Bikeshare pilot program preparing to launch in mid-January
Residents of Santa Barbara will now have access to 250 public electric bikes, possibly as soon as the second week of January.
After receiving City Council approval in October, a bike share system called BCycle was finally able to start installing docking stations last week along State Street, on every block from Sola to Gutierrez Street, along with its side streets.
The bikes themselves will likely be docked the second week of January, complete with a virtual ribbon cutting.
This marks phase one of the three-year long pilot program, and will include 500 dock station installations throughout the city, with locations on both the Eastside and the Westside. After the trial run, the city will determine whether or not to keep the bikes.
Eastside locations will include near the Eastside Library, by the dance studio on Cota and Salsipuedes Streets and near the Trader Joe’s on Milpas Street. There will also be two Westside locations, according to Jesse Rosenberg, BCycle’s Regional Manager.
Phase two will include docking stations on the Waterfront, Cabrillo Boulevard and continue to the Mesa, Mission, upper State Street, etc.
The docks are indented to allow a smooth pedestrian flow.
BCycle faced delays due to COVID-19 and the required approval of the Historic Landmarks Commission. Ms. Rosenberg said the system would have been running by October of 2020 if it wasn’t for waiting on approvals and, obviously, the pandemic.
“Santa Barbara has been wanting bike share for the last 10 years,” she said. “To finally be actually taking action steps to implement the 250 bike-500 dock program this coming year has been such an instrumental step into climate change and into making other transportation options for Santa Barbara County.”
Payment options for the bikes vary, but all the transactions are made through the BCycle app, where users can create an account, find directions to the closest available bike and unlock the bike. The app features expedited registration with Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Residents who purchase an annual membership pay $150 for unlimited free 30-minute trips, and pay $3 for every additional 30 minutes after that. For those without a membership, the bikes are $7 every 30 minutes.
Riders can also choose to pay $30 a month for a year for the membership.
A team of five BCycle employees will be tasked with daily bike collection, battery charging and sanitizing the bikes daily. However, in the days of COVID-19, sanitization will be mostly up to the rider.
“Most of the normal people who ride regular pedal bikes have not really tapped into electric bikes, so to be able to offer an expensive product to demographics who can’t ride these bikes or afford them, I think, is going to be such an advantage for the community,” Ms. Rosenberg said. “I’m excited to see what BCycle brings to the future of Santa Barbara.”
City Transportation Planning and Parking Manager Rob Dayton said a perk of the docking stations is that riders will probably only see one if they’re looking for one.
“The nice thing about these docks is that they’re a little bit more discreet in such a nice urban environment that is really well designed, so you’re less likely to notice them,” he told the News-Press.
He said the whole point of the program is to stimulate business activity, so most of the businesses want them, but others have expressed concern with visibility and loading and unloading. There was also slight concern from other electric bike companies in the area.
“We really just needed to explain that this is not a business that competes with tourists — this is a local model,” Mr. Dayton said. “The people who are going to be using these are people who are going somewhere that’s too far to walk.
“If you’re on the outskirts of a neighborhood and you want to go downtown, you’ve got a membership so you get your bike and stop paying as soon as you lock it up again. That’s the beauty of it.”
He added that giving the public access to electric bikes could lead to residents going and purchasing one at the local electric bike stores.
Mr. Dayton said public bike ridership has gone “through the roof” in other communities during COVID-19, so he’s not particularly worried about spreading the virus, considering the bikes are outside and transmission through contact with surfaces is much lower.
“If we’re going to stave off traffic congestion in the future, a significant number of Santa Barbarans are going to need to feel safer and more comfortable bicycling,” Mr. Dayton said. “It’s a good way to be more healthy and stay active.
“All in all, we’re trying to preserve Santa Barbara’s quality of life and in transportation, that means less congestion and better exercise.”