what's up dockless?

Dockless Bike-Share Grows in Staten Island, Brakes in Bronx and Queens

A dockless bike rests at Victory Boulevard and Bay Street in Staten Island, on July 19, 2019. Photo: Clifford Michel/THE CITY

Days after announcing a major, four-borough Citi Bike expansion, the Department of Transportation told THE CITY on Friday that test runs of dockless bike-sharing will cease at summer’s end — except in Staten Island.

That will leave the Rockaways in Queens and The Bronx’s Fordham without dockless bike-shares. But while the DOT said it is sinking those programs, it is also testing the waters for a permanent, borough-wide dockless Staten Island bike-share system, building on a pilot that’s served the North Shore for the past year.

Tamera Jacobs, the director of operations at Rockaway Youth Task Force, said that the bike-share pilot had helped bridge the gap in an area she says is a “transportation desert.”

“Lime bike has provided our area with an inexpensive mode of transportation,” Jacobs told THE CITY. “It is very surprising that the Department of Transportation isn’t going to be continuing the program.”

“It just seems that black and brown communities aren’t getting the resources we need and are being denied these programs that are actually working in our community,” said Jacobs.

The DOT didn’t respond to an inquiry about why the pilot wouldn’t continue in The Bronx and Queens.

Councilmember Donovan Richards (D-Rockaways), sent a letter to DOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg in March asking for an expansion of the program in his area — so a spokesperson for the pol was surprised to hear that DOT was doing the opposite, but didn’t immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

The agency had put out a call for free-standing bike-share operators earlier this spring and projected the Staten Island expansion would begin in July. But DOT only last week finished interviewing the four companies competing for the job.

Scott Gastel, a DOT spokesperson, didn’t provide a new timeline for the S.I. expansion, but said a company will be selected “shortly.”

Yet, City Council members representing the intended expansion area said they haven’t heard from the DOT since the expansion was announced.
“It stinks,” South Shore Councilmember Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) told THE CITY. “How could bicycles be this hard?”

Beyond Citi Bike

Meanwhile, the dockless cut follows the recent announcement of a major expansion of the city’s original, dock-based Citi Bike network. The familiar blue bikes will finally reach The Bronx and increase their presence in upper Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn over the next three and a half years, officials announced last week.

The Citi Bike contract allowed other companies to offer bikes outside its service area. A pilot program that began last spring was supposed to test the dockless model.

Dockless bikes for short-term rent sprung up in Fordham and in the Rockaways last summer.

Brooklyn’s Coney Island also was supposed to get dockless bikes, run by the same company — Lyft-owned Motivate — behind Citi Bike. But local opposition preempted the plan.

Jump bikes at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, on July 18, 2019.
Jump bikes at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, on July 18, 2019. Photo: Clifford Michel/THE CITY

“I want a dock-based bike-share program like Citi Bike. I’m not interested in a second-class system for my neighborhood,” Councilmember Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) told THE CITY in a statement. “DOT or anyone affiliated with dockless bike-share programs could not answer questions about whose responsibility it is to pick up and return bikes left on the sidewalks and streets.”

He added, “I’m interested in Citi Bike and disappointed that they have not made their way into Southern Brooklyn yet.”

In April, a DOT spokesperson confirmed to Brooklyn Paper that the agency cancelled the Brooklyn bike-share effort, and would instead focus on bringing a borough-wide program to Staten Island.

Staten Island received a fleet of 400 dockless bikes in July 2018 from Lime and Uber-backed Jump. Under the initial pilot program, the bikes aren’t allowed outside of the borough’s North Shore and a narrow four-mile stretch of the East Shore packed with boardwalks and beaches.

Thousands of Trips Made

Since the bike-share launch on Staten Island, riders have taken at least 68,000 trips, according to the DOT.

Bike advocates say their popularity should be no surprise.

“Areas that’ve been ignored by the city for decades are finally getting more opportunities to go around,” said Rose Uscianowski, a Staten Island-based organizer with Transportation Alternatives, an anti-automobile advocacy group.

“In areas like Park Hill and Concord, you’re seeing Lime and Jump bikes everywhere.”

Uscaianoski and Borelli both said an expanded bike-share program could really help Staten Islanders, who only have access to a single train line that serves the North Shore and the eastern side of the Island.

“For years until now, the only things you’d hear about biking in those communities have been negative,” said Uscaianoski. “But for the South Shore and Mid-Island there’s no ferry service. They have one of the longest commutes in the city and reduced bus service. So suddenly these communities are suddenly thinking about cycling as a means of transportation.”

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