Brooklyn bike parking startup Oonee debuts five-month ‘mini’ pilot

A rendering of Oonee Minis, capable of holding six to 20 bikes.

Brooklyn bike parking startup Oonee is bringing its “mini” pod on tour around the city, where the facility with secure storage for up to six bikes will be placed in high volume areas for a month so the city can gather data and determine next steps in the secure bike parking revolution.

The new program was unveiled Friday in the Meatpacking District in Manhattan, its first stop, where it will remain for the next month. It will then travel to the Lower East Side and Union Square, before coming home to Brooklyn in June for a 29-day residency on the Vanderbilt Avenue open street in Prospect Heights. Following that, it will go to Astoria, Queens for the final leg of its tour.

“This is really historic, it’s a really great, powerful step forward,” said Oonee founder and Brooklyn native Shabazz Stuart in a video posted on Twitter. “It’s the first time that any big city in the United States has had a secure bike parking facility on the curb.”

The mini pod, which is free to use but requires an Oonee membership and can be accessed by a key fob or a mobile app, will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis. The pods will be granted the rights to the curb in each spot for 29 days, via what the Department of Transportation calls an “innovative concession agreement” with the city.

It’s not the first Oonee pod in the city, of course: that one came in 2019 with the opening of the 20-spot Oonee pod outside Atlantic Terminal, which is free to use and is funded by advertising space on the outside. Last year, the company announced plans to develop secure bike parking as a set-aside in developments in Williamsburg and Queens, and debuted a six-spot Oonee Mini outside Grand Central Terminal. Most notably, the company announced a deal with Jersey City, New Jersey to bring a network of 29 pods to that Garden State city, creating a network of secure bike parking that Stuart wants to see throughout the entire region.

“Obviously, we have a lot of work left to do to make this a regional, ubiquitous utility,” Stuart said in the video posted on Twitter. “But as far as historic days are concerned, this is a pretty big one.”

Despite being only six spots in five different locations over the course of several months, the Adams administration is sending signals that it’s serious about expanding bike parking citywide, though whether it’ll be a true “network” remains to be seen.

Oonee’s original pod outside Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.File photo

“DOT is proud to support a minority-owned business based right here in New York City, with an idea that has met its time,” DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said in a statement. “As cycling has grown more popular during the pandemic, we know that finding safe bike parking is among the obstacles riders face – and Oonee expertly meets that need. We want to send a clear message to cyclists this spring: try out a ‘Mini’ so that we can better learn what cyclists need, as we work to bring more bike parking spaces around the City.”

Stuart has said that he realized the need for secure bike parking after having three bikes stolen from him in the span of five years. Thousands of bikes are stolen every year in the city, only a fraction of which are ever recovered by police; on the street, a bike being stolen will not set off an alarm like a car, and one does not need keys or the skill to “hotwire” in order to steal one. Oonee’s name comes from the Japanese word for sea urchin, and just like that aquatic animal, Oonee aims to protect its components while also seamlessly integrating with the built environment.

Though the pilot will only bring six spots to Brooklyn for one month, it could nonetheless be a herald of things to come.

“On Open Streets weekends, Vanderbilt Avenue is one of the busiest bicycle corridors in Brooklyn,” said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, which runs the Vanderbilt open street and is working with Oonee on the Prospect Heights pilot. “Identifying innovative solutions to support and encourage cycling is an important part of our ongoing work with DOT building a new avenue that meets the community’s needs and aspirations. We’re delighted to be a host of this important pilot, and look forward to learning from its results.”