Bicycling enthusiasts will soon be able to pick up a two-wheeler in one part of Long Beach, ride it to another and use a different bike to ride anywhere.
The City Council Tuesday voted 3-2 to approve a citywide bicycling rental-sharing program that the Miami-based Decobike will operate at no cost to the city.
City President Thomas Sofield, who previously joined councilmen Len Torres and Mike Fagen in tabling the proposal on June 21, gave it the deciding “yes” vote Tuesday, after he met Deckobike representatives as they operated their service on the boardwalk last weekend.
“The reception that was generate by the people that were on the boardwalk was nothing but positive,” Sofield said. “… In the intervening two weeks, my fears were allayed.”
Sofield cited among his fears the city’s lack of bike lanes. But Decobike has agreed to pay for the creation of bike lanes, possibly by next year, but the city will conduct the necessary work to determine their locations.
The city entered a five-year contract with Decobike to set up hundreds of bikes at several kiosks stations citywide. The specific locations are among the issues Decobike and the city still must iron out as they work to start a limited operation by September.
The contract includes corporate sponsorship and advertising, and the city will receive 10 percent of both Deckobike’s gross and advertising incomes. Theofan had said the program could generate up to $5 million annually for Deckobike and a half million in revenue for the city.
Meanwhile, Nick Laudy, owner of Local Cycle, expressed concern that the program could negatively impact his business. “I’m more concerned about feeding my children,” Laudy said.
Sofield, Mona Goodman and John McLaughlin, who approved the proposal, all described Deckobike as more of a bike-sharing business with monthly subscribers, rather than a day rental business that local bike shops run.
“It seems to work seamlessly with bike shops in other areas,” McLaughlin said about bike sharing programs in Miami and Washington D.C.
Fagen, Torres and West End resident Allison Blanchette were among those who voiced concern that the program would move forward now. They said the city first needs a traffic safety proposal to accompany the proposal, adequate liability insurance, and less “questionable” revenue projections.
“There are too many questions that are not answered,” Fagen said when explaining his “no” vote.
Said Blanchette: “Our sidewalks are not for sale for 10 percent for a program that may or may not work.”
Both Theofan and Goodman offered reasons why the revenue-sharing percentage was lower for Long Beach compared with municipalities like Miami that receive up to 25 percent: the other cities pay into the program while Long Beach will not, different formulas are used, and the program runs all year in South Beach while in Long Beach it will close for winter.
Theofan also said that the city will have control over how Deckobike operates, and going forward will have the advantage of its experience.
“We’re going to be working with them and use some of their judgment from having run this successful operation,” he said.