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Santa Barbara to introduce bike-sharing program in 2020

Santa Barbara bike-sharing
These electric bikes are set to appear in docks on city sidewalks by May 2020

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara will see even more bicycles downtown in 2020. 

The city is introducing a bike-sharing program set to launch in May, during CycleMAYnia. The program is aimed mostly at giving commuters another way to get to work.

The announcement came at this week’s City Council meeting. Noozhawk first reported the news.

The program will introduce 250 electric bikes, each with a retail price of about $2,000.

“It's just like a bicycle, but you're stronger,” Santa Barbara Transportation and Parking manager Rob Dayton said. “So you'll pedal and you'll just feel stronger, and you'll say, ‘How come I’m going so fast? This is great!'"

Unlike the electric scooters that were introduced and then banned soon after in the city in 2018, the bikes will stay docked on sidewalks. Those docks will be built on State Street, along the waterfront and near Santa Barbara City College. If the program is successful, the bikes could expand to the East and West sides.

Riders will be able to pay for rides and unlock bikes from docks using a mobile app. 

Electric bicycle-sharing company B-Cycle will pay for the equipment and track down bikes that go missing or are stolen. B-Cycle operates other large bike-sharing networks across the country, including the Metro bike-sharing system in Los Angeles.

Santa Barbara will focus on where the docks should go and how the rides should be priced. The first 30 minutes on a bike will cost $5, with monthly and annual plans also available. Additional pricing details are still being discussed.

The program could also be a boost for stagnant State Street businesses.

“It also will be an economic stimulus for downtown,” Dayton said. “Bringing a new activity to downtown that we don't now have."

But the program is making at least one local business worried.

“We're afraid that bike share could put us out of business,” said Reggie Drew, who owns Wheel Fun Rentals with his wife, Teddi.

The couple also owns Santa Barbara Trolley. They say Wheel Fun thrives on bike rentals from tourists and would like the bike-sharing to focus on shorter rides and commuters. 

“Move people around the city to go to lunch, to go into work,” Reggie Drew said. “When they're on their break to go get coffee. Not go after the tourist business that we've been doing already for 40 years."

The Drews will address their concerns with the city in a meeting sometime next week. They seem optimistic that they can co-exist with bike-sharing. The city says they don’t want these bikes to negatively impact any local businesses.

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Ryan Fish

Ryan Fish is a reporter, sports anchor and forecaster for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Ryan, click here.

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