San Diego Bike-Share
Bike-share programs are nothing new. They are found world-wide and are getting more popular all the time. San Diego has yet to join the fray, but the time might be coming soon. Last month I had a chance to be involved with a event that helped to open our local eyes to the bike-share world.
Three companies that offer bikes and systems came to town to show off their wares. Our mayor, a few councilmen, and some bike advocates started the demonstration event with speeches to herald the need and desire our community has for a program such as this. First, let’s look into what a bike-share is.
With racks of bikes spread throughout the city and coastline areas, locals and out-of-towners can use them when needed. You can pick-up a bike at any location and leave it at another when your ride is complete. A quick check-out procedure allows you to come and go with little fuss. Your commute, errands, or sightseeing can be simple, green and inexpensive.
The bikes are designed to need minimal maintenance and be as close to trouble-free as possible. These are not racing or specialty bikes, just good solid everyday bikes. They have racks or baskets, fenders, lights, bells and built-in lock cables. Each one displayed had low, step-through frames to allow riders of any gender or size to use them close to effortlessly.
The racks come in different configurations so they can be adapted to fit into their surroundings. The amount of bikes they hold will be decided on by the location they are placed. The racks hold the bikes securely until the rider completes the check-out. When they are ready to be checked-in, a firm push into the rack re-secures the bike so it will be available for the next user.
The electronics that control the check-out are powered by solar panels. With a credit card or registration card, the kiosk will recognize you, make the transaction and release the bike to you. With no power lines or direct wire hook-ups, it is all done similar to the way your smart phone works. Zero emissions and no infrastructure changes are benefits we can appreciate
Memberships are offered to the locals and heavy users, but 24 hour passes can be had without signing-up ahead of time. Short trips of 30 to 60 minutes will add no additional fees to your membership costs. They even offer discounts to students to allow the system to work better for them. The actual fees have yet to be set, but should be very reasonable. In fact, most of the details of this bike-share system are still up-in-the-air, that is why they asked the public to get involved and offer feed-back on it.
The exact company and specifications of the bikes used are still to be chosen. Some of the bikes on hand use shaft-drive instead of chains. They showed single-speed bikes, but a 3-speed bike looks to be the most likely candidate. And too, many of the bikes featured modern solid tires that can’t go flat. Much of the bike’s design will be geared to make sure a rider never gets stuck with a break-down that will affect their ride.
Each of the bikes was ridden by many of the people on hand to get a feel for what might work best. This was part of the reason for the event. In addition to spreading the word about the program, they wanted to find out which bike and racking system was the most acceptable to the citizens of San Diego. A fairly large crowd was on hand to make the test demo day a success.
The reasons for a bike-share program are many. Reducing traffic and pollution are important, but not the only reasons we should have one. The health and happiness of the population is drawing people to bikes more and more. Plus, when tourists are in town, it will make perfect sense to so many of them to grab a bike instead of using some other means of getting around. Add in the expense and parking factors too.
Many locals would use this system instead of driving or using public transportation. Not having a bike or a place to keep it won’t stop people from using the bike-share program. Many might have nice bikes they use for fun, but are concerned about its security during a workday. The full array of reasons a bike share would be good of San Diego would be too long to list here.
My wife and I can attest to how great this would be for our city. When were in Europe last year we used a similar system to get around. We had a great time touring Zurich on bikes that were 100% free. Our small deposit was returned to us when we were finished with the bikes. Don’t expect San Diego’s bike-share program to be offered at no-cost, but it should prove quite affordable to anyone who uses it.
The three companies involved in this demo day were B cycle, SandVault Group and Bike Nation. The city is looking for other bike-share firms to get involved too. Part of the deal here is to allow the program to take affect with no cost to the city or tax-payers. They are hoping to get private investors, or a bike-share company that will foot the bill. Even though the initial investment will be substantial, the potential profit could be too. Plus, it is a known fact that more bicycles boost the local economy.
The newspaper and local TV stations promoted this day and reported on it. In fact I was interviewed by one channel and seen riding one of the demo bikes on another. (Check one of the links below). If you too think we need a program like this to grace our city, then let our city leaders know how you feel. Helping to find the right bike-share system and the way to fund it will be important. We can do this.
Even if you don’t own a bike, you can ride, Turbo Bob.
“The grace and charm of the bicycle lend added warmth and contour to the persons of the lovers it joins.”—James E. Starrs, The Noiseless Tenor.
Turbo Bob being interviewed on TV about the Bike-share demo day
Link to the B cycle website
Link to the Bike Nation website
Link to the SandVault Group website