Cycling Onondaga Lake Park with Cuse Cycle

We at Elevating Erie love the idea of bringing bike sharing programs to the Syracuse Area as a high quality form of transportation.  More and more people in our community are discovering the joys of experiencing life at the pace of a bicycle, and demand is growing.  The service that Cuse Cycle provides is unique to Onondaga County, and may be the start of a larger system.  Ever since we talked with the owner of Cuse Cycle, David McKie, we have been anxious to try out the Cuse Cycle bike sharing service for ourselves.  One of our own, Jay Lambrix, an intern for the DeWitt Planning & Zoning Department, went out to Onondaga Lake Park to test out the system.  This is his story.

Jay Lambrix

Jay Lambrix, Intern for the Town of DeWitt Planning and Zoning Department 

Jay Lambrix, Intern for the Town of DeWitt Planning and Zoning Department 

First of all, I cannot emphasize enough how easy it was to use the Cuse Cycle mobile app.  Before I set out for Onondaga Lake Park, I simply went to the Payment & Plans option on the app and selected the Basic Rental option which costs $5.00 an hour.  Then I clicked on the Payment icon and entered my debit card information.  Now, I was ready to get started. 

Willow Bay Bike Station

Willow Bay Bike Station

I arrived at the Willow Bay parking lot at 10:30 am.  Once I left my car, I flipped out my phone and brought up the Cuse Cycle App.  I tapped Find & Ride which showed a map of the park area and the available bike sharing stations nearby.  I saw that the Willow Bay Station was a mere 50 feet from where I had parked, right next to where the park trail met the parking lot.  It showed a total of 8 available bikes.

Cuse Cycle Docking Mechansim

Cuse Cycle Docking Mechansim

As soon as I stepped up to the station, I pressed Checkout a Bike and the app brought up a screen with 8 circular icons, each one showing an individual bike number.  I held my finger down on bike number 15.  Right away, you could hear the soft click of an electronic lock.  I leaned down and easily pulled the bike away from its docking station.

Cuse Cycle Bike

Cuse Cycle Bike

The bike itself was an elegant and simple single-speed design with a double-leg kickstand and a front-end basket.  At first the double-leg kickstand threw me off, given that the bike needed to be raised slightly off the ground before it could be extended.  However, this turned out to be an asset.  Not only did the double-legs prevent the bike from tipping over, even while supporting heavy loads in the basket, but it stopped the back wheel from moving forwards or backwards on an inclined surface.  The front-end basket was another pleasant surprise.  It was unlike any mounted basket configuration I had ever seen before.  It had thick metal bars with a solid shallow bed that easily supported heavy loads such as my backpack.  Furthermore, it was mounted to the main frame of the bike instead of the handlebars.  This configuration kept the basket level and steady during turns, thus creating a more balanced platform that distributed weight more evenly over the frame.  One thing to keep in mind; the Cuse Cycle bikes make use of a hybrid coaster-hand brake system.  While the rear wheel brake requires the user to backpedal, the front-end wheel brake operates via a handlebar lever on the left-hand side.

Salt Museum Bike Station

Salt Museum Bike Station

Cuse Cycle Bike Ride Welcome Center.PNG

Onondaga Lake Park Visitor Center

This was my first time visiting Onondaga Lake Park, and I was thrilled to be able to take it all in by bike.  While I am an avid cyclist, it is difficult to reach the lake.  I live on the south side of Syracuse and would have to cut through Downtown first to reach the park. 

It took me a total of 20-25 minutes to bike to the next station located at the southeast corner of the park next to the Salt Museum and the Park Visitor Center.  Docking the bike was easy enough.  All I had to do was orient the bike’s black locking mechanism with the corresponding docking rod.  Once they connected, the lock automatically engaged.  I glanced at the app which showed that the rental clock had stopped.  From there, I ventured out to explore the area on foot, checking out the visitor center, local park area restaurants, as well as the Onondaga Lakefront nearby. 

After about half an hour, I returned to the bike docking station.  Once again, I checked out number 15 and headed back towards Willow Bay.  I could have ended my trip there, but I was having too much fun, so I kept going.  I biked over the Seneca River to the Haley West Shore Trail bike station, and then down along the West Shore Trail.  By the time I finally turned back and returned my bike to the Willow Bay Station, I had logged a total biking time of an hour and a half. 

I walked away from this experience with a newfound appreciation and respect for bike sharing.  While I knew of the rising popularity of bike share programs in cities like Paris and Washington D.C., I had never actually tried one out for myself.  It is exciting to see bike sharing come to Syracuse.  The service was of the highest quality and was a joy to use.  I would like to congratulate Cuse Cycle on a job well done.  I cannot wait to see the service expand to include other areas of Syracuse.  Hopefully, one day soon, Cuse Cycle stations will be commonplace throughout the region, easily accessible for everyone.     

Jay Lambrix is doing a Master's of Professional Studies in Environmental and Community Land Planning at SUNY ESF.  He currently lives in Syracuse.