SI is the only New York borough without a bike-share program, but little progress has been made in bringing the service here

STATEN ISLAND, NY – It’s been almost a year since Beryl announced that she had retired from operating a new bike-sharing program on Staten Island, and while the Department of Transportation (DOT) explored other options, the city has little to show for its efforts so far.

Last April, Beryl, the UK-based bike-share provider that was to operate the borough’s new scheme, announced it would no longer launch in Staten Island, citing logistical complications related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Roseann Caruana, the DOT borough commissioner for Staten Island, said at the time that the agency was “disappointed” with the decision, but that the department had already begun considering other options.

“We are deeply disappointed with this news and would like to assure Staten Islanders that we are actively investigating micromobility options for the borough,” Caruana told Staten Island Advance/SILive.com.

Eight months later, at the end of December 2021, DOT was still evaluating these options and was unable to provide a list of potential program providers or an estimated timeline for implementation.

“Like many Staten Islanders, we were very disappointed that our plans with Beryl did not work out this year. We continue to explore options to provide safe, reliable and sustainable bike share service. to the borough,” DOT spokesperson Vin Barone told Staten Island Advance/SILive.com at the time.

Now, nearly a year since Beryl pulled the plug, DOT is still unable to provide an update on the search for a new operator, failing to provide a list of potential companies or a date. estimated start.

“This administration is committed to fairness, and everything is on the table to bring shared service to Staten Island. We are considering our options,” Barone said.

ISSUE OF EQUITY

Rose Uscianowski, Staten Island’s organizer for Transportation Alternatives, said Staten Island’s continued lack of a bike-share program isn’t just a transportation issue, but an equity issue in the community. arrondissement.

“We’re still the only borough in New York City that doesn’t have a bike share program,” Uscianowski said. “And not only that, but the people of Staten Island have the longest commutes, we’re the most transit-hungry, and we don’t have a subway system.”

“These are two major transit systems that New Yorkers rely on – the subway system and the bike share system – and we don’t have either,” he said. -she adds.

Uscianowski pointed out that New York’s bike-share programs have become more than just an added perk, but a necessary mode of transportation for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.

In February, Citi Bike provided 1,195,085 total rides, an average of 42,682 per day, according to program data.

And these numbers are significantly higher during the warmer months.

In July 2021, there were a total of 3,087,910 rides taken on Citi Bike, an average of about 99,610 rides per day, according to the data.

“If New York City’s bike share were to be called its own transit system, its ridership would be almost as high as the PATH trains. Right now, that’s how New Yorkers get around,” Uscianowski said. “It’s at the heart of people living in transit deserts, it’s at the heart of New York tourism, and it’s at the heart of our recovery from COVID, because there are still a lot of people who are feeling unwell. comfortable on buses and trains.”

Although the DOT has already evaluated dockless bike-sharing programs for Staten Island, Uscianowski said she thinks the most logical solution is for the dock-based Citi Bike program to be expanded to Staten Island to ensure that all New Yorkers receive fair service.

“To us not having Citi Bike, which is by far the easiest to expand on Staten Island, is an insult. Citi Bike is the only way to get bike share in a way where we have access to the same single-payer system as the rest of New York,” she said.

“If it’s not Citi Bike, then we’re going to be taxed twice, because Staten Islanders who already use Citi Bike but choose to use another potential bike share provider on Staten Island are going to have to pay for two systems. different,” Uscianowski added. “Keeping all New York residents on the same bike share system means we all have access to the same quality of bike share.”

For Uscianowski, the key to Citi Bike’s expansion to Staten Island is for the city to commit public funding to subsidize the program, noting that New York is the only major city that doesn’t subsidize its bike share program with public funds, limiting the possibility of expansion.

She referenced a Siena College poll released last year that showed 63% of New York residents and 65% of Staten Islanders support using public funds to expand existing bike-sharing options.

“The people of Staten Island support this. New York residents as a whole support this. There is majority support in every borough to use public funding to expand bike sharing, even in Manhattan where they already have bike share everywhere,” Uscianowski said. “So New Yorkers are supporting this, Mayor Eric Adams has pledged to support this and New Yorkers need this, so the city needs to step up.”

SUPPORT FROM LOCAL ELECTED OFFICERS

The expansion of the Citi Bike program to Staten Island has the support of Borough President Vito Fossella and Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island), who wrote a letter to the DOT and Con Edison more early this year calling on the agency and utility company to halt discussions about connecting Citi Bike docking stations to the city’s electrical grid until they add Staten Island to the city’s grid.

“It’s a matter of fairness, and it troubles me to see Staten Island excluded from such a positive citywide transportation program,” Fossella said in January. “By asking the DOT and Con Edison to stop any further conversations with Citi Bike, we hope to spark an action plan to bring Citi Bike service to this borough.”

Cusick described Staten Island’s exclusion from the Citi Bike program as “absurd.”

“Staten Island is just as much a part of this city as any other borough. There is no reason for Staten Island to be excluded from the Citi Bike program while the rest of the city enjoys the benefits,” he said. “As the borough with the fewest transportation alternatives, the Citi Bike program would be especially beneficial to Staten Island.”

In their letter, Cusick and Fossella noted that the city-built bike lanes all over Staten Island, “which makes the fact that we don’t have Citi Bike all the more objectionable.”

HOW WE GOT HERE

In November 2019, the DOT announced that Beryl would operate Staten Island’s new bike share program, which was originally scheduled to begin in spring 2020.

However, as of late spring 2020, the mint green bikes had yet to hit the streets of Staten Island.

“Beryl was scheduled to launch in Spring 2020, however, due to the COVID-19 health crisis, the launch has been delayed. DOT and Beryl are working closely to launch as soon as operationally and logistically possible,” DOT said in June 2020.

If the program had indeed launched, it would have operated only in virtually the same service area – along parts of the northern and eastern shores – as the previous bike-share program, operated by JUMP and Lime, although the DOT initially presented the program as a borough. wide bike sharing.

On November 13, 2019, the DOT announced via press release that “a new bike-share provider, Beryl, will provide borough-wide service in the spring with over 1,000 new bikes.”

“This exciting next phase of our bike-share pilot project will allow us to work with an up-and-coming company to bring an excellent, convenient transportation option to all of Staten Island,” the former DOT commissioner said at the time. Polly Trottenberg. “We look forward to sharing more details about Beryl’s plans in the coming months – and this spring we look forward to welcoming brand new and distinctive Beryl bikes throughout ‘The Rock’.”

However, the DOT reneged in February 2020, stating that the new bike share would launch in essentially the same service area as the previous bike share, with plans to expand to the rest of the borough. after the initial launch.

“Beryl will launch in a similar but slightly larger area than the Dockless Bike Share pilot service area in which JUMP and Lime operated. Beryl will expand to cover the rest of the island later this year,” said a DOT spokesperson at the time. .

When asked why the program was no longer supposed to be rolled out borough-wide as originally planned, the DOT did not provide a specific answer, stating instead that “as with other self-service bikes, Beryl will expand the service through a phased rollout to ensure efficient operations and comprehensive community outreach.

Then, in October 2020, the DOT said that, following pandemic-related delays, the Beryl bike share program would launch in March 2021.

This too turned out not to be the case. Lily Gordon-Koven, DOT Director of Dockless Pilots, told Staten Island Advance/SILive.com in March that the launch date had been pushed back to April 2021.

Finally, a month later, Beryl announced that she had officially withdrawn from the program, as the DOT had spent the past year evaluating other options with little to show for now.