot of the Asian countries, actually the largest bike share is in Hangzhou, China. Over 50,000 bikes are spread throughout the city. It’s massive out there. It is growing in the United States, in North America. Basically every North American city is looking into it in some capacity.

There’s about five or six launching just this year, including Boston. Washington D.C. just revamped and upgraded from 100 bikes to 1,000 bikes. Minneapolis launched like 2,000 bikes. It’s really starting to pick up here in the States. Next year is going to be a really, really big year. Some of the other major cities are in the planning stages now.

BP: That’s encouraging to hear. What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job?

I think the biggest challenge for us right now is raising the money to put together this software package that we’re developing. (Ed.: CityRyde has closed two rounds of financing.) We are developing the only software package in the world that’s able to turn bike rides into cash. So our expertise is actually tracking the amount of carbon being reduced by taking a bicycle instead of your car. And those savings can be tracked, monitored and sold in the carbon credit market.

BP: Which doesn’t exist yet, to my knowledge.

Actually, it’s the fastest growing commodity market in the world. It’s about $140 billion today. Just the United States isn’t in the compliance market today. Basically, every other country except for the US, China and Australia are in the carbon credit market.

It’s called the compliance market, where companies polluting are requiring to purchase space. However, there is a voluntary market in the United States right now that exceeding $200 million today.

BP: That’s interesting. Is that market something that the public can get access to?

Yes, about 80% of the carbon credits sold in the US are from businesses, so places like Google who offset their entire worldwide carbon emissions purchase them. 20% are from individuals. There are a couple places to buy them from.

But these companies are purchasing these carbon credits is really for three reasons. One is the marketing value. The second is that it is a commodity and can be resold at a premium. And the third, and most important, is that most businesses anticipate the US moving toward a cap and trade, some sort of carbon regulation, in the next ten years. They’re purchasing these carbon credits at a discount now, and having them grandfathered in. So the organization we work with to certify these carbon credits is the organization, the Voluntary Carbon Standard, that will run whatever legislation that ends up getting passed in the States.

Follow Timothy’s travels and contest progress at his Fairfield Challenge blog.

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