Village Merchants host dockless bike forum with majority of companies represented
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 04/21/18 - 09:39 AM | 850 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A man rides a Bird scooter on the Pacific Beach Boardwalk. / PHOTO BY THOMAS MELVILLE
A man rides a Bird scooter on the Pacific Beach Boardwalk. / PHOTO BY THOMAS MELVILLE
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Three of four dockless bike companies justified their business models in April before the La Jolla Village Merchants Association before fielding tough questions from a mostly hostile audience.

Attending were Limebike, Ofo and Mobike with Bird absent.

Dockless bikes accessible by a smart-phone app have been infiltrating San Diego neighborhoods. Their sudden appearance has led to safety fears and calls from some to halt their spread until they’re properly regulated.

Stefan Winkler, of bike-sharing Beijing-based Ofo, the only one of the four dockless companies not employing electric-assist technology, said their bikes deploy around transit centers and are meant to be used for the first- and last-mile of a commute. Ofo has concentrated on downtown, and has not rolled out yet in La Jolla, said Winkler acknowledging there’s been some spillover from other areas.

Khoa Nguyen of LimeBike said the company, started by Berkeley business school grads in 2017, is now in 40 cities nationwide and was first launched in San Diego in Imperial Beach. He added Limebikes are typically distributed within 50 yards of the transit system they are meant to connect to and complete.

Like Ofo and Limebike, Keven Duran of Mobike noted his company too has not launched yet in La Jolla. 

“If you’ve launched in San Diego, you’re launched in La Jolla,” commented LJVMA president Niebling.

Former LJVMA board member Ike Fazzio, co-owner of traditional bike shop San Diego Fly Rides in La Jolla, asked numerous questions of dockless reps.

While welcoming competition, Fazzio said he felt dockless bikes flooding the market is “unfair to other players already existing who operate safely and responsibly.” Fazzio added, “These are things that really need  to be addressed by you guys.”

La Jolla parks planner Sally Miller pointed out dockless companies are for profit and don’t have to abide by the same rules as their traditional competition. 

“They (dockless) shouldn’t be getting a free ride,” said Miller, an outspoken critic of residents not being given priority on sidewalks and within the public right-of-way. Miller argued dockless bikes are being used illegally, and without proper notification in communities like La Jolla, which she argued has become a “dumping ground” for them.

“When I drive up and see a line of cars, or a lack of parking or traffic congestion, that is not aesthetic — or pleasant at all,” said a Limebike advocate from the audience countering Miller.

LJVMA board member Brett Murphy suggested dockless companies devise new ways to use GPS technology to “better deploy and regulate” their vehicles.

“It would be good if you could just find better ways to pick up your vehicles at certain times so that it just looks better,” agreed board colleague Laurnie Durisoe.

Community activist Bill Robbins said the dockless companies need to make themselves more accessible by furnishing contact information for people to report misplaced or damaged bikes. “You need to get the rules worked out,” Robbins said adding, whatever it takes for dockless companies to accommodate communities should be done “without taxpayers having to pay for it.”

In other action:

LJVMA executive director Sheila Fortune reiterated that the annual La Jolla Cove Fireworks display will be a no-show this year. “It’s not a joke, we’re not pretending, it’s not going to be saved in the end, it’s not happening,” Fortune said.

Outgoing LJVMA president James Niebling received a commendation from District 1 Councilperson Barbara Bry presented by staffer Mauricio Medina recognizing his accomplishments and community service. 

Niebling said the recent Concours D’elegance classic car show in Scripps Park was a big success. “It gets better every year, the attendance was great and the weather was too,” Niebling said. “Next year, the 15th annual year for the event, promises to be even more exciting.”

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