Rack ‘em up! La Jolla bike store owner leads push for snazzy bars

In the three years since his San Diego Fly Rides bike store opened — first at 1237 Prospect St. and then, for more space, at 7444 Girard Ave. — operations manager Max Shenk found himself increasingly frustrated with La Jolla’s bicycle-incompatibility.

“My customers always complain that there’s nowhere to lock their bikes,” Shenk said. “They say they have to lock it up to park benches, to street signs. And they’re not super close, so once one street sign has a bike locked to it, you have to walk and find the next street sign.”

But Shenk couldn’t figure out what to do with his frustration — until he attended a meeting of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA). On the Sept. 12 agenda was a presentation by La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) chair Ann Dynes to rally support for the bike racks she hoped to place in spots along the coast.

“I got so excited,” Shenk said, explaining that the racks are not only functional, “they’re also beautiful and they brand La Jolla.”

Shenk, who has since been elected to his own LJVMA board seat, set aside $100 from every Fly Rides bicycle sale in November to fund more racks. (The first, funded by the City, will be unveiled in front of the Children’s Pool on Dec. 9.)

“Instead of driving, if there are bike racks in front of all the stores, I’m hoping La Jollans might just end up biking down,” Shenk said. “That frees up spots for people coming into the community, and it’s better for the environment and everyone’s health.”

So far, Shenk has raised $1,400 of his $2,500 goal, which will pay for about three more racks.

“After that, once we get a few in, I feel like we can hopefully reach out to a few local influencers who think it’s a great idea and see them around a little more,” Shenk said. “And who knows? Maybe we can fund them again, too.”

Each bike rack consists of five grey partial circles of metal embedded into concrete.
Each bike rack consists of five grey partial circles of metal embedded into concrete. COREY LEVITAN

The process of getting a sidewalk approved for rack placement isn’t incredibly complicated because the LJVMA controls all public right-of-way within La Jolla’s business improvement district. Once a candidate location is identified, the management of the building(s) abutting the sidewalk is asked for permission. If it’s given, the LJVMA applies for a City permit.

Shenk said he’s currently talking to “a few” businesses, including La Jolla Sports Club, and he hopes to get one installed concurrent with the Scripps Park restroom replacement project. He said he also has suggestions from Fly Rides’ bicycle tour guides.

“They bike around and take note of wherever there are bikes leaning up against things,” Shenk said.

Shenk insists that the racks are not an attempt to reassert the dominance of traditional bicycles, Fly Rides’ bread and butter, over the recent explosion of dockless models.

“Dockless wasn’t a big impact on our business,” Shenk said. “It’s more in the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach area. A lot of people in La Jolla don’t want to have to go walk to find (a dockless bike), or spend a lot of money to keep one locked and ready if you stop for a drink or a bite to eat and you want it to still be there when you return.”

But Shenk says his racks will benefit even dockless users. Even though those bikes lock themselves whenever and wherever they’re not in use, racks provide a single, predictable spot in which to find them.“Really, we think any sort of bike travel is a good thing to do,” Shenk said.

Dynes said she is “very excited” that Shenk picked up the bike-rack ball. “It’s exactly what we were hoping for,” she said.