A Very New Orleans Way to Promote Bike Share

by Kiran Herbert, Communications Manager

Through Mardi Gras Day, Blue Bikes riders should be on the lookout for “Blue Baby,” which could earn them up to 12 months of free rides.

For regular BBSP readers, it’s no surprise that New Orleans is doing bike share differently. After the first iteration of Blue Bikes ceased operations during the pandemic, the community took matters into its own hands, forming Blue Krewe, a nonprofit, to operate bike share in the city. Under the new model, the city provides space for stations and has done away with permit fees — equity is a major focus and has led to the creation of a community-first system. Rider data shows that around 60% of Blue Bikes trips are taken by New Orleans residents.

On January 11, Blue Krewe announced a major system expansion to better serve riders: 300 new, pedal-assist e-bikes were added, growing the total fleet to more than 800 bikes. This is a major step in the City’s ultimate goal (as outlined in its Climate Action Plan) of offering 2,500 bike share vehicles by 2025.

“Operating Blue Bikes as a community-focused nonprofit means that we both serve our community and rely on our community partnerships to deliver healthy, active transportation to all New Orleanians,” says Geoff Coats, CEO of Blue Krewe. “These new bikes are the manifestation of all of our collective work.”

In order to celebrate the expansion and get more people riding during the weeks leading up to New Orleans’ most celebrated holiday — Mardi Gras —  Blue Krewe has devised a fun way to promote bike share. From now through Mardi Gras day (February 21), about one-fifth of the city’s Blue Bikes will have a King Cake Baby hidden within their designs. The toy baby, which is often hidden in a King Cake (the official dessert of Mardi Gras), will be featured in different places on the bikes, with some will be harder to find than others. Just like you need to look before you bite into a slice of king cake, the idea is that riders need to check their bikes before riding.

Riders that find a king cake baby are encouraged to post photos to their personal social media and tag Blue Bikes (@BlueBikesNOLA) alongside the hashtag #SearchingForBabyBlue. Those who do will be entered in a contest to win prizes, including a grand prize one-year Blue Bikes membership (a $300 value). Smaller prizes will include helmets, T-shirts, and other swag items. 

To make sure the contest and its system in general as accessible, Blue Bikes offers three different membership plans. The Pay As You Go option costs 15 cents per minute and includes a $1 unlocking fee. The Monthly Membership costs $25 a month and lets riders unlock a Blue Bike without a fee any time they ride. It also includes up to an hour of free ride time per day, which can be used for multiple trips. Lastly, through the Blue Bikes For All program, New Orleans residents who qualify for Medicaid or Louisiana Purchase (S/NAP) can get a reduced ridership plan of $4 per month.

“Now that we’ve added 300 additional pedal-assist e-bikes to our fleet, it’s easier than ever for folks to hop on a Blue Bike and pedal to parades, parties, and family gatherings,” says Patrick Urbine, community engagement manager for Blue Krewe. “We hope that the #SearchingForBabyBlue contest will make Carnival season even more fun as people experience the festivities and enjoy the ride.”

The Better Bike Share Partnership is funded by The JPB Foundation as a collaboration between the City of Philadelphia, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), and the PeopleForBikes Foundation to build equitable and replicable bike share systems. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or sign up for our weekly newsletter. Got a question or a story idea? Email kiran@peopleforbikes.org.