City approves bike-sharing program

Amid criticism, council votes 3-2 for Decobike


The City Council approved a partnership with a Miami-based company last week to launch a public bicycle-sharing program that would make roughly 400 bikes available on Long Beach streets, at no cost to the city. Before the vote, however, residents and business owners voiced concerns about the plan’s impact on local bike shops, safety and residents’ quality of life.

At its July 5 meeting, the council voted 3-2 to approve a five-year contract — with an option to renew — with Decobike, a company that operates a similar program in Miami Beach. Under the terms of the contract, Decobike will set up 20 to 30 rental kiosks at locations throughout the city, and the city will receive 10 percent of Decobike’s gross income and 10 percent of its advertising income.

At the solar-powered kiosks, users will rent bikes with credit cards and drop them off — at the same location or at any other kiosk — when they are finished with them.

The company is investing $1 million in the initiative, city officials said, and is also assuming the costs of installing bike lanes throughout the city next year. The program will start on a limited basis this fall and expand next spring, although Decobike has yet to determine rental rates.

City Manager Charles Theofan said that the program could generate as much as $300,000 in annual revenue for the city and as much as $5 million for Decobike. “If Decobike is not successful, if that unfortunate reality should come, there will be no loss to this city,” Theofan said.

The vote came two weeks after the council tabled the proposal, when three council members said that the program needed further review. “The reason I voted to table this was, I was concerned about the aesthetics of it, I was concerned about not hearing much in the proposal about bike lanes and, quite frankly, I was concerned about the local businesses,” said Council President Thomas Sofield Jr., adding that he was impressed by a “Decostation” that was on display on the boardwalk over the July Fourth weekend.

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