File photo by Kristyne E. Demske

Bikes, scooters delayed for Nautical Mile

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 2, 2019


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Technical issues mean that the Nautical Mile may not see bikes or scooters for rent from the Gotcha company in 2019.

“They’re having technical issues between their scooters and bikes to the app,” said Assistant City Manager Bill Gambill, who has been working with the Tax Increment Finance Authority to get the project going.

According to Gotcha, the company TIFA has contracted with to provide e-bikes and electric scooters on the Nautical Mile, customers in other markets have reported rides not ending properly, resulting in overcharges. As the company works to rectify the issue with the app, it is holding off on launching in any new areas, including St. Clair Shores.

This comes after Gambill reported to TIFA July 25 that Gotcha had delays with e-bike shipments, so only electric scooters would be coming to the Nautical Mile in 2019. TIFA would not be charged for the e-bikes until the spring, when they would be shipped, he said.

TIFA approved a three-year agreement with Gotcha in March to bring 50 e-bikes and 50 scooters to the area for sharing services.

Gotcha was to rent TIFA 50 e-bikes — which give a slight electric assist to the rider — at a rate of $85 per month, with no docks required, for an annual cost of $51,000. Gotcha also included 50 scooters to be rented to TIFA free of charge. Gotcha agreed to give TIFA 5% of ride-based revenue and the option to get sponsors to pay for the bikes in the third year of the contract.

Although the e-bikes had been delayed, the city was hoping to receive the scooters by July 31, but Gambill said that now he isn’t sure when the city will receive the scooters in 2019.

“We’re kind of frustrated with the delays,” he said. “We’re exploring options of what our response is going to be to this.”

Because the service is so dependent on the weather, he said that the city was going to pull the scooters from the area in the fall before the weather got too cold.

The scooters and e-bikes would be set up around the Nautical Mile at virtual hubs in city easements or in front of businesses that signed land lease agreements with Gotcha. They will cost $1 to unlock and $0.15 a minute to ride. Users will not have to return the scooters or e-bikes to a specific dock or hub when they are done as long as they remain in the area, generally defined as Eight Mile Road to 10 Mile Road, between Harper Avenue and Lake St. Clair.

“They want to keep it condensed instead of going throughout the city,” Gambill explained to TIFA. “There’s a $50 out-of-area fee for the scooter. They can take them out as long as they bring them back wherever they park.”

TIFA Vice Chair Joseph Claycomb said that he was surprised to see that some of the planned hubs for the scooters were outside of the Nautical Mile, such as on the easement outside of Baffin Brewing Co., but Gambill said that he thought that as long as the locations were close to the Nautical Mile, “it’s going to help facilitate movement” throughout the area.

Other proposed hubs for the e-bikes and scooters, when they come, are near the Nautical Mile sign by Pegasus Taverna, outside of Wahby Park and inside the Blossom Heath harbor. Gambill said that transient boaters could then use the scooters to get around the Nautical Mile area of St. Clair Shores.

Quite a few businesses in the area have expressed interest in having e-bikes or scooters at their locations, Gambill said. A manager would be hired to charge and “rebalance” the scooters and e-bikes throughout the area once they are deployed.

But depending on the technical issues, the scooters may not hit the area anytime soon.

“We hopefully can turn around quickly, but it’s not looking good,” Gambill said July 30.