County bike-share program eyes rollout in Southold

Suffolk County’s Regional Bike Share program hopes to expand into Southold Town. Last Tuesday, PedalShare co-founder Chris Dimon requested permission during a Town Board work session to place rentable bike stations around the town.

The app-based bike-share program already has more than 3,000 users, 195 bikes and over 50 stations throughout Suffolk County, according to Mr. Dimon. The program operates from approximately May 1 to Nov. 1 each year and can only be used by those 18 and over. Rentals cost $4 per hour or $35 per day, with a $59 annual plan that grants unlimited one-hour rides.

“[Bike sharing] is mobility as a service,” Mr. Dimon said. “We’re trying to shift away from personally owned modes of transportation and allow people to publicly be able to get around. It’s great for first and last mile transportation.”

PedalShare, founded in 2018 in Southampton Village, was recognized as operator of the county’s regional bike-share program in 2020. It has stations throughout Suffolk, including in Riverhead, Hampton Bays, Patchogue Village and Huntington. Mr. Dimon said the company also has plans to expand into Nassau County next year.

“Our goal is to expand our system throughout not only Suffolk County, but throughout Long Island, and really focus on the initiative of expanding bicycle riding, as well as last-mile transportation,” he said. “Our job, in our agreement with the county, is to expand the program further.”

Mr. Dimon emphasized that the  program is “zero-cost to taxpayers” and that PedalShare would assume full responsibility for insurance. If granted permission to expand into Southold Town, the company would seek sponsorships to support stations around the town. 

“We’re not coming to you requesting any type of money,” he said. “What we really are simply requesting is permission to utilize your property.”

He added that biking is healthy and eco-friendly, and said the company tries to educate users about bicycle safety and the laws within each municipality. Helmets are not provided, but the app will direct riders to places they can purchase helmets if needed. Bike stations are most typically placed at train stations, beaches and retail areas, he said.

The program’s app, which relies on geo-fencing, is best used over cellular data, according to Mr. Dimon. Acknowledging that cellular service can be poor on the East End, he said renters can call or email to manually end rentals if needed.

Supervisor Scott Russell expressed concern about how the program would impact parking in Southold, especially during the summer.

“We have to accommodate for parking,” he said. “You have a busy summer season, they need to put their cars somewhere.”

He also noted that transient businesses are currently not allowed in town code.

“We would have to make an amendment there,” he said. “There is a bicycle company now and ultimately they resolved that issue by getting a storefront.”

Responding to Mr. Russell’s concern about parking, Mr. Dimon said most people using bikes at beaches are already there and take advantage of the rentals for recreation, to visit nearby villages or find facilities. Between 70% and 80% of the program’s users are biking recreationally, according to Mr. Dimon.

“It’s mostly residents within each area,” he said. “We do have a few people that go from municipality to municipality. Some people ride from Babylon to Patchogue.” 

He added that because of PedalShare’s agreement with the county, “it becomes an avenue where you can utilize the shared services program through New York State.”

Town Board member Sarah Nappa said the pitch is part of the town Transportation Commission’s effort to encourage bike-riding in town. The commission held a forum Nov. 10, which drew  over 30 participants, at which PedalShare was discussed.

“This idea does kind of fit into the larger goal of making more bikes in Southold,” she said. 

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