Locals present bike share option to city commissioners

Mobility program dropped in favor of ban
Local residents Thomas Pechous and Tracey Thrall, along with architect Jeff Conner, are working to bring bike share docking stations like these to various Island locations, if they receive approval from the three city commissions. - Submitted | Mobile Muttley's

HOLMES BEACH – A new way to combat traffic on Anna Maria Island is being proposed by a couple of locals who want to install bicycle share docking stations where people can rent a bicycle using an app and leave it at any docking station that’s convenient for them.

Tracey Thrall, speaking on behalf of himself and business partner Thomas Pechous, made an informal presentation to Holmes Beach commissioners during an Aug. 28 meeting. Thrall introduced commissioners to the idea of the bike share program dubbed Mobile Muttley’s.

The program would feature concrete pads with locking bicycle docking stations located throughout the city and eventually the Island. Residents and visitors alike would be able to rent a bike from any of the docking stations where one was available, take it for a spin and return it to any Island docking station that’s convenient for them.

Because the docks lock, Thrall said it would help to reduce instances of bikes being left in roads, across sidewalks or on private property where they’d have to be collected and returned potentially by local law enforcement. He also said the business wouldn’t need a storefront and wouldn’t be selling any products. Instead, the business would be run from home with off-site storage and maintenance locations.

Proposed locations in Holmes Beach include the Island Branch Library, the Manatee Public Beach, near the intersection of Marina, Palm and Key Royale drives, across from Haley’s Motel, at city field, near the city tennis and basketball courts and at any trolley stops were enough space for the facility is available. Thrall said they have not presented their project to Bradenton Beach or Anna Maria commissioners. He added that a goal of the project is to not add to impervious space on the Island.

“I feel passionate about this because I feel it’s something that’s good for the community,” he said.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth said she had no problems personally with the idea of a bike share program, but a docking station couldn’t be placed at the city field complex because of deed restrictions. However, a minor site plan amendment would likely have to be approved at each location where a docking station was erected. For the station at the Manatee Public Beach, the business owners also would have to receive approval from Manatee County commissioners, she said.

City Attorney Patricia Petruff said that she would hesitate to allow the docking stations to be placed along the city’s right of way due to space and liability concerns. If Mobile Muttley’s is allowed to put their docking stations in the right of way, Petruff said it could be difficult to refuse the next person who wanted right of way space approval for a bicycle share or other industry. Before anything is decided about allowing this bicycle share program, Petruff said city leaders should consider creating regulations. With the popularity of bicycle, electric scooter and car shares, among others, rising throughout the county, she said it would only be a matter of time before all of those industries came to the Island.

Commissioner Carol Soustek suggested hosting the discussion at a future commission work session so that there would be an opportunity for a more detailed presentation and discussion among city leaders. She also suggested the Mobile Muttley’s attend the next Island Transportation Planning Organization meeting since the implementation of the bicycle share is planned as an island-wide project.