A surfer rides by a DecoBike station on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach. / Photo by Thomas Melville
The battle between Pacific and Mission beaches and the city over two boardwalk bike share stations continues to rage, with both sides digging in and little or no apparent movement by either side toward a settlement.
Meanwhile, some beach small business owners catering to recreational bicyclists, like Matt Gardner, longtime owner of Cheap Rentals and Mission Beach Rentals at Belmont in Mission Beach, are crying foul. They are claiming their businesses continue to suffer from unfair competition.
“I've lost about $120,000 over two years,” insists Gardner adding, “I'm giving the city and DecoBike every chance to make it right.”
Making it right, according to Gardner, would mean “establishing a true commuter-friendly ride sharing network — or they recoup the money that's been taken away from me.”
Garner claims the lion's share of DecoBike rentals, as much 77 percent, is for recreational tourists, and not as the final leg of a commuter trip utilizing mass transit, for which the bike share network is intended.
The city signed a 10-year deal with DecoBike to set up bike rental kiosks on city property. Launched in January 2015 as a way to boost residential bike commuters, kiosks would also be a means of income because the city would share in a portion of the rental profits. The key to the deal was the minimal expense to the city, as the Florida-based DecoBike would foot the bill for the infrastructure.
Pacific Beach Planning Group chair Brian Curry said the city's reneging on the DecoBike deal.
“We continue to fight against further placement of any DecoBike kiosks in our visitor/hospitality district,” Curry said. “The City has broken its promise that its bike share program is intended to accommodate locals for point-to-point transportation such as commuting, shopping, etc. Instead, the City is pushing to install more kiosks in the coastal/beach corridors to capture business from visitors, and at significant cost to our local rental bike business owners.”
Curry noted that, “despite significant public opposition, the City refuses to remove the current kiosks on the boardwalk.” He said the city is supposed to come out with a new proposed station's location list shortly and has promised to allow for public outreach and comment.
Curry pointed out PB community leaders had at least five meetings with the City and DecoBike and were “ignored.”
“We hope this next round of interaction is constructive rather than a waste of time,” Curry said.
Approached by the Beach & Bay Press for further comment, Melinda Pederson, administrative manger for DecoBike San Diego, referred to a July statement the company made claiming the two boardwalk bike stations are essential to the success of its interlocking bike share network.
“Ridership revenue and advertising/sponsorship revenue are the only sources of income for the bike share,” Pederson said previously. “For this reason, it's very important that we have visible stations in desirable locations that generate high ridership.
“We do have quite a bit of local ridership,” Pederson continued. “Most riders, both visitors and locals, use the bike share for short trips purchased at the station.”
Mike Beltran, chair of Pacific Beach Planning Group's Traffic, Parking and Streets Subcommittee, concurred with Curry that the community is tiring of this boardwalk battle with the city.
“I get it that they're (DecoBike's) a business and that they need to make money,” Beltran said. “Our struggle is really with the city. They're the ones who gave DecoBike the key to the city to put their stations anywhere they want.”
Bike rental operator Gardner hopes there can eventually be an accommodation reached between the city and small-business owners like himself catering to recreational bicyclists.
“I love my city,” Gardner said. “The last thing I want is litigation. But if my own city is taking away my customers ...”