Pedaling Forward With Zagster

After some consideration and discussing the options, Southampton Town officials seem set on joining Suffolk County’s pilot bike-share program Bethpage Ride — but only offering it in Hampton Bays.

Following comments made about the effect on local businesses, and potential for other bike-sharing programs on the East End, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman asked Zagster, a Cambridge-based startup that designs, builds, and operates over 250 bike-sharing programs in 35 states, to change its town-wide non-compete clause into a hamlet one. This agreement would mean Zagster is the only company that can operate a pedal bike-share program at town-owned facilities in Hampton Bays for the length of the agreement, which is two years. The board was scheduled to vote on a resolution to join Suffolk County at an August 13 board meeting, but results were not available by press time.

“I think there’s a lot of value in that for us, just from the standpoint of seeing how this actually works,” Councilman John Bouvier said. “It also exposes our other businesses to opportunity, which is important to all of us on the board as well.”

The cost is $1 for every 15 minutes. Monthly memberships are available for $10, and annual ones for $60. There’s a student discount available. The monthly and yearly plans include unlimited 30-minute rides, where riders can dock and reset. The 25 bikes that will be available to start can be locked up at any public bike rack for $2, or at Bethpage Ride racks for free. Bethpage Federal Credit Union is the Zagster sponsor to make the program available free to municipalities.

Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera was concerned over bikes being left on private property or scattered about, because there’s no way to tell if a bike is being locked up at a public rack, unless Zagster is going to map out where there are current bike racks in the hamlet. While Councilwoman Julie Lofstad said she loved the idea, as a Hampton Bays resident she’s worried about the effect on local businesses, especially The Local Bike Shop, which offers daily, weekly, and monthly rentals that include helmets.

“He felt it was going to hurt his business,” she said. “He wasn’t objecting, because he felt it would happen anyway, but we may end up having another empty storefront in Hampton Bays, and that concerns me.”

Zagster’s senior marketing manager for the Northeast region said while there have been immediate concerns elsewhere, there’s never been ongoing discussions with local bike shops over a loss of business.

Town Environmental Planner Michelangelo Lieberman said with the contemplation of a form-based code, the recent grant for the bike path connecting Good Ground Park to Red Creek Park, and the upgrades at Ponquogue Beach and Maritime Park, he sees the landscape changing in more ways than meets the eye.

“We’re moving in a direction where walkability is going to increase, and that means so will biking,” he said. “An opportunity like this — I see local bike shops sharing the profit as we expand this connectivity and create bike lanes.”

The program was made available to Southampton when the Town of Huntington opted out. Suffolk County is also partnering with Patchogue and Babylon to offer the bike sharing. But there’s a local program that began in Southampton Village that’s also looking to move into other hamlets.

PedalShare, which partners with the real estate company Out East, runs on a model similar to Zagster, and costs $4 an hour, or $35 daily. Annual memberships of unlimited one-hour rides is $59 a year.

Co-founder Chris Dimon said his program is app-based like Zagster, but said the bikes are basically maintenance-free, running on airless tires. Unlike Zagster’s five-speed bikes, PedalShare’s are single-speed, although there is the option to expand the fleet. The Bluetooth locking mechanisms are also solar-operated, unlike Zagster’s battery-operated ones.

“We can track and plot where bikes go,” Dimon said. “We generate heat maps of where people are using bikes — data just like Zagster.”

Where the company also differs in that 10 percent of rental revenue is shared with the municipality.

PedalShare is expanding to Westhampton Beach this month, but Dimon said his business opted to not bid on the Suffolk County request for proposal because he didn’t think it was the right thing to do. He said a county-wide program is a lot for one company to take on, and his co-founder Patrick O’Donoghue felt the same.

“It’s very different moving east from Westhampton compared to all of Suffolk County,” O’Donoghue said. “It’s a completely different animal.”

Schneiderman said he’d like to see the company compete to operate in the area, saying an RFP for a bike-share program in Bridgehampton could be ready by the spring of 2020.

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