Syracuse, N.Y., Sees Big Promise in E-Bike Launch

Mayor Ben Walsh said not only does the program check all the boxes for more environmentally friendly and recreational transportation in the city, it also helps to remove barriers to employment.

by Emma Vallelunga, Advance Media NY / July 10, 2019
(Shutterstock)

(TNS) — fleet of bright seafoam green e-bikes hit the streets of Syracuse Tuesday, and Mayor Ben Walsh was one of the first to take one out for a spin, donning a helmet as he rode to the public celebration in front of the Marriott Syracuse Downtown.

A bike-share program has been on Walsh’s agenda since he took office in January 2018. The road to the debut of the Gotcha Bike Sync system included investment in new bike lanes and research on how to make the system work for Central New York.

“Not everyone has a car that they can drive around wherever they want,” Walsh said during the official ribbon cutting with Gotcha Bike officials Tuesday evening. “In order to provide a range of options, having a bike share program was a critical part of our transportation priorities.”

The bikes, operated by an electric motor, are GPS-monitored and can go 40 miles on a single charge. Teams with Gotcha SYNC Syracuse can track the locations of each bike and change its batteries as needed. They are designed with electronic pedal-assist technology and stronger tires for hilly topography conditions and winter weather - perfect for Syracuse, officials said. Other features include retractable bike locks, a small headlight and a phone stand located in the bike’s basket.

Sean Flood, Gotcha founder and CEO, said the company’s e-bikes can appeal to anyone because of the pedal-assist technology, no matter their fitness level.

“There’s an entire group of people out there who didn’t think biking was for them from a physicality standpoint,” Flood said. “As soon as people [ride] it, they’re going to really notice it’s a mode of transportation for them.”

Users can download the Gotcha app, find a hub, scan the QR code on the bike’s handlebars and ride off. For a one-time ride, users will be charged $2, or 15 cents for each minute. Monthly and yearly subscriptions are also available through the company’s app. Riders must also be safe by wearing a helmet and obeying traffic laws.

The city will receive a portion of Gotcha’s fees, but the program doesn’t cost them any money. Flood said it was important for Walsh to implement a program that was cost-neutral to the people of Syracuse, keeping the costs low through sponsorship partners.

“We were willing to fund the upfront equipment, the bikes themselves, the operations and the local team, but we also needed local partners who are helping to fund the system through partnerships," Flood said.

Walsh said not only does the program check all the boxes for more environmentally friendly and recreational transportation in the city, it also helps to remove barriers to employment.

“If people are currently limited to either walking or public transportation, having a bike or scooter can help people get to work,” Walsh said.

While legislation regarding the use of e-bikes and e-scooters statewide is still waiting to be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Syracuse’s e-bikes are legal under current law because the bill mainly focuses on e-bikes and e-scooters in the throttle mode, or without pedals. Because Gotcha’s Syracuse Sync e-bikes are pedal-assist, they fall outside the scope of the bill.

“I acknowledge and appreciate some of the safety concerns that come with [the bill],” Walsh said. “I see [the program] as another iteration of mobility in our community.”

©2019 Syracuse Media Group, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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