I was astounded when I saw about three weeks ago, a shiny new tourist product down the street, a bank of bicycles, Green Bike Aruba, lined up like soldiers, powered by solar, ready for a credit card to be swiped at the touch-screen kiosk, no employees, no reservation, no fuss.
Wow, how did that entrepreneur swing that?
I am full of admiration.
From infrastructure to advertising, these little bike stations are as good as any around the globe.
How was that possible with all red tape and redundant regulations, that a product like that appears on the market, no warning signs, overnight, ready to rock and roll.
Then Speed Andrade educated me in a TV interview: The new bike network includes 8 Green Bike stations; they offer a reasonable annual membership for locals; I also found out it’s a family business, run by two female investors, supported by family members
Then I saw on FB an E-AruBike reminder, a local project introduced in 2015 to the banking community and to government. It was a green project, so the MinPres was pleased to hear about it, and according to an official government publication, was the first one to take a bike for a spin.
Then nothing happened because the local banks stalled the approval of the project and the local entrepreneur bumped his head against a glass ceiling he couldn’t penetrate.
While declaring their support of small to medium businesses, reality proves it is not a government priority and that the famous entrepreneurial ecosystem is a fiction of our imagination.
So with government policy absent, favorable regulations nonexistent and funding impossible, nothing happens.
Then a foreign investment did the trick. An entrepreneur with deep pockets delivered the product.
My FB friends were up in arms that the idea was presented by a local entrepreneur and was not supported, because it was business risk, and the banks as we know, stay away from any loan that is not 100% secure.
Bottom line, the development of small business is no one’s priority.
I also solicited the hotels’ feedback about the project, because Costa Linda Beach Resort, La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino and the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino woke up one morning to a bank of bikes. All agree they should have been consulted on the location and all are concerned that by naming the stations after their properties, potential liability is implicated. They want their name taken off the bike stands, and raised issues of insurance and safety.
Then I talked to some other friendly experts, and they believe the actual bike stations are the last piece in the puzzle. The first piece? Bike lanes and a national refresh campaign on two-wheel, road traffic regulations.
Lastly, I heard: Who wants to ride a bike in Aruba? The wind challenging. And the corrosion is a threat, the bikes will gradually be destroyed by our environment, the weather will not be gentle on the bikes. Expect a Hunk a Junk within one year. That was harsh!