Pump the brakes! Dockless bike share pilot program will bring chaos to Coney, locals say

Pump the brakes! Dockless bike share pilot program will bring chaos to Coney, locals say
Associated Press / Ng Han Guan

Coney Islanders think the city’s new dockless bike-share program is completely clueless.

The bike-share pilot program the city will roll out in Coney Island this summer will only worsen the already existing problem of hordes of pedalers unlawfully biking on the recently landmarked Riegelmann Boardwalk after 10 am, locals complained at a May 29 meeting.

“Doesn’t the mayor know you’re not allowed to ride bikes on the boardwalk after 10 am?” said Brighton Beach activist Ida Sanoff. “We have a big enforcement problem now. The Parks Department has been trying to address it, so this is just running counterproductive.”

Cycling on the Boardwalk in forbidden in the daytime during the summer months — from Memorial Day Weekend until October 1 — but too many locals already ignore the rule, she said, and the tourists who will be the likely users of the bike share system probably won’t even know about it.

The mayor’s office announced on May 24 that 200 bikes would arrive in Coney Island — as well as neighborhoods in the distant boroughs of Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx — in July for the trial program. The Department of Transportation will evaluate the success and safety of the program during the trial and then work with local officials in the fall to determine whether to continue the program in each neighborhood.

Coney Island does not currently have any bike share program, and bikers will be able to rent the bikes on their cell phones for $1 or $2 per 30-minute ride, according to the mayor’s office. Unlike Citi Bikes, which must be returned to docking stations, riders can ditch the dockless bikes anywhere they please.

At Community Board 13’s Parks Committee meeting on Tuesday, locals said that the police were already failing to enforce the no-biking rule on the Boardwalk, and that the city should get tougher on existing cyclists before the neighborhood gets an influx of more with the bike-share program.

But the supervisor of the 60th Precinct’s Neighborhood Policing Program said the responsibility for enforcing that rule falls on the Parks Department — which has jurisdiction over the Boardwalk — since his officers are already overburdened.

“There’s so much that we’re responsible for that we ask the Parks enforcement officers to be responsible for this,” said Sergeant Christopher Vincenti.

The Parks Department did not reply to inquiries about current enforcement policies and whether they would change with the new program.

The Department of Transportation will finalize boundaries for the bike share program in each neighborhood and select the private bike companies in June, according to the mayor’s office. And district manager Eddie Mark said agency reps will also present more details of the program to locals at the next full board meeting, on June 27 at 7 pm, at Education Hall at the New York Aquarium.

But Sanoff said reps should have come to the community before the launch was announced to explain to locals the details of the program — such as how the city would prevent from stealing the dockless bikes, or from abandoning them in inappropriate places.

“This is a classic case of nobody bothers to come down to the community beforehand,” she said. “They’re just going to leave them all over — they’re going to be trip hazards, I bet they’re going to be stolen.”

The president of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance agreed that the city owes the community more information about how the system will operate before flooding the neighborhood with vagrant velocipedes.

“How does this technology work? Is there some plan that they have to not allow the person to just leave it on the boardwalk?” said Rob Burstein. “If they’re suggesting 200 bikes that bikers are going to take on the boardwalk during summer months, that’s an invitation for chaos. If that’s their plan, it seems utterly insane.”

The Department of Transportation did not respond to inquiries about where the bikes would initially be distributed, how the system would limit riding on the boardwalk, how the technology would work, and who would be liable for injuries to riders.

Another Brighton Beach activist said she was thoroughly opposed to the pedal-pushing plan — partly because some young bikers previously tried to run her down on the boardwalk, even while she was walking with two canes.

“The boardwalk is for walking, not bicycles,” said Arlene Brenner. “At one particular time some youngsters decided, ‘let’s run into the lady,’ and indeed they did — they got me from both sides, laughing all the way, and then they started doing wheelies.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.