CROCK ON THE ROCK: Beryl Bails On Staten Island Bike Share, Citing COVID

Beryl founder Emily Brooke on one of her company's rentable bikes, the kind of bike that will no longer debut on Staten Island.
Beryl founder Emily Brooke on one of her company's rentable bikes, the kind of bike that will no longer debut on Staten Island.

Like they did in the late 18th century, the British have fled New York City in disgrace without accomplishing any of their stated goals.

On Wednesday afternoon, Beryl, the small UK-based company hand-picked by the city over more-established competitors in 2019 to provide dockless bike share for Staten Island, withdrew from its plans, saying they were thwarted by COVID-19.

The announcement was a disappointing end to a bike share attempt that was originally slated to serve the entire borough, but was reduced to a smaller footprint, then delayed by coronavirus and now, finally scrubbed.

“We are deeply disappointed in this news, and would like to assure Staten Islanders that we are actively studying micromobility options for the borough,” the DOT’s Staten Island Borough Commissioner Roseann Caruana said in a tweet that also shared Beryl’s message of surrender.

For its part, Beryl CEO Phillip Ellis chalked the end of the bike share program attempt on “complications in the global supply chain.” Those issues made it “operationally impossible” to run a bike colony on the Rock. (That’s especially true for a small company, which operates bike share in just three small British towns.)

Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo, who was only told on Wednesday afternoon of the pull-out, declared himself “totally bummed.”

“And here we are, as spring is here, and the city has no short- or long-term plan to provide bikes for Staten Island,” Oddo told Streetsblog. “My office will make it very clear that the city needs to figure something out. The DOT should set up a new ‘pilot’ program and get around the procurement bullshit so we can get bikes on the street sooner.”

Oddo said he would demand action because the city’s dockless bike share pilot program, which featured Lime and Jump bikes on the north shore from July 2018 through 2019, was such a rousing success. His Deputy Chief of Staff Jennifer Sammartino was the point person during that pilot.

“The most frustrating part [about the Beryl pullout] is that we had an extremely successful pilot program,” Sammartino said. “DOT, Jump and Lime were blown away by how successful. It speaks to how badly residents and visitors want this. So it’s extremely frustrating to not have something, even a short-term solution, for a borough that is lacking in transportation options.”

It’s an ignominious end for Beryl in New York City, after the company was picked to do an island-wide dockless bike share program in place of either Lime or Jump. The original Beryl plan called for 1,000 dockless bikes to be placed around Staten Island — and everyone seemed so happy back in 2019 when Beryl executives paid a visit to Staten Island borough hall and predicted a launch in spring, 2020:

But by February, 2020 (which is pre-COVID), that plan was reduced to a zone that included only northern and eastern strips of the island. The bike share program was then delayed past its planned debut because Beryl said that pandemic-related travel restrictions made it difficult for company employees to get here to set up the system.

As late as October, 2020, the DOT shared a map of the zone Beryl intended to serve by this spring. But Wednesday marked the end of the road for the British bikes.

Currently, parts of the other four boroughs are served by Citi Bike, which is in the midst of an expansion that will bring it to more neighborhoods. But not Staten Island.

“We are very enamored of bike share,” said Oddo. “We understand its importance to small business and culture — and as part of the revitalization of the north shore and beyond. Call it whatever you want to call it, but let’s get bikes on the street.”

A spokesman for Lime, which now owns Jump, declined to comment. The Department of Transportation also said it would not comment beyond Commissioner Caruana’s statement, meaning that the agency declined to answer Streetsblog’s specific questions that included when a replacement company will be picked and when bike share will make it to Staten Island.

— with Gersh Kuntzman

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