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‘NoFo Go’ electric bike-sharing program proposed for Southold Town

A new bike-sharing program could be coming to Southold.

At a work session Tuesday, town officials discussed a pitch submitted by Tom Vasilis of Southold, who envisions “NoFo Go” as an option to navigate around the East End without a car.

His proposal calls for placing between 20 and 40 electric pedal-assist bikes at strategic docking stations across Southold Town that could be rented, unlocked and locked through a mobile app.

Preliminary locations included in Mr. Vasilis’ plans include the Southold and Mattituck train stations, municipal parking lots in Greenport and Southold as well as other locations recommended by the board.

The electric bikes, which can travel at speeds up to 20 mph and can cover up to 80 miles on a single charge, would be available from April to mid-October, according to the proposal. They can also be pedaled like traditional bicycles.

Legislation included in New York State’s budget proposal included statewide provisions for e-bikes and scooters that set maximum speed limits, prohibit their use on sidewalks and require helmets for all users under 18. It also allows individual municipalities to create further regulations or opt out of allowing these bicycles.

Supervisor Scott Russell said a similar proposal has come before the board in the past, but ultimately did not materialize. Should the town pursue this option, which includes use of public assets, he called for issuing a formal request for proposals. “You really can’t do that unless it’s an open and fair process,” he said.

While amenable to the concept, the board discussed safety and liability issues surrounding the use of e-bikes. Many of Southold’s roads do not have dedicated bike lanes, Mr. Russell said.

“I could see volunteer fire departments being very busy if we have a lot of these around,” said Councilwoman Jill Doherty, who referenced a news report from over the weekend that “America’s Got Talent” judge Simon Cowell fell off an e-bike and broke his back in several places.

“Some good advice … If you buy an electric trail bike, read the manual before you ride it for the first time,” Mr. Cowell tweeted Sunday.

“It’s a [safety] issue that we’d have to overcome,” Ms. Doherty said. “I’d have a lot more questions.” Councilwoman Sarah Nappa said she supports exploring the option further. “If we were going to be able to implement a townwide project, it 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, get to different places and not have to be so reliant on cars,” she said.

The proposal is expected to be referred to the town’s transportation commission, legal and planning departments and police department for additional discussion. Officials also said they’d explore how neighboring communities have implemented bike shares.