Over the next month—and after several delays—Baton Rouge will see the installation of 51 bikeshare stations. Yet, a key question remains: What about the bikes?
Gotcha, the South Carolina company that has the roughly $800,000 contract to bring e-bikes to Baton Rouge, is today beginning to install hubs downtown and at BREC facilities, says Cokie Reed, Gotcha’s local community manager. The company recently installed its first station at City Hall, which has a “coming soon” sign on it.
Meanwhile, the second phase of hub installation—involving bike stations at LSU and Southern University—will begin next week, says Reed, adding all installations will be finished by the end of the month. But as for an official launch date?
As of today, there isn’t one, though Reed says Gotcha will install as many as 500 GPS-enabled bikes “soon after” all the hubs are installed.
“I can’t give an exact date or time frame,” Reed says of the program’s launch, attributing the uncertainty to a new safety feature being added to the bikes.
The bikes will feature security upgrades, essentially new lock features connected to the Gotcha app, eliminating the need to hinge handlebars to hubs when “parking” a bike. Gotcha is extending the production time and rollout to ensure safety on the upgraded bikes—which will be used for the first time in Baton Rouge.
Still, this isn’t the bikeshare program’s first delay. After Gotcha was selected to spearhead the program in September, it planned a St. Patrick’s Day launch, which was pushed back to May. At the time, Reed said the company needed more time to promote the program and install the first 50 stations.
A few weeks ago, WAFB-TV reported Gotcha further delayed the launch date to sometime in June, though Reed denies June was ever a set date.
Instead, she insists the bikes’ new safety features—a corporate decision—were a long time coming and are simply taking longer than expected.
“We’re working from a corporate perspective—we’re going to be putting these bikes in multiple markets,” she says. “Our main concern is putting out the best product. We want to make sure it’s right the first time out.”
If legislation establishing electric scooter regulations passes through the Legislature, Reed says Gotcha plans to implement its e-scooters in Baton Rouge in the next six to 12 months.
The Baton Rouge Area Foundation, which has been one of the driving forces behind bikeshare, declined to comment for this story.