Elm City residents are saying “no” to bikes and beer.
At a Board of Alders City Services and Environmental Policy Committee meeting on Thursday night, city residents expressed concerns during a workshop on bike sharing about the large advertisements on the sides of bike stations featuring brands like McDonald’s and Heineken.
“Someone is not doing due diligence, and that’s not right. That’s hurting citizens,” New Haven resident Andrea Konetchy said during the workshop. “We all support bike share, but we don’t support these signs.”
New Haven launched its bike-share program in February and it now includes about 20 bike stations located around the city. The program is run by New Haven Smart Mobility LLC, a subsidiary of P3 Global Management, according to the program’s website. According to the program’s contract with the city — approved by the Board of Alders — the city does not contribute to the cost of the bike share, so the company is permitted to advertise on the side panels of the bike stations.
Considering that several of the bike stations are located close to New Haven schools, residents expressed concern that advertisements for fast food and alcohol would counteract the positive health effects of biking.
A number of residents also brought the committee’s attention to zoning and signing ordinances codified in city law that require companies to get special permission from the city for advertisement signs in public spaces.
“Ordinances are written carefully to protect our quality of life in New Haven,” city resident Richard Lyons said. “We don’t want another 40 signs; that’s an obstruction.”
New Haven resident Lucille Bruce also said there is ambiguity in the city’s approval process for new bike stations. Although the process officially goes through the City Planning Commission, Bruce said that some members of the commission disagree about whether the approval process is a formality or not, given that the commission has only rejected one site.
Ward 25 Alder Adam Marchand, who sits on both the Board of Alders and the City Planning Commission, said that he believes that the signs do not violate any zoning ordinances, but Ward 10 Alder Anna Festa said that the Board of Alders should review whether the sign ordinance has been violated.
Residents also compared New Haven’s bike sharing program to the program in Burlington, Vermont. Bruce said the station panels there take up much less of the sidewalk, and that the advertisements are featured on the bikes themselves rather than on the stations.
The bikes in Burlington also feature advertisements for local companies rather than national chains — something New Haven residents like Anstress Farwell, the president of the New Haven Urban Design League, said they would like to see in the Elm City.
But at the end of the day, the makeup of the advertisements is up to the bike-sharing company, said Marchand.
“What we have is a really exciting, positive program,” Marchand said, emphasizing that the bikes come at no cost to the city. In Burlington, 30 percent of funding for the program comes from taxpayer money, which allows them to advertise less, he explained.
Ward 18 Alder Salvatore DeCola added that the “main goal” of the program is to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, in comparison to which other concerns are secondary.
A yearlong subscription to New Haven’s bike-share program costs $90.
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