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Syracuse goes with new bike, scooter-sharing company

The city of Syracuse has approved of using a new bike-sharing company, after the city exited its contract with Gotcha Bike over the winter. City officials are hopeful this new company will help them continue to expand bike sharing.

As warm weather sweeps the area, it’s noticeable that the Gotcha bike stands sit empty across the city. Neil Burke, transportation planner with the Department of Public Works, said COVID-19 had a hard impact on Gotcha’s business operations, and they were unable to continue providing service. So, the city is now going with VeoRide, based in Chicago, to replace 200 electric-pedal assist bikes, at no cost to the city.

“At the same stations, across the city, with an increase in the number of bikes, is what we’ll see first,” Burke said. “We want to replace the offerings or the system Gotcha was running for us, with Veo’s offerings. Veo, in our discussions with them, is more than capable and ready to do that from day one.”

Once the bikes are in place, Burke said they’ll also look into rolling out electric scooters.

Syracuse first started its bike-share program with Gotcha in 2019. It had a peak of 2,500 rides per month. The average trip duration was only 13 minutes. Burke said bike sharing tends to be used more for quick trips, rather than long, recreational rides. There’s a low fee to unlock the bike, around a dollar, and then a few cents per minute.

The city will now negotiate a contract with Veo and the bikes could be ready by the summer. The bikes are meant to stay within city limits for now, but Burke said there is the potential to partner with neighboring municipalities.

“Especially with regional amenities focused on bike infrastructure, like the Empire State Trail, the Loop the Lake Trail,” Burke said. “If there are opportunities to collaborate, we are absolutely on board.”

He said Centro is also very interested in the program, and the bikes could be used for last-mile transportation for some bus routes.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.