Last month, the Santa Barbara City Council agreed to a three-year pilot program for electric bikes and docking stations along State Street. The city wants to install about 500 docks throughout the town. The State Street and waterfront areas contain some of the most frequented destinations in the city.

Last Thursday’s planning commission meeting about the electric bike program revealed a sudden and dramatic surprise when the city’s business partner, BCycle, planned to install three enrolment kiosks that will be solar-powered and reach about 9 feet tall.

This move is the latest attempt by transportation officials to incorporate into Santa Barbara; a type of modern alternative transportation features seen in larger cities such as Los Angeles, Portland, and Austin. The administration previously launched a car-sharing, but unfortunately, it resulted into ugly proliferation of the vehicles scattered all over town. The city believes it may have it right this time with bike-sharing. The bikes will be docked, so people cannot just leave them anywhere on the street.

The pricing structure is about $30 for monthly use, $150 for annual use and $5 for single, walk-up use, for every 30 minutes.

The move was termed a “surprise” because the solar-powered kiosks did not appear at any of the previous city commission and/or city council meetings. The Commissioners at Planning Commission voted 4-2 to give the solar-powered kiosks project a coastal development permit with a condition that there can only be three kiosks and they must be on the mountainside of Cabrillo Boulevard. The element of surprise was also the size of the structures that sparked concern among some of the commissioners. “If we want to have fewer people use and rely on vehicles, then we ought to be able to tolerate some of the infrastructures that go along with that,” said Commissioner Jay Higgins.

Rob Dayton, the City’s Parking, Transportation and Planning Manager, said, he just wants to see the project get off the ground. Bike-sharing across the nation just went off during COVID. We see this to have some semblance of life, to get out and actually experience on a bike when you are not next to people in a crowd.”

The e-bike pilot program tends to get people out of cars and onto bikes and to increase the accessibility and affordability of alternative transportation for city residents and visitors alike.