The Gotcha Group is bringing bike sharing to Syracuse

Bike sharing is coming to Syracuse

Gotcha Bike is set to introduce its bike sharing services to the city of Syracuse and university area.
Published: September 5, 2018

On July 30, the Syracuse City Council approved Gotcha Bike’s request to set up shop in Syracuse as the city’s first bike share operator. Gotcha will place docking stations throughout the area where users can rent and return bikes using a mobile app. This new program will come at no cost to the city.

When Trish Dugan, co-owner of Syracuse Bicycle, heard about the program, she was excited to see the city embracing bike culture. Dugan founded Syracuse Bicycle Women on Wheels in 2012 after customers told her they wished they knew safer ways to bike around the city. Adding bike sharing to Syracuse will help with that safety effort, she said.

“When you walk around a city with bike sharing, it gets inhabitants in the mindset to bike,” she said. “Biking is awesome. It’s a great start to the day, it’s very healthy. I wish I had the time to do it more.”

Dugan says she wants the program to bring better bicycle infrastructure to the city, such as separate bike lanes. She also hopes people will gain a greater awareness towards bike safety.

Paul Winkeller, executive director of the New York Bicycle Coalition, thinks the new bike share program is the answer to improving transportation in Syracuse, but shares Dugan’s concerns about safety.

“There’s nothing hotter in the world of biking than bike sharing right now,” Winkeller said. “For most programs, the actual usage is exceeding the estimated averages. The thing is, bike programs don’t come with helmets, so basic safe cycling education is needed,” he said.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, cyclists and pedestrians make up almost 14 percent of all road deaths. The death rate of U.S. pedestrians and cyclists is two to six times higher per kilometer than in Europe due to a lack of investment in safe and integrated transportation infrastructures.

According to Katie Sims, vice president of mobility at Gotcha Bike, there are plans to put several hubs around Syracuse University’s campus and in neighboring parts of the city. These hubs will be located near other forms of public transportation to improve the ease of traffic. Sims said when selecting these hubs, the safety of students and citizens is the utmost priority.

Gotcha typically charges by the hour to use their bikes. In other cities, their fees are low and brief rides are sometimes free. People can also buy monthly or annual memberships. The city will receive a portion of Gotcha’s earnings, though the amount has not yet been decided.

Gotcha is based in Charleston, South Carolina and primarily caters to colleges and universities, like Binghamton University. The company is currently operating in more than 30 cities across the county using smart bikes that users rent through a smartphone app. Gotcha also provides three wheeled bikes for people with disabilities.

Neil Burke, Transportation Planner for the City of Syracuse, said, “This program will be open to all, including residents, visitors and students,” Burke said. “We are developing affordable pricing structures and including discounted rates for low-income individuals. This program will include an easy to use app, as well as options for persons without smartphones or bank accounts and credit cards.”    

On Tuesday, Aug. 14, the city of Syracuse and Adapt CNY hosted a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the City Hall Commons Atrium. There, representatives from Gotcha shared more information about how the system will operate and asked for ideas and feedback from attendees.  

“Bike culture in Syracuse is steadily growing, and the bike share system will be coming online at a perfect time to capitalize on this momentum,” Burke said.