Bike sharing, scooters coming to Nautical Mile

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 15, 2019

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Along with construction in Blossom Heath Park, 2019 will bring bike-sharing services to the Nautical Mile after the Tax Increment Finance Authority, or TIFA, approved a three-year agreement with Gotcha to bring 50 e-bikes and 50 scooters to the area.

Assistant City Manager Bill Gambill told TIFA members March 12 that the city received proposals from two different bike-sharing companies in response to its request — Shift Transit and Gotcha. Riders download an app to their phone and add credit card information in order to pay for rides by the hour, day or for an annual membership.

Shift Transit operates the MoGo bikes in Detroit, he said, but has high up-front costs as it would require TIFA to purchase 50 bikes for $277,095 and then also rent docks for the bikes for $89 per month, or $90,780 annually. TIFA would then get all ride-based revenue.

Gotcha is a service being used by the city of Toledo, Ohio, Gambill said. It will rent 50 e-bikes — which give a slight electric assist to the rider — to TIFA at a rate of $85 per month, with no docks required, for an annual cost of $51,000. Gotcha is also including 50 scooters to be rented to TIFA free of charge. Gotcha will give TIFA 5 percent of ride-based revenue and the option to get sponsors to pay for the bikes in the third year of the contract.

Since the group doesn’t know how popular the bike share program will be, Gambill said choosing the company with lower start-up costs “makes a lot more sense.” He said that he tested the bikes out in Toledo in 2018 and both the bike and the system worked well.

City Manager Mike Smith said that the scooters “will be an interesting experiment,” as well.

TIFA members said that they believe the bike share program will be used by boaters to get around the Nautical Mile more easily.

“We definitely need them the way the restaurants are staged,” said TIFA member Donna Flaherty.

TIFA Chair Richard Widgren said that the group can afford to pay the $51,000 cost even if no one rents a bike.

“It seems a natural to get the boaters to the (Nautical) Mile,” he said. “My guess is, after three years, we’re going to learn a lot.

“If it’s popular, our position to bargain will be better. If it’s not working, we’re out of it.”

Gambill said that wayfinding signs to direct and instruct riders on the program will cost about another $1,000.

Smith said that although there will not be docks for the bikes, there will be geohub locations where riders will return the bikes and scooters. If a rider takes a bike out of the area and doesn’t return it to the geohub, the company will continue to charge the rider’s credit card, he explained.

He said that if riders begin to leave bikes in undesirable locations, the City Council will have to look into some sort of regulations or ordinances with regard to where they can be placed, but Smith said he doesn’t believe that will be needed.

The Gotcha company will also rebalance the bikes on a regular basis to make sure that, for instance, all bikes don’t end up at Jefferson Beach Marina, while none are available at other locations up and down the Nautical Mile.

TIFA unanimously approved the contract with Gotcha.

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