Queens pols defend Rockaway rollout of Spin dockless bikes

Spin  had to cancel it's 100-bike rollout in the Rockaways on August 14, but hopes to meet with the city soon about getting a permit.
Spin had to cancel it’s 100-bike rollout in the Rockaways on August 14, but hopes to meet with the city soon about getting a permit. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mark Wilson

Three Queens politicians came to the defense of Spin’s bike-share service on Monday after the city curbed the company’s launch in Rockaway.

Spin is a new, dockless system that allows riders to locate, unlock and pay for its bikes through a phone app, giving users the option to park their bikes wherever they’d like once they’ve reached their destination. The San Francisco-based company planned to launch an unsanctioned 100-bike pilot along Rockaway Beach Monday morning, but scaled back to a community “show-and-tell” after the city’s Department of Transportation issued a cease-and-desist letter on Friday, Aug. 11.

The DOT letter cited Spin’s lack of a “concession, permit, contract or otherwise, required for such operation.” Republican Councilman Eric Ulrich, who represents the area, took offense and criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio and what Ulrich sees as a slow rollout of Citi Bike, which is not available in Rockaway.

“We know that this community supports bicycle riding … unfortunately, five years after Hurricane Sandy, Citi Bike is still not in Rockaway. It’s still not in many parts of the city,” said Ulrich.

The councilman was flanked by other community members as well as state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Ozone Park) and Assemb. Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach).

“Of course, our illustrious mayor has decided once again that he is going to side with the special interests,” Ulrich continued. “And that he’s more interested in protecting a public monopoly like Citi Bike as opposed to actually expanding sensible bike sharing to places like Rockaway.”

Some bike advocates believe Spin’s dockless model isn’t so “sensible” when put into practice. There have been concerns that riders could misuse and misplace the bikes, scattering them in parks, private property or in the middle of busy sidewalks once their rides are complete. James Moore, head of market growth at Spin, said employees would work to calibrate the system and responsibly place bikes.

Citi Bike, meanwhile, is attempting to secure exclusive rights to operate bike share on city streets through its ongoing negotiations with the DOT to expand to the Bronx and Staten Island, making it a five-borough system. In the past, Citi Bike offered to roll out service in Rockaway, but the proposal never moved forward, according to a source familiar with the negotiations with the city.

DOT has met with several new bike-share companies interested in launching in the city, including an April meeting with Spin.

Moore said Spin will comply with the city’s cease-and-desist letter and hopes to have a meeting with the DOT this week to further discuss a potential launch in New York.

“We really do look forward to working with DOT,” said Moore. “We hope that we’ll be able to have a meeting with them and do a pilot here.”