Manny Lopez | Downtown News
Beginning early in 2014, San Diego will host a privately-funded, self-service bicycle-sharing program with a fleet of at least 1,800 custom bikes made available at approximately 180 environmentally friendly solar-powered kiosks city-wide.
On July 9, the City Council voted 7-0 to enter into a corporate partnership agreement with Miami-based DecoBike, LLC, to finance, implement, manage and operate a bike-share system for a term of 10 years with two five-year options.
According to DecoBike, residents and visitors will have access to a network that will stretch from La Jolla to Barrio Logan through Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, Hillcrest, Balboa Park, Old Town, San Diego and Downtown San Diego. DecoBike will soon begin the process of designing the network and selecting bike-share station sites based on community input.
“Imagine, people will be able to take the trolley, Coaster or Bus Rapid Transit from other areas of the County into Downtown, and use bike-sharing to explore areas or get to meetings and events that aren’t within easy walking distance from transit,” said Council President Todd Gloria in a press release.
The agreement represents a capital investment of $7.2 million along with potential revenue of $2.6 million over the ten-year period. This figure does not reflect a potential revenue loss of up to $2,500 monthly per metered parking space required by maintenance vehicles for upkeep and repairs at bike-sharing stations. A total of 60-70 new jobs are expected to be created by the program.
“Whatever revenue we’re going to lose off of that one meter I think will be more than offset by the number of people who would choose to come to those communities on bikes as opposed to cars,” Gloria said. “It’s a bargain. It’s worth the exchange.”
The program will also create advertising and sponsorship revenue, eliminating the need for city subsidies. The City’s share will be deposited in the Transportation Division’s budget for reinvestment back into bicycle programs. Revenue from rentals will also be split and deposited into the General Fund.
Increased concerns over greenhouse gases, climate change and the cost of fuel have led many to seek out other ways to commute such as bike-sharing. The first bike-sharing program was launched in the Netherlands in 1965 with 50 bicycles that anyone could used free of charge. According to the Earth Policy Institute, as of April 2013, more than 500 cities in 49 countries host bike-sharing programs with over 500,000 bicycles in use.
“Bike-share programs provide an alternative to motorized public transportation, which reduces traffic congestion, noise, pollution and provides a last mile and first mile solution for commuters,” said Natasha Collura, director of strategic partnerships for the City of San Diego. “Bike-sharing makes bicycling a viable option for people without bikes or a place to store their bikes and encourages new bicycle commuters. More bikes on the road increases safety for other cyclists and promotes commerce by enhancing access to businesses, shopping and entertainment, and encourages physical exercise for users.”
Initial designs are expected in August, and call for a one-size-fits-all bicycle made of a sturdy material, with proprietary components, three gears, antitheft devices, front and rear lighting for high visibility and space for advertising on handlebar placards, baskets and fenders. A distinct paint scheme will make the bikes recognizable as bike share bicycles.
I’m the owner of an electric bike store that specializes in bike rentals in Little Italy,” said Gary Stewart, owner of Ivan Stewart’s Electric Bike Center in Little Italy. “I completely support this. When people ride our bikes come back and say this is the best thing that they have ever done on any vacation, as a business owner I cannot see anything but wonderful things coming out of it.”
“Bike-sharing has found a great new home in the forward-thinking city of San Diego – a city whose residents and visitors embrace life outdoors and value sustainability in their transportation options,” said Colby Reese, chief marketing officer for DecoBike. “We look forward to pedaling San Diego forward and delivering a world-class bike-share program.”
A native New Yorker, Manny Lopez is a freelance journalist and photographer who started his writing career in La Jolla. He now covers San Diego and Southwest-Riverside counties penning news, features and business profiles. Manny can be reached at email@example.com.