switching gears

Reversing Course, Dockless Bike Share to Roll on in the Rockaways

A Lime dockless electric-assist bike.
A Lime dockless electric-assist bike. Photo: Courtesy of Lime

The city slammed the brakes on plans to halt dockless bike-sharing in Queens — and will keep the wheels rolling in the Rockaways.

The move came a month after THE CITY reported  the Department of Transportation would scrap the bicycle pilot program at the summer’s end, spurring a backlash along the Queens shore.

The “community called our office in large droves and sent emails,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards (D-Queens).

On Monday, the DOT put out a call seeking bike share companies to serve the Rockaways, giving new life to a program that began in July 2018. The agency aims to maintain continuous service and interview companies in the first week of October, before beginning the second phase of its pilot program in November.

Since Lime’s fleet of 600 bikes arrived in the Rockaways last year, 21,000 riders have logged 143,000 rides, according to the company.

‘We Are a Transportation Desert’

Richards said the bikes help bridge the gap for transit-starved spots in the area.

“Everywhere you go you see those bikes — from public housing to subway stops to the homeowners,” he said. “It’s been largely successful in really closing the transit equity gap that we see on the peninsula.”

Milan Taylor, executive director of Rockaway Youth Task Force, said his organization sent letters to elected officials and included testimonies from residents who depended on the rides.

“We definitely saw it as a blow to the community. You could walk anywhere in this community, and see folks using the bikes and just really taking advantage of this great program,” Taylor said. “The Rockaway peninsula — we are a transportation desert. There aren’t many reliable modes of transportation to go back and forth.”

The dockless bikes at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island. Photo: Clifford Michel/THE CITY

Russell Murphy, a Lime spokesperson, indicated the company is interested in carrying on the Rockaway dockless-bike setup, adding the company also has applied for a borough-wide pilot program on Staten Island.

The Rockaway test run has not been without incident: In July, an electric-assisted Lime bike burst into flames near Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The company called it “an isolated incident” stemming from someone tampering with the bike’s lock.

“Safety is paramount at Lime,” Murphy said.

Waiting for Wheels

Other boroughs, meanwhile, await their two-wheeled rides. The Bronx will trade in dockless bikes for docked Citi Bikes, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced  last month.

But plans to expand bike share to all of Staten Island, originally slated to start this summer, move in low-gear.

Officials finished interviewing companies in mid-July, said a Department of Transportation spokesperson.

“DOT is in discussions with companies regarding the borough-wide pilot,” the agency’s Brian Zumhagen said in a statement. “We are planning to roll out the pilot upon completion of the procurement selection process.”

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