Ulrich Pedals Forward Despite DOT's Brake on Spin’s Bike Sharing

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Just when dockless bike share company, Spin, was gearing up to hold a pop-up demonstration to showcase their GPS-enabled, self-locking smart bikes in Rockaway at a press conference hosted by City Councilman Eric Ulrich, the Department of Transportation (DOT) put a stick in the spokes by sending a cease-and-desist letter to the company this past Friday.

"Please be advised that you do not have the authorization or permission, pursuant to a concession, franchise, permit, contract or otherwise, required for such operations," Michelle Craven, senior executive director of Cityscape & Franchises at the DOT, wrote to Derrick Ko, Spin's co-founder and CEO.

However, that did not deter Ulrich from adamantly pedaling forward with the press conference held this past Monday, August 14 on the boardwalk at Beach 94th Street, and Spin from bringing a few bikes tried out by the Councilman himself, NYS Senator Joseph Addabbo, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, Rockaway Beach Civic Association President John Cori, Gateway Bike & Boathouse (GBB) Principal Rick Horan and other locals in attendance.

Ulrich, who is going up for re-election this year and is an outspoken critic of Mayor Bill de Blasio, said, "We lack good, viable transportation in the Rockaways. My office has sent letters to the DOT to bring Citi Bike here because we recognized the great potential of bike sharing for both locals and visitors, but they refused. My constituents are starving for transportation alternatives, but our Mayor would rather protect a public monopoly with Citi Bike, than expand sensible bike sharing with other companies. Rockaway is a transportation desert where bike sharing does not exist.

"So when Spin approached us, we thought why not give this company an opportunity to demonstrate what they can do, not only to alleviate Rockaway’s transportation issues, but also generate commerce for local businesses.

“Bringing Spin to Rockaway is a no-brainer. It will not cost tax payers a dime, so why the resistance?”

Unlike Citi Bike bicycles, which are locked into stations in set locations around the city, Spin’s fleet of solar-powered, GPS-equipped, orange-color dockless bikes can be locked and rented out by their users by scanning a barcode with a smartphone and left anywhere. At $1 per 30 minutes, Spin bicycles are less expensive to rent on a short-term basis than Citi Bikes, which cost $12 per day for non-members, with a hefty $4 charge for every 15 minutes if the Citi Bike is not docked within 30 minutes.

However, Citi Bike memberships cost less, at $14.95 per month (or $163 per year if paid upfront) for unlimited 45-minute rides, while Spin charges $29 per month for unlimited 30-minute rides.

After pedaling around the boardwalk on the Spin bike, GBB’s Rick Horan, a self-professed public transportation and free marked advocate said, “I took a ‘spin’ on the Spin and it’s very good quality. It rides well. The tires are solid so you don’t have to worry about flats, and with solar panels charging the battery, it’s as high tech as you can get, but low tech enough so that it shouldn’t break.

“We encourage people to ride their bikes to the bay. There’s no place to park in Rockaway, and we’re losing lanes of traffic. I couldn’t be more thrilled that Spin is using our community as their testing ground. Their proposed offering of 150 bikes is not going to be near the demand we are going to see, at least during the summer months.”

However, there were some dissenters bemoaning the local throughways already congested with bikes.

Rockaway Beach resident, Sharon Ray, said, “Can you imagine the congestion with all these bikes in the bike lanes? On the weekends, you aren’t allowed to ride on the boardwalk, so where are these 150 bike riders going to be? In the already-packed bike lanes that cause havoc for both drivers and pedestrians?”

Another woman in attendance also questioned how adding 150 more bike riders is going to help with congestion and safety. “We already have unyielding bike riders colliding with pedestrians on the boardwalk and in the street. This is not about the City and DOT’s prevention of bike sharing in Rockaway. Our elected officials need to shift their political battles to the side, and instead focus on the needs and safety of their constituents,” she said.

Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato, also a transportation advocate, welcomed Spin to Rockaway. “Our community has transportation challenges, not to mention parking challenges. The red carpet should be laid out for bike-sharing companies like Spin. I am disappointed that the administration is trying to impede businesses like this from coming here,” Pheffer Amato said.

DOT Spokesperson Scott Gastel, said despite the cease and desist, the City may be willing to work with Spin’s technology. “We’re interested in what the newest generation of bike sharing technology can do to help us expand access to more neighborhoods and more boroughs. But this can’t be the Wild West, with ad hoc installations that haven’t received City approval and that don’t fully consider the future of bike sharing in New York.  The public has an interest in a fully-integrated and expanding public bike sharing program that embraces the latest technology. We are currently exploring the next phase of expansion, and are considering this new technology’s potential to enhance those plans.”

Spin representative, James Moore, is also hoping to move forward with the DOT.

“We really look forward to working with DOT. They are charged with administering the most complex transportation system in the biggest and best city in the U.S. We’re always going to comply with DOT, and work with them. So we hope to have a meeting and do a pilot with them. Rockaway’s beautiful beach community is the perfect area to showcase the benefits of dockless bike sharing,” Moore said.

Moore also said that the company plans to work with local businesses to help drive commerce to the community.  “We plan to work with Paul’s Bicycle Shop to do repairs and repositioning of the bikes, and to drive Spin riders towards other local establishments,” Moore said.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo said, "I am hopeful that the Mayor's Administration, along with DOT, can come to a professional agreement with Spin, in order to allow people to benefit from a credible service provider and enjoy the accommodation of having accessibility to bicycle rentals."

Spin already operates in Seattle, Dallas, opening up in South San Francisco and who knows — maybe one day in Rockaway? For more information on Spin, visit: https://spin.pm

 

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