After more than two years of planning and soliciting state funding, Upper Arlington officials last week hailed the installation of five new CoGo bike-sharing stations in the city.
The CoGo stations installed Oct. 17 at five locations throughout the city allow people to rent bikes for short trips, unlocking them with a credit card.
The stations are 42 feet long and 6 feet wide and are the first of their kind for the city; they tie into Columbus' existing 46-station system.
Upper Arlington's CoGo stations are being added at the same time that Columbus is increasing its system by another 13 stations, and Bexley and Grandview Heights each are installing four stations. The four cities received a total of $1 million from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission to install the 26 new stations as the agency seeks to reduce roadway wear and tear and dependence on motor vehicles, as well as promote healthier lifestyles.
Upper Arlington chipped in $55,000 for its five stations.
Not everyone is welcoming the bike-sharing spots with open arns, however.
Although the projects have been discussed publicly since June 2016 and various news outlets have reported on CoGo's expansion plans, some were caught off guard when the stations were installed last week.
Among them were William Cooper, who owns a building at 2108 Arlington Ave. on the Mallway; one of his tenants, Donna Rosenthal, who's operated the interior design business Bella Casa LLC for 28 years at the location; and Becky Schaughency, who's operated Tennis Ltd. for 22 years next door at 2110 Arlington Ave.
Each of the three said they had no knowledge of the city's plans to install a 15-bike station at the corner of Arlington Avenue and North Mallway Drive.
Schaughency said she didn't know anything about the stations until workers in hard hats began measuring off an area in front their stores Oct. 15 and informed them the CoGo station was about to be installed.
"We knew nothing about a bike rack," Schaughency said. "Forty-eight hours later, there's a crew of gentlemen installing the bike rack, 15 bikes across in front of our stores, obstructing the view, potentially taking up more of our limited parking spaces without the consideration of a phone call from the city to notify us, to ask for any input, to tell us what was going on.
"We're pretty outraged that we didn't even have that consideration."
Rosenthal put up a temporary sign outside her store stating, "Would you want THIS in your front yard? The city of Upper Arlington put this here without the knowledge or consent from the building owner or businesses."
"As of right now, you can't see my business name from the street," Rosenthal said. "I've been here 28 years, and this is an obstruction of my business and also Becky's.
"Becky and I also have a vision of a business and what it's supposed to look like. This is an old, historic district."
Rosenthal said unless the station is relocated, she might leave the Mallway.
"This is even a consideration for us not to renew our leases," she said. "I would never lease a store where I had a bike rack 10 feet from my front door.
"I'm forced to look at that every day. Again, I never got a phone call. Nobody had the consideration to come down here and knock on our doors and say, 'Hey, ladies and gentlemen, we're going to be doing this. Do you have any concerns?' "
The CoGo project has been in the works since June 2016, with Upper Arlington officials stating their support of it at City Council meetings numerous times since then.
Information also was distributed about plans for the bike-sharing project as the city sought public input on its website.
Senior Planning Officer Chad Gibson said the city advertised at least nine public meetings between June 2016 to July 2018 where the project was on a council meeting agenda and would be discussed, In addition, he said, the city held several "community stakeholder" meetings and discussed the CoGo project online via city manager blogs and social media posts. He also said the Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning discussed the project publicly "multiple" times.
"It would've been difficult not to know these were coming," Gibson said. "I believe the city did an outstanding job of notifying its residents and stakeholders of the bike-share expansion project."
Gibson acknowledged no one from the city specifically notified Cooper, Rosenthal or Schaughency about the plans to install a CoGo station on the Mallway, but added the city wasn't obligated to do so.
"These stations were located directly in the public right of way, not on private property," Gibson said. "Therefore, there was no requirement for direct, certified letters to property owners in the area. It's just like if the city wanted to put a bench there."
Other CoGo sites
In addition to the station at the Mallway, Upper Arlington now has CoGo stations at:
* Kingsdale Shopping Center at the northwest corner of Zollinger Road and Northwest Boulevard
* In front of La Chatelaine, 1550 W. Lane Ave.
* Tremont Shopping Center, 2845 Tremont Road
* Near the corner of North Star Road and Northwest Boulevard
As of Oct. 19, Gibson said city staff was not aware of "any problems with the operation or location of any of the five stations," aside from concerns raised by Cooper, Rosenthal and Shaughency.
He said the stations were required to be installed in public rights of way and couldn't conflict with the location of fire hydrants, Central Ohio Regional Transit Authority bus stops, street trees, utilities caps, handicap ramps or parking spaces.
He said the city doesn't currently intend to move the Mallway station.
"Should operational issues arise, the city will investigate any such concerns and would take any corrective action necessary to protect our businesses," Gibson said.
He said other business owners have expressed support for the CoGo stations, including La Chatelaine Chief Executive Officer Charlotte Harden and President Stan Wielezynski, who emailed the city April 11, 2017 to say they were "super excited" to have a station near their business.
"We hire a ton of (Ohio State University) students and we know this would be a great asset to our community," the email stated. "We would love to support your efforts and, if you would like, we can even discuss placing your bikes on our property if the (Homewood Suites) hotel or sidewalk there doesn't work out."
Gibson also pointed to several sources, including the AARP and Advocacy Advance Bike and Walk Advancement, whose studies purport to show biking boosts economies.
"The national bicycle industry contributes approximately $133 billion annually to the U.S. economy by supporting over 1 million jobs, generating nearly $18 billion in federal, state, and local taxes and providing nearly $47 billion for meals, transportation, and lodging purchases during bike trips and tours," the AARP states.
Still, Cooper, Rosenthal and Shaughency have their doubts.
"If you wanted to avoid parking at a (OSU) football game, you could park here, grab a bike, ride down there, drop the bike off, spend five hours and then come back in and pick up your car," Shaughency said. "There's potentially 15 parking spots we lose."
Cooper, who owns space for seven retail businesses currently at the Mallway, said he's a biking enthusiast and supports the CoGo concept.
But he doesn't support it in Upper Arlington's historic district and believes the "massive" station is out of character with the area.
"None of my tenants had any advance warning they were going to put this in," Cooper said. "It's 42 feet long with solar panels on it.
"It really hampers the visibility of our stores and, frankly, just looks terrible. Basically, Chad Gibson and the city said they know more than we do about what's best for our tenants."
As the sun set Oct. 18, David Doyle who lives near the Mallway, peddled up to drop off a CoGo bike he'd rented for the day.
Riders currently can purchase a 24-hour ride pass for $8, a three-day pass for $18 or an annual membership for $75. Doyle said used a bike because his car was in shop for unexpected repairs.
"First time I've used this is today," Doyle said. "It was great. "I picked it up at Broad and High Street (in downtown Columbus) and rode it home because I figured it was faster than the bus and cheaper than Uber."
Doyle said he didn't think he'd be a regular CoGo rider, but he likes the convenience of the system and the transportation alternative it provides.
Then he glanced at Rosenthal's sign and said he understood her opposition.
"In terms of how much, would you want this in your front yard?" he said. "Yeah, I got that.
"I don't know that you need this many spots. That does seem aggressive."