Coronavirus is one of the newest reasons for the delay in bringing 50 pedal-assisted electric bicycles to Moscow and the University of Idaho campus.

March 16 was the most recent anticipated rollout date, but Rebecca Couch, UI director of parking and transportation services, said the acquisition of Gotcha Mobility, a Charleston, S.C.,-based company that is providing the bikes; the Chinese New Year; and coronavirus all contributed to the most recent delay.

OjO Electric Corp. of Oxnard, Calif., acquired Gotcha Mobility around the start of 2020, the end of a process that took longer than anticipated, Couch said.

She said the Chinese New Year celebration, which ran late January to early February, caused production to slow down while coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19, caused Chinese production facilities to shut down, which meant Gotcha bikes could not be produced.

“They’re still estimating midsummer at this point, but there’s just a lot of uncertainty right now,” said Tyler Palmer, Moscow deputy city supervisor of public works and services. “So I’m not terribly optimistic that’s when it will happen, but that’s what we’re hearing.”

The city and university will split the cost of a $45,000, one-year Gotcha dockless bike-rental pilot program.

Palmer said in January that Gotcha Mobility branding will still continue in Moscow and at UI, and it will still be responsible for maintenance, repairs and placement of the bikes.

Moscow and UI identified 10 hub locations — five on campus and five in the city — for users to return the bicycles. The bikes are not required to be dropped off at the hubs, but there is a fee for not doing so. Couch said the hub location details and other operations are still being finalized.

Those with a UI email address will be able to ride for free for the first 30 minutes. After that, a 10-cent-per-minute charge will be tallied. Non-UI riders are expected to pay $1 to unlock the bike and 10 cents per minute from the time they start riding.

Palmer and Couch said the city and the university remain committed to the Gotcha bikes.“As long as Gotcha keeps moving in the right direction at this point, then we’re going to hold out for them,” Couch said.

She said UI students and members of the Associated Students University of Idaho Senate she has worked with are anxious for the bicycles to arrive. Some of those ASUI senators will graduate this spring so it is “super disappointing” they will not be able to see the pilot program come to fruition, Couch said.

“I get asked frequently of the status and it’s disappointing to have to continue to tell people that it’s delayed, but everyone seems to understand that this is not our fault and the company still seems solid,” Couch said.

A Spin dockless bike share program was supposed to be implemented at UI and Moscow in August 2018, but Spin, a bike and scooter share company, announced that July it would not bring its standard bicycles to Moscow because it discontinued its dockless pedal bike system in favor of a scooter share system.

In December 2018, the Moscow City Council entered into an agreement with UI and Gotcha Mobility for a one-year dockless bike share pilot program that called for 50 Gotcha Mobility bikes for $45,000 — the current agreement in place.

The rollout of the bike share program was expected in the spring of 2019 but was pushed back to August 2019 because Couch said at the time it took a little longer than anticipated to get through the legal aspects of the agreement between the city, university and Gotcha Mobility.

Couch said last summer that tariffs the U.S. imposed on China caused Gotcha Mobility to dramatically slow its supply chain to the point it could not commit to a 2019 fall semester launch date. A technical issue with a lock mechanism on the bikes was also discovered and delayed the rollout.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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