Miami Beach

Bal Harbour

Bal Harbour mulls bike-sharing program


Special to the Miami Herald

A Bal Harbour council member is supporting a bike rental program in the village, but a village law might have to change first.

At last month's council meeting, Patricia Cohen presented the idea of having a bike rental program available for visitors and residents, but the village has a law that prohibits bike riding on the sidewalks.

"If you travel around other cities they are all over the place," she said. "They are successful."

Bike-riding is permitted on the village’s beach bike path.

Nearby cities like Surfside, Bay Harbour Islands and Miami Beach now provide bike rentals through DecoBike, a private company. It soon will expand into the city of Miami. Village Manager Jorge Gonzalez, a former Miami Beach manager, was instrumental in bringing the concept to Miami Beach back in 2011.

Gonzalez said he was inspired after seeing the programs in Europe. Now Miami Beach has one of the most successful bike-rental services in the country, he said.

"People assume it benefits the tourists, but data in Miami Beach shows it is used more by residents than visitors," he said.

If the plan were to be approved by the council and the rule were to change, Gonzalez said he would suggest two stations with 10 bikes each.

Now, the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort offers bike rentals for its guests.

"It’s already in Miami Beach, Bay Harbour [Islands] and Surfside, and if you put two stations in Bal Harbour then we would be part of the larger system," Gonzalez said. “You can rent it here and ride it to the other areas."

The DecoBike program works with membership and rental fees.

"It wouldn't be a money maker," Gonzalez said. "It's more about a convenience issue."

But a village law now forbids bike riding on the village's sidewalks along Collins Avenue.

Police Chief Mark Overton said there is a fine of $250.

“The rationale behind the ordinance is pedestrian safety,” he said. “However, we are currently reviewing all our ordinances and will be recommending revisions if needed.”

The law isn't strictly enforced, but officers do give warnings, Gonzalez said.

Council member Jaime Sanz said bike riding on the village's sidewalks could be a risk for residents’ safety.

"There have been residents here who were run down by bicyclists," he said. "And the bicyclists run them over and kept going. They could break a hip or something."

The proposal could be discussed at the council’s meeting Wednesday night. The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at Village Hall, 655 96th St.

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