Pictured Above: PedalShare’s bikes, which are partially supported by promotional advertising, at a beach in Southampton Village. | PedalShare Facebook photo.
When Suffolk County rolled out its bikesharing pilot program in Hampton Bays, Patchogue and Babylon last fall, it contracted with a big national company, Zagster, to provide the bikes and infrastructure, with the logic that such a company would have staying power.
Now, nearly six months into a global pandemic, Zagster has folded and a local, Southampton-based company, PedalShare, is slated to take over its county contract, said Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni at the Southampton Town Board’s Aug. 6 work session.
PedalShare, run by Chris Dimon and Patrick O’Donaghue, already operates bikeshare programs in the villages of Southampton and Westhampton Beach and is in discussions to include East Hampton and Montauk in their program.
As part of the new county contract, which runs through 2022 with an option to renew for a year, PedalShare is taking over the bikes and docking stations Zagster set up in Patchogue and Babylon, and Southampton Town plans to have them take over the Hampton Bays locations and give the company rights to put its bicycles and docking stations at other public locations throughout Southampton Town.
The Hampton Bays locations include at the Hampton Bays Post Office, which is across the street from the Hampton Bays railroad station, at Ponquogue Beach, Tiana Beach and Good Ground Park. A site at Road H on the west side of the Shinnecock Inlet was removed last fall after severe flooding at that end of Dune Road, and the town is considering relocating that station to Red Creek Park.
Rides cost $4 per hour or $35 per day, and a full year membership, allowing unlimited access to rides of up to an hour, is $59. Yearly members who want to ride for longer than an hour at a time would be billed at the regular hourly rate ($4) after the first hour. The program will run seasonally from May 1 to Nov. 1. More information is online at ridepedalshare.com.
Most of the company’s riders use the bikes for rides that take less than an hour, said Mr. Dimon. The service is designed to provide last-mile, on-demand access to transportation, similar to Uber, not to provide the types of long-term rentals offered at local bike shops.
Southampton had initially limited the county program to Hampton Bays because town board members knew PedalShare, a Southampton-based company, was interested in expanding in the area. But now that PedalShare has the county contract, board members said, they would like to see the program expand throughout the town.
Mr. Dimon said the program would be run just as it had with Zagster, with just one difference — bikes could only be returned to docking stations, and could not be left at random locations around town.
“The biggest problem with bikeshare across the country, in places like D.C. and Portland, bikes were all over the streets,” said Mr. Dimon. “This alleviates that problem. We have enough stations where they’re strategically spaced.”
Town Environmental Planner Michelangelo Lieberman added that the change would be a boon to the town, whose Parks Department staff had often had to return bikes to docking stations when the county program began last fall.
Mr. Dimon said his company’s bikes are currently in place at Agawam Park, Cooper’s Beach, Gin Lane Beach, Butler’s Manor Bed & Breakfast and the railroad station in Southampton Village, and will return to Westhampton Beach soon.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a boon for cycling, as many people have chosen bicycles over public transportation to avoid exposure to the virus.
Suffolk County is providing sanitizing stations at the stations provided through the county program, said Mr. Dimon, and the rideshare company is also sanitizing the bicycles daily when they reallocate them between docking stations at the end of the day.
Electric Bikes Pitched in Southold
Another program, dubbed “NoFo Go,” proposed by Tom Vasilis, was discussed by the the Southold Town Board at its Aug. 11 work session.
Mr. Vasilis would like to install docking stations for 20 to 40 e-bikes, which provide a battery-powered electric pedal assist, at public locations throughout Southold Town, including train stations and municipal parking lots. The bikes would be unlocked and rented through a mobile app.
Bikes with a pedal assist allow riders to switch on a mode that gives them an extra boost when pedaling, particularly in difficult conditions such as up hills. In New York State, the ‘assist’ allowed in bikes with these features tops out at 20 miles per hour when controlled by a pedal or 25 miles per hour when controlled by a throttle, though fast cyclists can easily exceed those speeds without motorized assistance.
Bikes that can achieve motorized speeds over 25 miles per hour are regulated like motor vehicles in New York.
The town board was skeptical of the plan.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell said Southold would need to issue an official request for proposals for a bikeshare service. Councilwoman Jill Doherty said she believed such a program would keep local fire departments busy responding to bicycle accidents. She pointed out America’s Got Talent Judge Simon Cowell recently broke his back riding an e-bike.
While Mr. Cowell had been quoted widely in the national media as saying he fell off an e-bike, the bike he was riding was actually an electric motorcycle, a Swind EB-01 capable of top speeds of 60+ miles per hour, which would not be considered a pedal-assist e-bike under New York law and is banned on roads in Britain.
New board member Sarah Nappa, the lone Democrat on the board, said a program in Southold “could be a nice way for our community to embrace sharing the road, slowing down and a good feeling that this is a place people can bike around, go to different places and not have to be so reliant on cars.”