The California Coastal Commission voted 12-0 in less than 10 minutes to allow BCycle, whose fleet of white electric bikes began swarming State Street in late January, to now begin setting up docks and two kiosks along the city’s waterfront, in the Funk Zone, and on Coast Village Road. In so doing, the Coastal Commission made short shrift of an appeal filed by Anna Marie Gott — longtime City Hall watchdog — who objected that the new bike docks intruded upon the public’s enjoyment of existing ocean views and that the public was not given adequate opportunity to weigh in on placement of the docks under a temporary permitting scheme adopted by City Hall.
Making the motion to approve the BCycle electric-bike-share program was Santa Barbara City Councilmember Meagan Harmon, serving for her first time as the state’s newest member of the Coastal Commission. Under Coastal Commission procedures, Gott — like all appellants — was allotted just three minutes to make her case. Her time expired before she finished her argument.
Even if she had, it would have made little difference. Both the city’s Planning Commission and City Council had ratified the plans to allow the Trek e-bike rentals to operate throughout tourist-rich waterfront, and Coastal Commission staff opined that Gott had raised no substantial issues.
BCycle spokesperson Jesse Rosenberg expressed gratitude and relief at the vote and said the company — a subsidiary of Trek — would soon start installing additional bike docks and electric bikes. Currently, she said, the company has 192 docks installed throughout Santa Barbara and 96 bikes. Under the permits the company obtained, it’s allowed a total of 500 docks and 250 bikes.
The waterfront territory has always been central to the company’s business plans. Even without it, though, BCycle has “sold” more than 15,000 trips since opening for business in the teeth of the pandemic on a very rainy January 28.
Rosenberg estimated that tourists accounted for 60-70 percent of trips sold and locals the remainder. To date, she said, there’s only been one accident involving a BCycle passenger, and that involved driver error.
The biggest issue, she said, has been BCycle theft. To date, she said 17 e-bikes have been stolen. The bikes are equipped with Bluetooth tracking devices, but Rosenberg said some thieves have removed those. All but three, she said, have been recovered.
Bike rentals range from $7 per half hour (plus mileage) to $150 for an annual membership. In addition, BCycle offers a low-income discount to people making 200 percent the poverty level or less; to date, there have been 10-15 such applications.