Tom Butt
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  City Council Approves Plan to Rescue Bikeshare Program
August 20, 2022

The saga of Bolt shutting down and leaving Richmond and other cities with thousands of inoperable bikes in ambitious bikeshare programs has gone viral in the media for weeks.

Earlier this month, I was notified by the Institute for Local Government that Richmond had been selected for one of its coveted Beacon Leadership and Innovation Awards for our “electric bikeshare program that provides residents with a low-cost clean transportation option to reduce citywide carbon emissions,” to be bestowed at the League of California Cities annual conference beginning September 7, 2022, in Long Beach.

The bikeshare program had been implemented with a $1 million grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Imagine how embarrassed I would have been to accept an award for a project that no longer existed, although its demise was no fault of the City.

Instead of wringing our hands in despair, we sprang into action. The Mayor’s Office and City staff circled the wagons and found a solution. The original contract for the bikeshare program was executed in 2020 with Gotcha Ride, LLC, which was later acquired by Bolt Mobility Corporation in 2021. We were able to contact David Touwsma, founder of Gotcha Ride, LLC, who was the original supplier of the bikes and still had the software to unlock and service them.

On August 19, 2022, in a special meeting, the City Council approved a contract with Charleston Mobility, Inc., Touwsma’s company, to manage the operations needed to relaunch, evaluate and scale the City’s bikeshare system.

Through a remarkable collaboration of Transportation Services Project Manager Denee Evans, Interim Director of Library and Community Services LaShonda White, City Manager Shasa Curl, the City Attorney’s Office and The Mayor’s Office, we have set a plan in motion to revive the bikeshare system.

When the Beacon Award in bestowed at the League of California Cities annual conference, I will be proudly report that we not only established a cutting edge bikeshare program, but we rescued and revived it within weeks of its untimely demise.

The backstory

Why Bike Share is Important

It is important to maintain bike share services in Richmond for several reasons. Bike sharing is a form of short-term bicycle rental where people can access a shared fleet of bicycles as needed. Bicycle sharing programs provide safe and convenient access to bicycles for short trips, such as running errands or transit-work trips. With a focus on connectivity and a reduction in greenhouse gas reductions, maintaining a bike share program is consistent with the City’s First Mile Last Mile Strategic Plan, General Plan 2030 and its obligations to develop community-based greenhouse gas reduction programs under the Chevron Environmental and Community Investment Agreement.

The Transportation Division has committed to provide electric bikes, hubs, and low-cost membership incentives to other local existing/pending shared mobility focused projects. As such, the City is seeking to continue the bike share program that was abruptly abandoned by the current operator, Bolt Mobility, without proper notice to the City of Richmond.

A Brief Recap of Events leading to Charleston Mobility, LLC

The Transportation Division received funds from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) Capital Bike Share Grant to develop an electric bike share program. Gotcha, LLC was selected through a competitive bid process.  On June 4, 2019, the City Council approved the acceptance of the MTC grant in the amount of $1,024,000, and a contract with Gotcha, LLC, in an amount not to exceed $868,000 for the development of a publicly available bike share program in Richmond. On January 29, 2021, Gotcha, LLC., as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bolt Mobility Corporation (Bolt Mobility) entered contract amendment 1, with the City (Attachment 1). Bolt Mobility assumed the duties and assets of operating the bike share program.

On June 15, 2021, Bolt Mobility launched the eBike share program after experiencing program launch delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain impacts.
In early July, after providing almost a year of uninterrupted bike share operations, national news reports announced that Bolt Mobility abruptly ceased operations within several markets leaving behind hundreds of locked bikes and hubs without notice. Bolt Mobility left approximately 60 bikes with dead batteries at various hubs throughout the city and defaulted on their local warehouse lease containing over 150 additional bikes and equipment. Richmond Transportation staff attempted to reach the Bolt representatives without receiving any response.

On August 3, 2022, Bolt released a statement on their website: (, which explained that Bolt Mobility lost critical equity investors and were forced to significantly scale back their operations. Richmond never received direct communication as to the status of the Richmond bike share program.

On August 4, 2022, the Richmond legal department sent a written notice via Fed Ex to Bolt Mobility that it failed to comply with the terms of the existing contract.

The letter explained the actions that City staff would take to remove the remaining bikes from the city right-of-way, gave the company a deadline of September 4, 2022, to respond to the letter, or compensate the City for liquidated damages in the amount of
$529,200. The letter also stated that the company could contest the liquidated damages to or the City would keep the bikes as compensation for the liquidated damages.

Sean Flood, from EFO Ventures, contacted the mayor’s office and offered to send a team member with the programming and equipment required to unlock the abandoned bikes and to meet with Transportation staff to discuss options to reinstate the abandoned bike share operations. Sean Flood and David Touwsma are the co- managers of EFO Ventures. They developed the Gotcha program software, and designed the electric bikes and parts used in the Richmond bike share program.

