Company Pitches Council on Bike-Sharing in Newport, R.I.

The bikes would be available around The Gateway Center, Bowen's Wharf, Waites Wharf, Jane Pickens Theater, City Hall, Newport Hospital, International Tennis Hall of Fame, The Breakers, Fort Adams State Park and several other locations.

by Sean Flynn, Newport Daily News / May 28, 2019
Newport, R.I. Shutterstock/Ramunas Bruzas

(TNS) — Carlos Pujol, who leads a New York City company, and his wife spent a weekend in Newport in 2016 and thought it would be a great place to establish a bike-share program. He still thinks that and hasn't given up.

He came before the City Council this week and had the support of Steven Sabo, chairman of the city's Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission.

The commission reviewed bike share programs of different companies and selected Pujol's company to offer the service in Newport.

Pujol is the CEO of P3 Global Management Inc., which now owns more than 4,000 bikes and operates bike-share programs in New Haven, Conn.; Miami-Dade County and West Palm Beach, Fla.; Pasadena, Calif.; and 11 communities in New York and New Jersey.

"The bicycles are well built, comfortable to ride, and traverse both asphalt and cobblestone well," Sabo said in a written statement to the council. "The system relies on geofencing technology to provide hybrid dockless return stations, providing clearly demarcated zones for bicycles to be returned to, and reduces problems relating to visual clutter and blocking of sidewalks."

Dockless bikes have either an internal self-locking system or lock to other objects.

The company would incur sole responsibility for liability, maintenance and cost of all bicycles operating under the program, both Pujol and Sabo stressed to council members.

Councilwoman Kathryn Leonard remained concerned about city liability and was skeptical of introducing a bike-share program in the city.

"We have very narrow streets," she said. "We're not Amsterdam and not Copenhagen."

The company familiarized itself with Newport in 2016 and made a proposal to the city that was on the docket in January 2017, but not acted upon by the council.

In January 2018, then City Council members Susan Taylor and Jamie Bova initially suggested city administration to seek proposals from bike sharing companies.

The council majority wasn't ready to do that yet, but the council then passed a resolution from Taylor and Bova asking the Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission to solicit proposals from bike-share companies and make a recommendation.

Since then, Bova has become mayor of the city and Taylor is vice chairwoman of the council.

During the selection process, P3GM sponsored Bike Newport's Elliot's Ride for Everyone in June 2018, and provided some of its shared bicycles at temporary locations to show residents how it works.

Now that the commission has selected P3GM, the company is asking the city to grant it a license, initially with the hope of rolling out the program in July this year.

The council asked City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr. Wednesday night to review state laws regarding bidding and the issuance of such a license.

Pujol told the council members he is not in a rush for a July kickoff if the city needs more time to review the proposal and determine anything else needs to be done.

The company would launch the bike-share program in two phases. Phase I would concentrate in the downtown area with 100 bikes and 14 stations. Phase II would see the bike fleet grow to up to 200 bikes at 20 stations, depending on demand.

The bikes would be locked at the small stations. The company would service the bikes, remove snow and handle customer service. It plans to hire local teams based out of a local warehouse.

It would take about a year to launch the system, beginning with the signing of a contract. Steps before the launch include bike order and delivery, station racks and signage order and delivery, siting the stations and installing them, and securing a warehouse.

The company receives its revenues from bike sponsorship and program naming rights, user memberships and fees, and advertising located at bike-share stations. The company plans to work with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority on advertising the service.

Bikes would be available around The Gateway Center, Bowen's Wharf, Waites Wharf, Jane Pickens Theater, City Hall, Newport Hospital, International Tennis Hall of Fame, The Breakers, Fort Adams State Park and several other locations.

For residents of the city, the system is useful for short rides, like commuting to work or school or getting to the closest bus stop, the company says in its proposal. Tourists could use them for sightseeing and getting around.

"Through strategically chosen locations, the firm can reduce commute times, traffic, congestion, and pollution in the area," the company says.

©2019 Newport Daily News, R.I. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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