The city likes to say it’s all about going green these days. And in some cases—the Greenworks initiative, recycling rewards, the strange idea to have water taxis on the Delaware by next year—they probably are. So what’s the city’s explanation for canceling bike-rental services along Kelly Drive?
Last week, the Lloyd Hall Bike Rental Shack, at 1 Kelly Drive, was supposed to be removed by Glenn Krotick and his business partner, Joseph Wentzell. But they’re keeping it there out of protest.
Krotick and Wentzell, owners of Breakaway Bikes at 1923 Chestnut St., have been spending weekends renting bikes from the shack they own since winning a bid from the city in 2006. Each year, the shack was open from April through October, giving the city 30 percent of the $10/hour, $50/day rate they charged for their Fuji Absolute hybrid rental bikes. And most winters since the opening, before rental season, the city would automatically extend Breakaway’s contract for another year. “We really thought it would be a good way of marketing us,” says Krotick, a former general-practice lawyer who claims Breakaway did not financially profit directly from the rental venture. “We want to promote cycling, we want to promote a nice healthy environment for the city. Plus, every big city has some kind of rental system.”
But earlier this year, that all changed. The city ended the contract with Breakaway, and by extension, bike rentals at that Kelly Drive spot for the rest of the 2011 summer.
So much for being green.
In 2010, Breakaway decided to propose an expansion of their rentals. Instead of just the one location, they’d have four: One along Schuylkill Banks, one along the Wissahickon, one near Valley Green, and the original Lloyd Hall Shack. In addition to upping the rentals, Breakaway approached the city about starting a bike-share program, similar to Philadelphia Car Share, with eventual locations all over the city. And the city, especially the Department of Parks and Recreation, ate it up.
But all of a sudden, a new bidding process was required for the entire deal. And according to the terms and conditions of the original contract with Breakaway, this was totally allowed. The city was also allowed to terminate the contract any time it felt like it. Krotick says he felt played by the sudden change of heart, since the city was bidding out on the idea he came up with and would later say so in a letter to Deputy Commissioner Mary E. Stitt, with copies sent to Alex Dotty of the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition, Patrick Cunnane of Fuji Bikes and Mayor Nutter. “At the time, Breakaway did not see this as fair because they proposed it,” Krotick says. “If not for Breakaway’s proposal, this idea would not have existed.”
But they went along with it. Strangely, the bidding process was not to take place until May 2011, after the season had already started. There was one other bidder on the contract, which the city later deemed unacceptable for undisclosed reasons.
So Breakaway assumed they’d get the bid again. Krotick submitted the application on time, dated April 26, of which an original and required eight copies were provided. But because Krotick signed the original in black pen—the same color as the copies—the city claimed they didn’t know which, if any, was the original. They requested he come into the Municipal Services Building May 10, a day after the submission deadline, and sign a new “original proposal.” He insisted an original was in the stack he’d handed them, but said “fuck it” and went in anyway. Rental season had already been stalled enough. “I said, ‘If you don’t think it’s real, I’ll sign a new one,’” says Krotick, “right now.” He did, dated it and left.
A week later, he got a letter saying the proposal had been rejected. The May 10 dated cover letter he signed in person did not match the April 26 copies the city already had. Leaving his bid DOA.
Krotick says he felt screwed over, and let the city know as much. After weeks of being ignored, he got an email back from the city saying Breakaway’s contract for the Lloyd Hall Shack had been terminated, because the city was allowed to do so for no reason at all: “This [request for proposal] does not commit the City to award a concession agreement’… Thank you for your interest in doing business with the city.”
Krotick now refers to this as the “fuck you, we can do whatever we want email.” It made him wonder if the city was really interested in going green, or just making it look like it was.
Krotick accepted his defeat and asked the city for his $5,000 city performance bond back. (When they first won the bid in 2006, Krotick and Wentzell were asked to put down a $5,000 “bond”). But Public Works Supervisor Julio Vallejo denied the existence of the bond altogether: “[T]here was no requirement for a bond of any sort to accompany the proposal submission, and hence none was submitted by your company.” Krotick gave Vallejo the date of the 2006 check, memo and check number. At this point, the city acknowledged the check’s existence, but claimed the bond was actually a “security deposit,” which Breakaway would get back as soon as they removed the shack the city had them buy.
Property and Concessions Director of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Robert Allen then told Breakaway they were required to remove the Lloyd Hall Bike Shack from its location within 30 days of May 31, since they owned it, and were no longer working with the city. Failure to do so would allow the city to “treat the Storage Facility as abandoned and sell it and retain all proceeds from the sale,” he wrote in a letter to Krotick.
“We’re simply asking them to do what’s in their contract that they signed,” Robert Allen tells PW. “It was brought here on a flat bed truck and it can be removed on a flat bed truck.” The city has declined to comment further on why it will not renew Breakaway’s contract.
“They have their mind made up that this is the greatest thing in the world,” says Krotick, who still gets calls asking where all the Kelly Drive rentals are and whose rental business still appears on visitphilly.com. “That everyone’s going to bid on it. But no one’s going to bid on it.” Indeed, Allen says the city was “disappointed by the fact that … we only received two proposals” after “several organizations attended the pre-proposal meeting.”
In response to the city’s request for removal, Breakaway has started a Facebook group called “Save Our Shack,” trying to garner local support to keep the rental shack in place. “If the citizens of Philadelphia speak up and say, ‘We want rentals in the park, we love our park system, this is a service that is not costing the city a dime, why are you taking this away from us,’” he says, “then maybe something can happen. They just took it away and no one knows about it.”
At the very least, he’d like some time to attempt a sale of the shack to the next bike-rental business, which will be there in 2012. Maybe.