Zagster Rides Out Of Rochester, New York

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Three years ago, a new bike rental service named Zagster rolled into Rochester, New York. It was convenient to use, affordable, and exciting. As far as I’m concerned, what wasn’t there to like. At the time, I was working in the downtown area and used this convenient service on multiple occasions.

Yes, I did own a bicycle at the time. But there were many occasions when I had to go downtown, and commuting on my bicycle wasn’t the best option.

If I had to go to the dentist, there was nowhere to lock my bicycle. Same as when I Went to visit restaurants on Park Avenue. Imagine the feeling of either having to lock your bicycle four blocks away, or locking it to a sign post. And hope nobody opens a car door and smashes your bike to smithereens.

With Zagster, it was unlock and go!

With the rental bike, none of these annoying problems existed. All I had to do when I got off the bus at the Transit Center, was go to the nearest rental dock, unlock a bicycle, and go. BOOM! Such a piece of cake.

There were bike rental stations everywhere. All you had to do was unlock, and go!
There were bike rental stations everywhere. All you had to do was unlock, and go!

Then, once arriving at my destination, there was no trying to find a place to lock my bicycle. I’d just find the closest rental dock, which wasn’t a problem seeing they had multiple docks spread evenly throughout the downtown area. No more locking my bicycle to far away places, requiring a 15 minute walk. TAKE THAT YOU NASTY SIGNS!

Zagster was the true savior of all bicycle commuters in the Rochester area, or so it seemed

At first there were only a handful of docking stations located in the downtown, Rochester, New York area. But that started to change rapidly. What started with a low ridership, and a few trips here and there in 2017, doubled in 2018. In 2018 over 16,900 riders took approximately 54,000 trips. And that was just the beginning. In July of 2019, Zagster was used more in Rochester, New York than in any other city across the country.

Zagster was growing so rapidly that they also agreed with City Council last May to begin renting out electric scooters as well, if they were to become legal in New York. Unfortunately, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed against it, but that didn’t effect the companie’s bike rental program.

So, then what happened?

There was a time when things did look a little murky. Take for example, back in 2018, thieves stole more than 200 of them. Thankfully, the problem seemed to be solved by the time 2019 rolled around.

Empty Zagster bike rental docking station.
Empty Zagster bike rental docking station.

Another problem was that the rental docks were always empty, which was the main reason why I stopped renting bicycles, and used other forms of transportation such as my Tern and Brompton folding bikes. And of course my Xootr scooter.

Otherwise, I loved using the Zagster bike rental service, because for the price of $1 per half an hour, the cost was unbeatable.

Then came the sad news. They told the city of Rochester, New York that they were going to pull out of the city permanently, as they reassessed their business model overall, including as it relates to electronic scooters and bicycles along with other forms of personal transportation.
As was mentioned in the Democrat and Chronicle, “They made it clear to us that Rochester has great potential to be a shared mobility city,” he said. “It is nothing about the city itself; they are just re-evaluating their business decisions.”
Plus, they also left some other cities across the country, including Norfolk, Virginia. The exit was first reported by WXXI.

It’s sad news that Zagster will be leaving us, but let’s remain hopeful that another bicycle rental service soon fills the void

I can only imagine the sadness that everyone felt when Alex Yudelson, chief of staff to Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, said the program was in fact leaving for good.

My sad but hopeful message to my fellow bicycle commuters

But let’s not give up hope my fellow bicycle commuters. As Yudelson said, we might by able to secure another bike-share partner by summer.

Unlike before, we no longer have to turn other bicycle rental companies down, because Zagster will no longer have an exclusive deal with Rochester, even though we will miss them greatly.

Also, another possibility that Yudelson mentioned is that electric scooters may eventually be legalized, and will become part of the equation for a bike-sharing program. If that happens, imagine how exciting that will be.

And let’s not forget the statement made by Jesse Peers, cycling program coordinator at the nonprofit Reconnect Rochester, who hopes that the city has a new bike share program in place within a few months.

“We understand that Pace is in a difficult position, like everyone is,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. “But it’s very disappointing because cycling is so well suited to this time. … There’s no shortage of bike share companies across the U.S., and I’m sure one of them will be glad to come to Rochester.”

So, my fellow bicycle commuters. Let’s not lose hope as we wave goodbye to our once beloved friend, Zagster. As they ride out of the city of Rochester, New York for good, there’s always the possibility that something else will come along to save us from our commuting woes.

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