New bike-share, e-scooter program will help fill transit gaps, city says

Posted Jul 13, 2021

With the push of a foot, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka sped off into Military Park on one of the e-scooters that are now part of a fleet that will hit the city’s streets.

Newark officials on Tuesday launched a six-month pilot program with Bird Rides, Inc. and Veoride, Inc. to bring 2,000 bikes and e-scooters to all neighborhoods in Newark. The exact number of e-scooters and bikes of the NewarkGo program was not immediately known, but a city engineering official said a majority will be scooters.

City residents might be wary of the program, Baraka noted, since e-scooter and bike-share programs are often associated with gentrification. But city officials said they had equity and lower-income residents in mind when bringing the idea to Newark.

“I know a lot of people think when you start seeing scooters and bikes and people doing these kinds of things downtown, it signals maybe gentrification and all kinds of other things,” Baraka said.

“But that’s why we’re concentrating on equity and affordability because it’s not about gentrification, it’s about making sure it’s affordable to people of this community so they have alternative ways to move around the city outside of just public transportation and just owning a car.”

About 50% of city residents do not own a car, according to the mayor.

There will be about 30 dockless parking corrals throughout all neighborhoods in Newark where residents can pick up and return the e-scooters or bikes after paying through the vendor’s app or calling a phone number. The vendors are also responsible for collecting bikes or scooters that may be left around the city, said Newark Director of Engineering Phil Scott.

To view where each corral will be located, view this map. The city is getting a cut of the revenue generated from the NewarkGo program, but did not have to pay to install any of the dockless parking stations.

The parking stations are square boxes painted on the pavement. The one in Military Park was not in the street taking up parking, but on the sidewalk.

The goal of the program is to connect residents to grocery stores, transit hubs and and jobs, officials said. Janette Sadik-Khan, who served as the New York City Transportation Commissioner and launched Citi Bike there in 2013, said Newark officials used the lessons learned in other bike share programs before launching its own.

“NewarkGo fills the gaps between bus routes and train stations, cutting down on long walks to grocery stores and make it easier for people to access jobs, opportunities and social services,” said Sadik-Khan, who now works with Bloomberg Associates.

It costs Bird users $1 to unlock one of its vehicles, plus about 15 cents for each minute. There is also a Bird Access program, which allows those who qualify for state or federal assistance to pay $5 a month for unlimited 30-minute rides.

Veo users pay $1 per hour to use a bike. The company also has an access program that allows those who get state or federal assistance to have 30 minutes of free rides every day.

There are also adapted vehicles available for those who are differently abled.

Bike lanes have cropped up in the city’s downtown, but they are a rarer sight in other wards. Scott, the director of Newark’s engineering department, said the city has a plan to increase the number of bike lanes in all wards.

“We have a plan, but we want to expand it now that we have our ride share program in place,” Scott said. “So we want to get as many bike lanes as we can so we can provide for more safety for the riders of these bikes and scooters.”

Helmets are only being recommended, but they are not required. The city’s website for the program explained requiring helmets sharply decreases the number of cyclists on the streets, which makes streets less safe by diluting the “safety in numbers” effect.

Some of the scooters have a voice feature that tells riders when they’re entering a no-ride zone. Both Veo and Bird will do outreach and education programs to explain how to use the bikes.

Tony Borelli, a trustee with the Brick City Bike Collective, said having more cyclists or scooter riders will increase visibility of them on the road. He called for more bike lanes in the city to increase safety, but was still looking forward to the program.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Borelli told NJ Advance Media. “I think it’s a major step forward for biking and transportation.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-07-14 03:08:52 -0700