Yikes! Bikes! Lime and Pace Come to Town

NEWS
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What’s the talk of the town? Bikes, and lots of them. On Friday, July 13, the City launched a dockless bike sharing program and Rockaway, usually the last for things, is the first to try it. Following the launch, as many as 150 bikes from companies, Lime and Pace, were scattered throughout the peninsula, sparking mixed reviews from the community.

It’s hard to ignore the bright green Lime bikes and the less-flashy white and blue Pace bikes scattered around town. They’re everywhere. So much, so that some thought someone was pulling a prank by seemingly abandoning bicycles around town. But it’s no prank. It’s all part of the Department of Transportation's (DOT) dockless bike sharing pilot program.

How does it work? For those with smartphones, download the apps from the two companies—Lime and Pace.  With the apps, you sync a credit card to your account, which will be used to pay for each ride. It costs $1 per half-hour to rent each bike. Each of the bikes come with a GPS system, and maps in the app tell you where to find them if you don’t spot one nearby. Once you find a bike, you use the app to scan the barcode on the bike to unlock it, hop on and ride to your destination.  With Lime bikes, you can leave the bike just about anywhere, but be courteous to others by not blocking a parking space, a sidewalk or the entrance of someone’s home or business. Lime bikes come with its own lock that goes around the back tire. Pace bikes can also be left anywhere, but they must be locked as a regular bike, to a bike rack or street pole. Then the next person can come along, using the app, and ride the bike to their destination.

“There is no more fitting place in New York City to roll out our dockless bikes than the Rockaways,” Mayor de Blasio said at a press conference at Beach 109th Street on Friday, July 13. “Residents and visitors alike will now find the Rockaways’ world class beaches, restaurants and other attractions more accessible than ever.”

 “At ten miles long, the Rockaway Peninsula offers tremendous opportunities – for sun, recreation, delicious food and so much more – but distances are often just too long to walk,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “With a dockless bike, the miles from Jacob Riis Park to the A train or from the NYC Ferry dock to one of many great restaurants will seem so much more conquerable and fun. I for one cannot wait to explore those miles on a dockless bike.”

On Friday, Pace brought 50 bikes to the peninsula and by the end of the week, there were supposed to be about 200. Lime introduced 100 bikes to the peninsula, but on July 28, a new law will go into effect that will permit the use of electric, or pedal-assist bikes in New York City. So starting July 28, Rockaway will see even more Lime bikes, but 100 of them will be pedal-assist, which allows a rider to pedal with little effort. These bikes will cost $1 to rent, and then 15 cents per minute to ride.

Since the Bike-ocalypse arrived, the reaction from the community has been mixed. Some approve and some are adamantly against it. The Rockaway Times (RT) reached out to those that would be directly impacted by the new bike rental program—local bike rental companies—to get their input. For many years, Paul’s Bicycle Shop on Beach 116th Street, and more recently Boarders, have offered bike rentals. For the past few years, Boarders has offered rentals right out of their Beach 97th concession, and they just started another rental service at the ferry landing on Beach 108th. The RT reached out to the owners for their take on the program, but Boarders owner, Steve Stathis, did not wanted to comment at this time, and Paul’s Bicycle Shop did not get back to us by press time.

However, others have weighed in on their behalf. “The Beach 97th concession on the boardwalk rents bicycles. Support our local business,” John Kerrigan said. Another resident pointed out that the local businesses don’t offer rentals for 24 hours like the bike share program, to which Kerrigan suggested buying a bike of your own at Paul’s Bike Shop. Others suggested this program should be used to bring money back into the community. “Shouldn’t a percentage of the proceeds come to Rockaway? Maybe subsidize the bike rental businesses that it is putting out of business,” Bert Palummeri said. Others suggested that the money should be use to help protect Rockaway. “If de Blasio promised, in writing, a portion of proceeds from the rentals went to Rockaway's still-recovering process from Sandy (jetties, protection plan, beach erosion), maybe Rockaway residents would feel less resistant and heard,” Lizzy Wright said. “Instead it's just taking away from local businesses who rent bikes, besides the fact that they're being left everywhere.”

The bikes “being left everywhere” is a hot-button issue, as some have expressed a fear that someone will get hurt by tripping over a bike left by their property. Others have pointed out that riders need to be responsible with where they leave them. “The biggest problem we have is people who have no respect for others’ property! Use the bike and then park it in a spot that is not in anyone’s way, that’s not in the bay/ocean, on top of a fence or in a tree,” Rebecca DeMartino said. Photos of Lime bikes hanging in trees and glimmering under water were being shared on social media, but these were photos from other cities where this program has launched, such as Seattle. Besides a few that were knocked over, there’s been no sign of the bikes being mistreated locally.

In fact, many are thrilled with the new transportation option. “I think they’re a great alternative to taxis/Uber/Lyft. They are also a fraction of the cost,” James Supple said. “I took an Uber from Bungalow Bar on Friday and it was a group ride that cost $16. If a Lime Bike was nearby, I would have used the bike.”

Those that have used it seem to love the convenience. My first experience with Lime Bike happened after an evening at the concessions,”James Otton, co-owner of The Fat Cardinal Bakery said. “We didn’t want to walk home, so we gave them a try. It was so easy to use and it was a little fun using the map to find the closest one. It didn’t impact a local business as the other rental sites were closed. We started using them at Fat Cardinal for running quick errands locally since parking can be a nightmare during the summer.” Thomas Quinn, also of Fat Cardinal Bakery, also supports the idea, saying, “It’s perfect for Rockaway in the summer!”

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