SARANAC LAKE – A new local bike-sharing company, Dack Bikes, opened its first bike rental location at Saranac Waterfront Lodge last month. Although the service has been used by tenants and locals this summer, the installation has yet to be approved by the village.
Saranac Lake Development Code Administrator Paul Blaine said he has allowed bicycle rentals throughout the summer – as he sees no immediate issues with the installation, and he believes it is t is good for the city – provided the owners seek the appropriate approval. through the village.
The village development council will consider a site plan amendment for these bikes at their September 7 meeting. The modification of the site plan was discussed by the Village Planning Council during a working session on Tuesday evening. Blaine recommended that the board approve the project.
The installation of self-service bicycles is part of a proposed change to the larger site plan of the Saranac Waterfront Lodge. The hotel is submitting this amendment because although its original plans were to only rent paddle and motor boats to hotel guests, it now wants to open these rentals to the public.
The hotel has also rented boats to the public without official approval from the village, but again Blaine said he agreed as long as the owners seek the appropriate approval.
“I think it’s good for the village, but unfortunately no one could see if he needed approval” he said.
Blaine said Dack Bikes manager and operator Joshua Blackwell contacted him a week before the bike rental center was set up. Blaine asked for more information on the project, to see if it would require approval from the village, but he never got a response. Blaine said he had a “hard time” communicate with Blackwell and Calli Shelton, owner of Dack Bikes.
He said there had been a misunderstanding between them. There’s also bad blood between Blaine and Shelton about the failed Dew Drop Inn restoration she attempted in 2017.
Blaine said no fines would be imposed on business owners for starting up before village approval.
Conflicts and Amendments
Dack Bikes plans to set up pickup and drop-off points around the village in the coming year. The hotel hub would be the largest in the city. There are seven bikes parked around the bend near the hotel front door, under the overhang.
Shelton feels this village approval is unnecessary and discourages business. She believes the approval process for these bicycle facilities is unnecessary. Shelton said the facility has a small footprint and does not use any utility. She compared them to installing a vending machine.
She believes the bike share program should be classified as incidental use on commercial property. Blaine has classified it as a retail site, which requires a review of the sitemap by the Development Board.
He said if it was only an incidental use for hotel guests it would not need village approval, but since it is also public use , he does it.
Shelton said the approval process is long, difficult, expensive, and discourages businesses.
“This is just another case where the village planning council and Paul Blaine in particular are hampering economic progress in this town,” Shelton said. “Delays cost money.”
She said she had an easier time working with the Tupper Lake Code Department in hopes of setting up Dack Bikes locations there next summer.
Blaine said candidates can challenge his classification to the Development Board if they wish.
The main concern was whether this would impact traffic on a busy section of National Route 86 passing near the hotel. Blaine said he saw no problem this could cause.
Shelton fears the village will limit rentals to hotel guests only. She said the village shouldn’t be able to tell her who she can rent to.
“In my opinion, this should not be limited to guests,” Blaine said. “But it’s a decision that will be made by the development board.”
Want to borrow a bike?
Blackwell moved to Saranac Lake in February from Chicago, with his partner Jon. Blackwell is a tradesperson, but was unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic, so he helped Shelton get Dack Bikes off the ground.
Shelton operates Saranac Lake Vacation Rentals LLC, which offers several cottage and condo rentals throughout the area.
Blackwell said Lake Saranac is well designed for biking. Renting a bike allows people to use a good bike for shopping or just going for a ride without investing in buying a bike, he said.
There are bike share services in most major US cities.
Blackwell said he used rental bikes in Birmingham, Alabama and Chicago.
âI myself have used the (bikes) personally. It’s a great way to personally connect tourists with the region â, Blackwell said. “It’s a very quick process, on a whim.”
Saranac Waterfront Lodge general manager Anura Dewapura said he hopes it will be a good alternative to driving.
To rent a bike, people have to use the Movatic app. Rental instructions are printed on the bikes.
Bikes cost 15 minutes or per hour – $ 2 for 15 minutes; $ 8 an hour.
Blackwell said they had partnered with Human Power Planet Earth for repairs and the rental of $ 2 helmets.
Each bike has a locking mechanism, solar battery and GPS locator.
“We will know where the fleet is moving”, Blackwell said. âOnce more docking stations are activated, we’ll have a better idea of ââhow the bikes move. “
Next year, Blackwell said they plan to introduce membership rates for locals. They can pay a one-time fee and check out whenever they want. Shelton also announced plans to expand to Tupper Lake next summer.
Blackwell also said they plan to add electric bike rentals.