January 29, 2018 – SDUT – David Garrick reports – A new legal opinion opens the door for the city of San Diego to join a transportation trend sweeping the region that allows people to use smartphones to rent bikes for short trips and then leave them anywhere that’s convenient.
San Diego has an exclusive deal through 2023 with bike-sharing provider DecoBike, whose business model requires customers to return bikes to docking stations. City Attorney Mara Elliott says San Diego could nevertheless allow dockless bike-sharing companies like LimeBike and Spin to operate within the city.
The city’s docked network has struggled to meet its ridership goals since it was launched in early 2015, and backlash from community leaders prompted the elimination of 15 stations near the city’s beaches in September.
Environmentalists and bicycling advocates call dockless bikes a superior option to bikes that consumers must rent and return to docking stations, because dockless bikes are cheaper to rent and allow people to go exactly where they want to go. They predict dockless bikes, whose rear wheels lock in place when consumers are done using them, will do a better job of helping San Diego meet the goals of increased bike and transit use required in the city’s ambitious climate action plan.
“The convenience factor is definitely going to be a tipping point,” Nicole Capretz, executive director of the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign, said by telephone on Friday. “You’re going to start seeing bikes everywhere throughout the city.”
Capretz said more bikes on the street will also help build momentum behind efforts to add more cycling lanes and other infrastructure needed to make biking safer and more efficient.
“This will get us back on track to being a bike-friendly city,” she said.
National City and Imperial Beach began allowing dockless bike sharing last fall and other cities are expected to follow suit, but San Diego officials expressed concerns in December that the DecoBike deal would block them.
“Discover’s support of the San Diego bike share program will enable improvements to the system and allow for its continued expansion,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a news release. “Increasing commuter bicycling opportunities is an important goal of our climate action plan.”
The climate action plan requires the number of people bicycling to work in the city’s densely populated neighborhoods to increase from about 2 percent now to 6 percent by 2020 and then to 18 percent by 2035. Faulconer also said adding locations in the urban core will boost the city’s downtown mobility plan, which will enhance bicycle safety and increase ridership.
Councilman David Alvarez of Logan Heights has praised dockless bike sharing as a better way to meet the needs of his South Bay constituents, noting that those communities have no DecoBike stations.
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