Shared bikes, scooters log miles
Rochester is seeing interest in new ways to move around downtown and beyond.
The fourth year of free bike sharing in the city saw 1,234 bicycle checkouts between May and October, which was boosted by a call for more bikes.
"We did hear over the course of the summer that people wanted more bikes," said Kevin Bright, director of sustainability for Destination Medical Center’s Economic Development Agency.
The result was increasing the number of available bikes at the Rochester Public Library from 15 to 20.
It put 48 bikes on the street, with 653 checkouts of varying lengths at the library.
Also during the summer, more than 200 motorized rental scooters were on the street, according to Jaymi Wilson, a project manager for Rochester’s city administration. The average trip was less than a mile long.
The Lime scooters covered 63,078 miles during a 15-week trial, with 12,853 riders logging 50,641 trips. At the peak, nearly 6,000 trips were made in a week, with nearly 3,000 individual riders paying the fees for the two-wheeled devices.
The city’s third new option for people who are opting to bypass driving personal vehicles into and around downtown has seen smaller numbers, but the HourCar service is less than a month old.
Launched in Rochester on Dec. 9, the nonprofit car-sharing operation has eight local members, who made 10 trips by Dec. 31, logging 167 total miles.
Wilson said the city and company are looking for ways to increase awareness of the program, which offers five local cars to be reserved.
The three transportation options are part of an effort to diversify commuter options in the city.
Destination Medical Center goals established in 2015 seek to increase the percentage of commuters using buses and other modes of transit to enter downtown Rochester.
At the time, an estimated 25,000 vehicle trips were made into the DMC district, comprising 71% of all trips. The 2040 goal is to reduce the percentage to 43%, which would mean 26,800 vehicle trips into the city’s core each day.
Bright and Wilson said the city is looking at adjustments for the bike and scooter programs.
The city was given 200 bikes when it took over operation of the local Nice Ride bike-sharing operation. More than half of the bicycles are stored in the former fire station in Silver Lake Park.
Bright said plans are being made to get 100 bikes into the hands of organizations and individuals who will use them. A grant program is being created to donate the bikes, while retaining some bicycles for future ride-share operations.
Rochester City Council members expressed support for the move.
"I think it’s wonderful that we’re getting them out there," Mayor Kim Norton said.
The council also supported potential changes to the city ordinance, which could be used to continue scooter rentals in the city.
"There’s going to be stuff we need to change, no matter what," Council Member Nick Campion noted, suggesting staff present the council with an ordinance proposal at a later meeting.
Among potential changes are limiting operation hours, requiring a rental company to have an operating agreement with the city, and creating designated parking corrals for scooters.
Wilson noted that a recent online survey of 310 Rochester residents indicates 75% offered positive feedback related to potential regulation changes, and 63% offered favorable responses for the program, with 7% citing they were neutral.
A potential ordinance change would likely offer additional opportunities for community feedback.
Asked about safety concerns, Wilson said the Rochester Police Department didn’t record any specific accidents involving scooters, but it cited reports of people falling off of the devices. Records of scooter-related emergency room visits are not available as public data, she added.
Council President Randy Staver said he’d like the police department to weigh in on potential policy changes.
"I heard a lot of anecdotal complaints over the summer," he said, noting that the lack of rule enforcement appeared to be a concern.
"Rules are nice, but if we can’t enforce them, what’s the point?" he said.
Wilson noted that the city’s 2020 budget includes funds to hire additional downtown patrol officers, which would likely help with enforcement.
"They are aware that is one of the challenges," she said, noting that added education could also help stem problems.