New Bikes! (SIKE)

After a summer marred by huge transportation delays and emergencies, New Yorkers are near their boiling points with the MTA. More so, given the Rockaway community’s lack of public transportation options, bicycle sharing programs might be the wave of the future. At least that’s how the leadership team of Spin, a station-less bike share company based in San Francisco, felt. But if the New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) gets it way, Spin won’t be serving the Rockaways any time soon.

City Councilmember Eric Ulrich announced via email the he and other community leaders and stakeholders would welcome Spin during a press release on August 14, 2017. However, days before the planned event, the DOT issued a cease and desist letter to Spin, forcing them to suspend all planned operations on the peninsula. This is a major blow for the Rockaway community, which has been trying for years to get a bicycle share program to the peninsula.  Councilmember Ulrich has worked tirelessly to bring a bike share program to the Rockaways to no avail. “My office has been reaching out to Citi Bike for years to request they expand to the Rockaways, but they have refused. My constituents are starving for transportation alternatives, but our Mayor would rather protect a public monopoly than expand sensible bike sharing. Spin has offered to hire locally and collaborate with area businesses in a community that Citi Bike and the city continues to ignore.”  

Spin upsets the current bike sharing model, by removing the necessity of physical docks. Their promise is that users can locate and reserve a bike on their phone for $1 for 30 minutes and drop their bike off anywhere after they’re done. Unlike Citi Bike, Spin bikes do not have to be returned or picked up from docking stations. Founded by Derrick Ko, the company is focused on creating a people-centric model for bike sharing that enhances the user experience.

The city claims that Spin’s station-less model could cause chaos on the already congested streets of New York City and be a safety hazard for residents. In the cease and desist letter, DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel wrote, “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.”

However, even with the city’s opposition, local politicians did not withhold their support of the program. Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, State Senator Joe Addabbo, and Councilmember Ulrich proceeded with their press conference and took rides on Spin bikes down the boardwalk to protest the DOT’s decision. Even with this setback, Spin is not discouraged. James Moore, Spin’s head of market growth, expressed the company’s desire to work with the DOT to come to a solution that benefits everyone. “We really do look forward to working with DOT. We hope that we’ll be able to have a meeting with them and do a pilot here.”