The rollout of 50 pedal-assisted electric bicycles in Moscow and on the University of Idaho campus has been delayed again, this time because of tariffs.
The one-year Gotcha Mobility dockless bike-rental pilot program was expected to launch next week. The city and university will split the cost of the $45,000 program.
But Rebecca Couch, UI director of parking and transportation services, said tariffs the U.S. imposed on China have caused Gotcha Mobility to dramatically slow its supply chain to the point it cannot commit to a fall semester launch date. She said the company relies on several bike components from China.
Couch and Moscow acting Public Works Director Tyler Palmer said they hope the bicycles will hit the streets in the city and on campus this spring.
“We’re super disappointed,” Couch said. “We were really looking forward to having it for the community and for our students this fall. We’ve been telling them about it for a long time.”
Before Couch and Palmer learned of the tariffs issue, Gotcha Mobility informed the two officials the launch would be delayed for an unknown time because of a technical issue with a lock mechanism, Couch said. The lock was getting stuck and not ending a user’s ride, preventing a new user from starting a ride. Couch said that issue should be resolved shortly.
“They indicated they’re working as quick as they can, and we’re top of the list to get bikes,” Palmer said. “But they couldn’t guarantee us when they would have them.”
Bikes were expected to be delivered to the Palouse a year ago.
Spin, a bicycle- and scooter-rental company, was expected to deliver standard bikes to Moscow and UI last August, but the company discontinued its dockless pedal-bike system in favor of a scooter-share system.
The Gotcha Mobility bikes were then expected in April, but Couch said at the time it took a little longer than anticipated to get through the legal aspects of the agreement between Moscow, UI and Gotcha Mobility. She had estimated this August to be the new rollout month.
Palmer and Couch said they do not want to start the rollout later this fall or winter because of the bad weather.
The city and university identified 10 hub locations for users to return the bicycles when the program starts. The bikes are not required to be dropped off at the hubs, but there is a fee for not doing so.
Palmer said the five hubs identified in the city are at or near East City Park, Eastside Marketplace, the Palouse Mall, Rosauers, and Third and Main streets. Couch said the five hub locations on campus will be at or near the Student Recreation Center, Bruce M. Pitman Center, Gertrude Hayes Hall/Alumni Center, the Idaho Commons and in a parking lot on the northwest side of the Kibbie Dome.
The city and university will track the usage of the bikes and hub locations during the pilot program. Those locations and the number of bikes could change based on the data collected.
Those with a UI email address will be able to ride for free for the first 30 minutes, Couch said. After that, a 10-cents-per-minute charge will be tallied. She said she believes others will pay $1 to unlock the bike and 10 cents a minute from the time they start riding.
Gotcha Mobility will be responsible for maintenance, repairs and placement of the bikes.
Couch said she and others have spent extensive time vetting other bike-rental vendors, but they determined Gotcha Mobility is still the right choice.
“There’s none out there that can provide us something as good or better than Gotcha right now, so there’s no point in moving on to a new provider,” Couch said. “I still have a lot of faith in Gotcha as a bike-share provider, and I think once it’s on the ground, it’s going to be successful.”
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to email@example.com.