EFO Ventures is an investment studio, owned by David Touwsma & Sean Flood, and is focused on the mobility sector. The companies in the portfolio include, Element (Exclusive manufacture of the e bikes used in Richmond CA), Charleston Mobility, LLC. (shared mobility operator), Hello Llama (mobility safety software), Frog Mobility (scooters and bike operations in Europe), Ottr (bike share operator in UK) and MIXTE Electric (eBike manufacturer directly sold to consumers).

On August 8, 2022, David Touwsma, came to Richmond to assist the Transportation and Public Works staff to unlock, remove and store the remaining bikes in a secure City facility. Mr. Touwsma and Transportation staff discussed the challenges experienced under Bolt operations and considered several options to improve and resume the bike share program.

It became apparent to City staff that the proprietary factors associated with the equipment used in Richmond would prohibit the City from simply assigning the bike share management to another bike share company or bike business. The software, battery and other hardware used in Richmond is proprietary to Element which is the company that manufactures the bikes and is owned by EFO Ventures.                                                                                                       However, Charleston Mobility, LLC., often partners with local bike shops or community groups to assist with recharging batteries, bike maintenance, and other services.

Project Phases

Mr. Touwsma met with Transportation staff and proposed an action plan that can be implemented in three phases and each phase builds upon the previous one. Phase One is for the emergency program reinstatement and securing additional funds to expand the program.

The first phase is the focus of this report. It is an emergency pilot program to reinstate services and other local shared mobility project commitments within 30 days of contract execution with Charleston Mobility, LLC. This plan allows for the continuation of some form of a bike share program and the ability to purchase additional bikes (via approved budget amendments and demonstrated needed) while the details of bike ownership are resolved by the Richmond City Attorney’s office. The number of bikes that are deployed during this pilot phase and the payment to the vendor is contingent upon a number of factors including but not limited to the City of Richmond gaining legal access to existing electric bikes and available funding. Transportation staff will continue to seek additional funding to sustain the bike share program beyond the emergency pilot program.

Phase One - Emergency Pilot Plan – immediate action
The objective is to re-launch the bikeshare program and limit the total assets deployed to a maximum of 100 bikes. This will allow time to stabilize, repair, engage in growth plans, and measure the outcomes and effectiveness of the program.

Task for the Pilot Program (to include or expand upon the following):

Work with the Transportation Division to set a schedule for bike deployment, to reinstate bike share and to fulfill other pending grant-funded shared mobility projects.

  • Review existing, approved bike hub sites to determine optimal quantity of bikes per location based on historic data and new data obtained from re-launch.
  • Conduct a full analysis of the entire existing fleet including recovered/abandoned bikes. Assess conditions and repair/replace parts as required.
  • Reprogram firmware/software to operate bikes.
  • Address security issues by updating the ability for prior operators to access through Bluetooth code change and securing against battery/bike theft.
  • Rebrand assets to remove Bolt/Gotcha
  • Hire a local operations team to:
    • Maintain fleet at proper battery level minimums (below 20% needs replacement)
    • Rebalance bikes to optimize ridership and provide value-added service
    • Implement safety and cleanliness protocol/requirements for fleet
    • Provide community outreach and rider education
    • Increase monitoring to reduce bike theft and vandalism
  • Conduct mid-term program evaluation with Transportation Division and prepare Phase 2 program growth plan.
  • Work diligently on grant funding that would allow for the full funding and expansion of the bike share program Phase 2.

The total cost of the emergency bike share pilot is $345,000, as referenced in the table listed below:

Project Category


Item Budget

Total Budget
for Phase I


Re-launch assessment and growth assessment




Updates and operational
oversight - per month for 6 months



Maintenance & Operations and Outreach

  • Operational Lead (20 hours/week @ $20/hour)


  • Lead Mechanic (20 hours/week @ $20/hour)
  • Rebalance/Recharging Labor (20 hours/week @


Per month for 6 months




$15/device/month (100 bikes) - per month for 6




Per month for 6 months



Program Sub-Total




Capital Expense




Bike Acquisition Contingency

$1600 @ 100




$300/battery @ 150



Estimate of Misc.




Capital Sub-Total








The contractor shall submit monthly invoices outlining the work performed and hours worked within each Project Category listed above. Payment is contingent upon worked performed, access to required infrastructure and equipment, and submission of agreed upon deliverables as outlined in the Scope of Work. Based on the initial assessment and if agreed upon by both parties, the budget can be amended to best meet the needs of the program without exceeding the approved contract limit. A bike acquisition contingency is being set aside in the amount of $160,000. The consultant must secure written approval prior to any use of the contingency.

Phase Two will allow the city to launch the additional assets and locations determined in Phase 1 with the goal to increase to total assets deployed of 300. During Phase 2, the objective is to continue to work diligently on grant funding that would allow for the full funding of Phase 3.

Phase Three is focused on creating a long-term sustainability plan. During this phase it allow the city to operate effectively and provide a long term sustained service for the community.

Upon completion and assessment of phase one, staff will return to Council to report on the recommended actions for phase two and phase three tasks, and request additional funds, if needed.