rough ride

Dockless Bike Share Expands on Hilly Staten Island — Sans Electric Pedal Assist

British-based bike share Beryl is coming to the Borough of Parks.
British-based bike share Beryl is coming to the Borough of Parks. Photo: @BerylBikes/Facebook

Sign up for “THE CITY Scoop,” our daily newsletter where we send you stories like this first thing in the morning.

Dockless bike share service is expanding to all of Staten Island — minus the electric motors that make it easier to pedal in a borough known for steep hills.

The city Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that Beryl, a London-based company, will supply over 1,000 new bikes to the borough starting next spring. The Staten Island bike share service appears to be its first in North America.

That signals the end of the road for Lime, which has 200 bikes on the island in a test run that began in July 2018 and will end Dec. 3, according to DOT.

Bikes from JUMP, which is owned by Uber, will disappear from Staten Island streets on Friday — but could still return, the city and Uber both signaled Wednesday. JUMP has 200 bikes in the borough’s pilot dockless bike share program.

JUMP, Lime, Beryl and a fourth firm, Gotcha, had all responded to an open call for interested companies, said Alana Morales, a DOT spokesperson.

“Beryl presented a robust proposal to cover the whole island and have a proven track record overseas particularly in regards to their ability to limit sidewalk obstruction and clutter,” Morales said in a statement.

Uphill Climb

Unlike the departing services, which offered bikes outfitted with e-pedal assist technology, Beryl’s rides will be the old-fashioned, fully human-propelled kind — despite Staten Island’s sometimes challenging terrain. The borough’s hilly roadways include the highest natural point in New York City.

DOT’s low-tech route left advocates for expanded bike share putting brakes on their praise.

“The lack of a pedal-assist option is disappointing given our hills and the impact it will have on less-abled riders,” said Rose Uscianowski, a Stapleton-based cycling advocate with Transportation Alternatives.

North Shore Councilmember Debi Rose welcomed Beryl, but lamented losing the e-pedal advantage.

Dockless bikes from JUMP near the Staten Island ferry terminal in July 2019.
Dockless bikes from JUMP near the Staten Island ferry terminal in July 2019. Photo: Clifford Michel/THE CITY

“The loss of pedal-assist bikes on the North Shore will be a disappointment to my constituents who enjoyed the extra boost, especially on our many North Shore hills,” Rose said in a statement. “I hope that DOT can work with Beryl or another provider to bring pedal-assist bikes back to the North Shore and give residents another efficient, sustainable transportation option.“

South Shore Councilmember Joe Borelli called the announcement “a positive step.” But he also yearned for electric-assist technology — available on some Citi Bikes elsewhere in the New York.

“I still hope we can move towards e-scooters and bikes,” Borelli said.

In the Zone

Addressing a common concern that dockless bikes end up scattered around sidewalks when not on the road, Beryl prompts riders to park within designated zones and charges penalties for straying.

Where those zones will end up has yet to be determined. Borelli said DOT ought to to require  Beryl to target public transit stops and stations, so it can provide “last mile” transit to final destinations.

Since the launch of Staten Island’s bike share pilot last year, riders have taken at least 136,000 trips, according to the Department of Transportation.

DOT put out its call for dockless bike-share operators this spring, allowing for both conventional and pedal-assist bicycles. At the time, the department projected the Staten Island expansion would begin in July, but only finished interviewing the four contenders that month.

The agency remained locked in negotiations with Uber, which threatened to pull its bikes off the streets by Labor Day. POLITICO New York reported that Uber wanted the de Blasio administration to limit riders’ ability to sue the company.

DOT and Uber both signaled that JUMP could still glide back into view. “While the company will cease its operations this Friday, DOT continues discussions with dockless provider JUMP on its possible role in the next phase of the Staten Island bike share pilot,” DOT’s announcement reads.

Alix Anfang, a spokesperson for Uber, said, “Friday marks the end of the DOT’s pilot program but we’re having productive conversations about our ability to operate in Staten Island in the future.”

Morales said the department is still in talks about keeping Lime bikes in the Rockaways, where DOT reversed course this summer and decided to extend a pilot program.

Phil Jones, a Lime spokesperson, said in a statement: “It is clear from our successful pilots in Staten Island and the Rockaways that there is a significant need for dock-free micromobility options throughout New York.”

Want to republish this story? See our republication guidelines.

Think Locally, Act Locally

You just finished reading one of the more than 500 stories produced by THE CITY since we launched April 3.

Our team strongly believes that democracy begins with local news, which is crucial to holding politicians and other decision-makers accountable. We also believe local news should be free and accessible to everyone. That’s why we don’t have a paywall, charge a subscription fee or clutter our articles with ads that have nothing to do with you or our city.

We’ve been incredibly fortunate to gain the generous support of leading funders who believe in our mission at a time when local news in New York and beyond has taken some staggering hits. We’ve assembled a team of 18 dedicated journalists, joining the growing ranks of more than 200 nonprofit newsrooms that have sprung up across the country.

Support on all levels is essential to our long-term success and growth.

We’re in the midst of our first-ever membership campaign. Because you value local, independent accountability reporting, please support us today.

We need your help to make THE CITY all it can be.

DONATE TODAY!