Bike pedals have been put to the metal as Hoboken and Jersey City continue to clash on the relationship of their respective bike share programs.
Hard-pressed to come to an agreement with the City of Hoboken that would provide space for Hoboken’s bike share bicycles near Exchange Place, Jersey City unanimously voted 9-0 on Wednesday, March 23 to introduce an ordinance that would impose fines on Hoboken’s Hudson Bike Share or any other bicycle program that fills up public bike racks.
The Hudson Reporter broke this story last November when residents complained about their inability to park personal bikes in public racks.
Jersey City Councilwoman Candice Osborne said Hudson Bike Share bicycles have been filling up public bike racks in Jersey City despite complaints from Jersey City officials.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer said in a statement to the Reporter that Hudson Bike Share is designed as a “flexible” system so that riders don’t feel beholden to using large dedicated docking stations.
Even so, she said she has offered on multiple occasions for Hoboken to pay for additional bike racks at locations commonly used by Hudson Bike Share riders.
“Targeting bike share bikes in this manner has no legitimate governmental purpose and would be an unfortunate step back for urban transportation. What’s next? Will ZipCar drivers be barred from using public parking in Jersey City?” – Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer
Zimmer has called Osborne’s allegations that the Hoboken’s bike share company is filling up Jersey City bike racks “false.”
“They told us it’s not illegal,” Osborne said. “We said we would give them bicycle racks that are not public racks if they will provide space for our bicycles in Hoboken. They’ve refused.”
The ordinance suggests fines that range from $100 to $1,000.
Jersey City, Weehawken and Hoboken were originally supposed to develop a joint bike-share program. Jersey City opted to go into a Citi Bike program that allowed it to integrate with Citi Bike in New York City. Weehawken opted out of the bike-share program entirely. Hoboken started its own program.
Last fall, Jersey City officials found that Hudson Bike Share was filling public bicycle racks near Exchange Place in Jersey City without permission, and asked Hoboken to cease or provide equal space in Hoboken for Jersey City bicycles.
The ordinance escalates the issue and will likely result in the matter being taken to court, once Jersey City begins issuing summonses.
A final vote on the ordinance will be decided on April 13.
Battle of the bikes
City officials said bicycle riding in Jersey City has increased and that public rack space is at a premium. The ordinance is designed to discourage groups like Hudson Bike Share from taking spaces away from Jersey City residents who might need those spaces.
The ordinance would target “users of commercial bicycles,” meaning those bicycles owned and/or operated by a business for the purpose of facilitating deliveries or bicycles used as part of a bike share program. It would prohibit these from monopolizing public bicycle racks.
“It is disappointing to see such a regressive transportation proposal from our usually progressive neighbor in Jersey City,” said Zimmer. “Targeting bike share bikes in this manner has no legitimate governmental purpose and would be an unfortunate step back for urban transportation. What’s next? Will ZipCar drivers be barred from using public parking in Jersey City?”
Osborne later responded to Zimmer’s comment by clarifying that the legislation would punish the bicycle provider, not the individual bike riders.
She said while Hoboken’s plan may be more flexible about where people can park bikes, it does not provide riders with the same full services in New York.
“She (Zimmer) went with her own plan, now she has to live with it,” Osborne said.
Hoboken did ask for three racks to be installed in Jersey City, she said. But Jersey City has an exclusive contract with Citi Bike and cannot give Hoboken these racks.
This is different than with ZipCar since Jersey has no exclusive deal with another car company.
Jersey City offered to negotiate with Citi-Bike, saying a deal might be possible if Hoboken would provide three racks in Hoboken for Citi Bikes – but Hoboken refused.
Hoboken spokesperson Juan Melli said Hudson Bike Share has seen success since its launch with an additional ten stations installed since November (and two more planned), 250 bikes up and running, and 30,000 rides have been taken to date (since the October launch).
Hudson Bike Share charges $95 per year and daily/weekly memberships are $9.95 and $25 respectively. The Citi Bike program charges an annual fee of $149.
Hoboken bike share members can pay a fee to join the program. They can pick up or leave any bike at the docking stations throughout the city.
Citi Bike users must lock their bikes at a Citi Bike station but can choose to ride to the PATH station, leave their bike at a stand there, and pick another up one in New York City.
Steven Rodas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.