City to remove DecoBikes from coastal communities, cancels La Jolla plan

Although the long-contested and loudly objected to bike-sharing program known as DecoBike never made it to La Jolla, residents can breathe a sigh of relief to know the City is removing DecoBike kiosks up and down the San Diego coastline, as part of a larger re-prioritization project. The City will now focus its bike-sharing efforts on San Diego’s “urban core.”

The City is relocating 15 bike-share kiosks in coastal communities and moving them to the Downtown and Uptown communities. The City once announced that as many as 17, 16-bike kiosks would be installed in La Jolla.

A memo was issued on Sept. 1 announcing the City’s latest decision. It reads: “The City, per discussions with DecoBike, will focus on expanding the bike station locations by increasing the use of bike-share for transit connectivity and short trips, which continues to support the City’s Climate Action Plan efforts and mobility hub plans. As a result, the City is proposing new locations in the urban core areas.” The relocation of the stations was to be completed the week of Sept. 11.

The stations that will be relocated include ones at the Mission Bay Boat Ramp, the Pacific Beach boardwalk, fronting the Pacific Beach lifeguard station, Bonita Cove Park, Ventura Cove Park, Liberty Station and Fiesta Island Park. There are also two on North Harbor Drive, two on Mission Boulevard, one on West Mission Bay Drive, one on North Mission Bay Drive, one on Newport Avenue and one on Spray Street that will be moved. The City will present the new locations for public input to the respective community planning groups in the Uptown and Downtown communities in the next few months.

From the time proposed DecoBike kiosks in La Jolla were announced, community planning groups opposed them with near unanimity. San Diego communications officer Katie Keach said the decision to rearrange the DecoBike map was based on a variety of factors, “including complaints.”

“The City continuously evaluates the bike-sharing program and has discussions with DecoBike,” she said, via e-mail. “The long-term success of bike-sharing is dependent on connectivity and networks or hubs for users. Expanding the network in the urban core to provide a last-mile solution for transit riders and an alternative for short local trips was determined to be an appropriate move at this point. We will examine options for expansion in the future to other communities including the beaches.”

On Jan. 30, concerned residents from La Jolla, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach gathered at La Jolla Community Center to speak out against DecoBike. At the gathering, led by La Jolla resident Cindy Greatrex, participants listed the reasons DecoBike does not work in San Diego (and specifically La Jolla): 1) DecoBike has a series of negative reviews online, ranging from complaints about multiple credit card charges, issues with getting bikes in and out of kiosks, and difficulty reaching customer service; 2) DecoBike does not provide locks or helmets to users; 3) DecoBike offers bikes that are not recommended for the hilly topography in La Jolla; and 4) DecoBike is not practical as a non-car alternative because there are no large public transit stations in La Jolla.

Of the withdrawal, Greatrex told La Jolla Light, “I’m very pleased that the City heard us out and responded positively to our requests, which were that DecoBike target small gaps in the transportation network, a feat achieved by focusing on our urban core and its network of car-free transportation and cycling lanes. The City also responded favorably to our request that certain pre-existing coastal stations be relocated so as to best support that premise.”

The City of San Diego’s 2013 Bicycle Master Plan calls for “a bike-sharing program to offer cyclists the opportunity to rent a bicycle from an unattended docking station, ride it wherever they want within the network, and return it to any station with an open dock.” To meet the terms of this plan, the City entered into a corporate partnership agreement in 2013 with DecoBike LLC, which provided approximately $8 million in infrastructure investment in return for the ability to sell advertising on the bikes and kiosks.