STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The borough’s new dockless bike share program, initially scheduled to launch this past spring, is now set to begin on Staten Island in March 2021.
Earlier this month, the Department of Transportation (DOT) made presentations to Staten Island Community Boards 1 and 2, providing a status update on the new bike share program, which has been delayed for months as a result of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
During the presentations, the DOT announced that the bike share is scheduled to start in March 2021 with a combination of 350 standard and electric pedal-assist Beryl bikes.
Beryl and the DOT have yet to determine how many of the 350 bikes for the initial launch will be electric pedal-assist.
BERYL BAY LOCATIONS
Starting late this fall, Beryl will install 162 Beryl Bays — clearly marked bike parking zones strategically placed throughout the borough — to minimize the disruption caused by having bikes scattered across city sidewalks.
Locations for the Beryl Bays were determined by considering adjacent land use, sidewalk width, proximity to street furniture, accessibility and community input.
Community Board 1, which encompasses the majority of the program’s initial service area, will have 128 Beryl Bay locations, including: Forest Avenue and Bard Avenue, Victory Boulevard and Clove Road, Jewett Avenue and Forest Avenue, Woolley Avenue and Watchogue Road, and many more.
Community Board 2, which encompasses a small portion of the program’s initial service area on the borough’s East Shore, will have 34 Beryl Bay locations, including: Lily Pond Road and McClean Avenue, Sand Lane and West Fingerboard Road, Old Town Road and North Railroad Avenue, Hylan Boulevard and Greeley Avenue, and many more.
Beryl and the DOT plan to eventually expand the program to cover the rest of the borough, with the initial launch only including parts of the borough’s North and East shores, though they could not yet provide a timeline for the expansion.
However, in August, Borough President James Oddo told the Staten Island Advance/SILive.com that the city plans to expand the program to Mid-Island and the South Shore in 2022, increasing the number of available vehicles to 700, including 500 e-bikes.
HOW WE GOT HERE
In November 2019, the DOT announced that Beryl, a United Kingdom-based bike share provider, would operate Staten Island’s new bike share program, which was initially scheduled to begin this past spring.
However, as spring 2020 came to a close, the mint green bicycles had yet to hit Staten Island streets.
“Beryl was scheduled to launch in spring 2020, however, due to the COVID-19 health crisis, the launch was delayed. DOT and Beryl are working closely to launch as soon as operationally and logistically feasible,” the DOT said in June.
When the program does launch in March 2021, it will only operate within practically the same service area — along portions of the North and East shores — as the previous bike share, operated by JUMP and Lime, despite DOT initially touting the program as a borough-wide bike share.
“This next exciting phase of our bike share pilot will allow us to work with a promising company to deliver a great and convenient transportation option to all of Staten Island,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at the time. “We look forward to sharing more details of Beryl’s plans in the months ahead – and this spring, we look forward to welcoming brand-new and distinctive Beryl bikes to all of ‘The Rock.’”
However, the DOT reneged in February, stating that the new bike share will launch within essentially the same service area as the previous bike share, with plans to expand to the rest of the borough at an unspecified date.
“Beryl will launch in an area similar but slightly larger than the service area from the Dockless Bike Share Pilot that JUMP and Lime operated in. Beryl will expand to cover the rest of the island later this year,” a DOT spokesperson said at the time.
When asked why the program will no longer launch borough-wide, as initially planned, the DOT would not provide a specific answer, instead stating that, “as with other bike share systems, Beryl will expand service through a phased rollout to ensure effective operations and comprehensive community outreach.”
Beryl is known for its innovative safety technology and hybrid parking model.
Emily Brooke, founder and chair of Beryl, and Phil Ellis, co-founder and CEO, visited Staten Island last November, meeting with local elected officials and representatives from DOT to showcase the company’s bikes and begin preparations for their first U.S. rollout.
“We don’t pretend that we’re going to know exactly what’s best straightaway. It’s going to be an iterative process and we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and launch to understand what’s different and what’s going to work,” Brooke said.
Beryl, founded under the name Blaze in 2012, first broke into the cycling business with the company’s innovative Laserlight technology, designed by Brooke as her final year project while a university student. Laserlight projects a green laser outline of a bicycle onto the roadway in front of cyclists, better alerting motor vehicles of their presence.
“The theme was urban cycling, and I wanted to tackle the biggest challenge for city cyclists, and that’s safety. Safety is the biggest worry of people who do bike in cities and it’s the biggest barrier for people who don’t,” said Brooke.
Laserlight proved to be a roaring success, with bike share programs across the globe adopting the cycling safety tool. The tech has even appeared on New York City streets, with Laserlight piloted on 250 bikes in the Citi Bike fleet back in 2017.
“We then started working in bike share after we had the product out in the wild for a couple of years. We worked with the London bike share scheme, Santander Cycles, to implement that technology into the bikes,” said Brooke. “We’ve been working with some of the biggest and most complicated bike share schemes in the world.”
In 2018, Beryl launched its own bike share service in three U.K. areas — London, Bournemouth/Poole and Hereford — with thousands of bikes on the road and more than 300,000 trips to date.
“The best thing we could do to enable our purpose, and get more people on bikes, was to do our own bikes,” said Brooke. “The bike was the last missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle since we had done a lot of technology up to this point.”
HYBRID PARKING MODEL
Beryl’s bike shares use a hybrid parking model that allows users to pick up or drop off bikes at designated Beryl Bays or park them responsibly on the street.
“A lot of the work…is finding those locations and putting them in the best possible places and working with the city to make sure they’re serving the population in the best way possible,” Brooke said. “There’s a small convenience fee people are charged if they don’t leave it in a bay, but we’re seeing between 85% and 90% of journeys are ending up in a bay.”
“It’s great for the users because you know you can rely on the service and if there’s a bay, you can typically find a bike. It’s good for the other citizens and pedestrians because the bikes aren’t strewn about everywhere. And it’s good for our operations because we know where they typically are, which helps,” Brooke added.
Parking a bike outside a Beryl Bay location will result in a $3 fee, while parking a bike outside of the program’s service area will result in a $25 fee.
ABOUT THE BIKES
The Beryl bikes are designed with a lightweight frame and comfortable seat that’s adjustable for riders spanning heights of 4′11″ to 6′5″. Each bike has three gears, allowing riders to adjust based on the hilliness of the terrain.
Contactless technology installed in the unlock pad allows riders to simply hold their phone above the bike to unlock and ride.
In addition to the Laserlight projection, all bikes are equipped with front and rear brake lights that turn on automatically when you pedal and remain on for two minutes when stopped.
Riders can choose from three different pricing options: Pay as You Ride, Day Pass or Minutes Bundle.
The Pay as You Ride option costs $1 to unlock pedal bikes and $1.50 to unlock e-bikes. After the unlocking fee, it costs 15 cents for each minute on pedal bikes and 25 cents for each minute on e-bikes.
The Day Pass option costs $12 for unlimited rides within a 24-hour window.
The Minutes Bundle option offers riders discounted rates the more minutes they purchase. Riders can pay $15 for 100 minutes, $28 for 200 minutes, $48 for 400 minutes or $60 for 600 minutes.