Michele Knox and her fellow Lafayette Boulevard neighbors wondered why workers on March 12 were taking up grass at medians on their block at West Walnut Street and West Hudson Street, as well as on Washington Boulevard at West Olive Street. A few days later, the workers started to pour concrete.
Knox learned that they were building kiosk stations for a bicycling rental-sharing program that involves storing hundreds of bikes at several locations around the city. Last summer, the city entered a contract with Decobike, a Miami-based company that would operate the program. Knox said she and her neighbors were concerned about the construction and called City Hall.
“The council may have approved it but they never reached out to notify residents as to specifics and as to exactly where these kiosks were going to be constructed,” Knox wrote to Patch, adding that she and her neighbors would have objected to their locations outside their homes. She said the city told her they issued a stop order, since outside contractors were doing the construction.
One resident raised the issue during the Good and Welfare session at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Corporation Counsel Corey Klein explained that the city is renegotiating the plan the City Council approved last summer, including the location of kiosk stations and bike lanes that Decobike is contracted to create. The city has asked the company to scale back, Klein said. “Not the bicycles per se, but more so the locations of the kiosks,” he added.
After talks between council members, City Manager Jack Schnirman, and commissioners of the police and public works departments to determine the best areas for the stations, the city is asking Decokbike to reconsider the plan. “We’re trying to see if we can work with them [Decobike] to try to get them out of the residential areas and put them in strictly commercial and city park areas,” Klein said.
The five-year contract calls for Decobike to set up their program at no cost to the city, but the city agreed to conduct the necessary work to determine the location of the bike lanes. The city also agreed to receive 10 percent of both Deccobike’s gross and advertising incomes, and former City Manager Charles Theofan projected that the program could generate up to $5 million annually for Deckobike and a half million in revenue for the city.
The original numbers Deckobike floated for the program were 400 bikes stored at kiosk stations at 40 citywide locations. But at the time the contract was approved the city had not ironed out the specific locations for the stations.
Councilmen Mike Fagen and Len Torres voted against the program based in part on safety concerns, contending that the city first needed a traffic safety proposal to accompany the proposal, adequate liability insurance, and less “questionable” revenue projections.
“Don’t you think that with all the calls for the creation of a public safety commission that we would appoint a couple of public safety commissioners, create dialogue and then have a true dialogue between the city and the residents in the implementation of the locations,” Fagen asked Klein at Tuesday’s meeting.
Klein reminded Fagen that while the city can still ask Decobike to scale back its plan and address safety issues, the city and the company still have a contract that they must move forward on and implement. “It’s already past due, and there’s a liability to the city for breaking a contract,” he said.