ITHACA, N.Y.—Along with most indoor privileges and the general sense of community camaraderie, the pandemic stole something else close to the heart of many Ithacans: Lime bikes, the popular bike-sharing program that brought around 300 vivid green bikes to the city’s streets. While Lime itself will almost certainly not be back, a bike-sharing program could be in Ithaca’s foreseeable future soon.

That was one of many subjects of the Ithaca Common Council’s August meeting, held Wednesday, Aug. 4 (agenda here and the recording will be at this link once it is posted). Extensive presentations on the public safety reform process and bike-sharing both were included Wednesday night, while further votes on the conveyance of public housing projects and a slew of potential redevelopment projects also took place.

Bike-Sharing in Ithaca

Things started with the presentation from BikeWalk Tompkins’ Active Transportation Coordinator Hector Chang, who detailed the success that the Lime bikes program had from when they were introduced in spring 2018 to when the bikes were taken back in March 2020.

Chang showed that while Lime’s Ithaca program ended unceremoniously, its time in the city was a fairly surprising success: Chang claimed that BikeWalk Tompkins initially predicted 10,000 trips in Lime’s first year, though by the time Lime left they were up to over 177,000 rides in two years.

After a brief discussion of why Lime left, which was part of a global contraction of services related to the pandemic, Chang moved onto the potential replacement options locally. He said that two private companies have reached out to BWT with interest in starting a program in Ithaca that would have no financial cost to the community, as Lime did, though Chang pointed out that the disadvantage of that model is “no guarantee of indefinite presence”—leading to a similar exit as Lime’s.

Chang did broach the idea of establishing a bike-share as part of a non-profit venture. He said that system can be costly upfront for purchasing the bike fleet and necessary tangential equipment ($250K-$600K projected at the start, $150K-$250K of yearly upkeep), but that it has worked elsewhere, naming larger cities like Kansas City, Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

“It feels like there’s a community will to do this,” said Alderperson Seph Murtagh, one of several Common Council members to express support for another bike-share program to come to Ithaca. There was no vote on the matter, as the presentation was more of an update on the status of any new bike-share opportunities.

One resident vividly voiced concerns regarding the bikes’ intrusion on local bike racks and arguing that they are not actually light-weight, further asking for a public hearing about Lime bikes and bike-sharing problems in general.

Public Safety Reform

With the Reimagining Public Safety working group formed, Alderperson Ducson Nguyen delivered an update on its work so far—though there hasn’t been a ton aside from a two-day program that served as an onboarding and agenda-setting session, analyzing the history of Ithaca policing and the current state of it. Nguyen said that the group will be launching a tool that will allow community members to submit ideas for consideration by the group.

Unfortunately, Nguyen said the anticipated September deadline for recommendation submission will not be met, considering the breadth of the work that needs to be done. He said the group quickly realized that they would not be able to fulfill their duties by that time, but does hope to have a cost-benefit evaluation finished by budget season the following month.

In more detail, Nguyen said that an analysis of call load and type will be the group’s first priority—once armed with that information, they will be able to tackle budget allocations, staffing numbers and job descriptions for both the unarmed and armed community workers. The timeline can be seen below (apologies for the cropping, last night’s meeting broadcast was a bit cock-eyed):

Other news and notes:

  • There was an unfortunately high number of remembrances offered after a tough few weeks locally: memorial resolutions were passed for former Common Council member Donald J. Slattery and GIAC legend Audrey Wakim Cooper, while Mayor Svante Myrick offered his condolences for the death of longtime local educator Todd Peterson and Alderperson George McGonigal remembered 14-year-old Sophia Nickerson, a Lehmann Alternative Community School student who was recently killed by a drunk driver.
  • Three properties were transferred from Ithaca Housing Authority ownership to the Ithaca NOS Housing Development Fund Company, a non-profit arm of IHA that will allow the agency to begin the redevelopment and rehabilitation process on its three properties: Northside Apartments, Overlook Terrace Apartments and the Southview Gardens Apartments.
  • At least part of the Inlet Island redevelopment is in motion, as an affordable housing project was presented to Common Council and they voted to transfer the 1.8-acre slice of land to the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency, who will now negotiate a purchase agreement for the land with Finger Lakes Development, made up of local developers Jeffrey Rimland, Steve Flash, Nick and Costa Lambrou, as well as Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services officials Johanna Anderson and Joe Bowes. INHS is partnering with the project for about 50 affordable housing units that will be included with the project. The project is largely based around what the developers call a “hometel” concept building, designed for “people who are visiting Ithaca for a long weekend, season or who are local and want to live on the water for a time can have a place to call ‘home.'”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com