The Coast News Group

Bike sharing comes to several coast cities

Above: The cities of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas recently approved operator license agreements with Gotcha Mobility, LLC to bring a bikeshare program to coastal North County. Gotcha currently operates 78 bikeshare programs throughout the United States. Courtesy photo

REGION — Plans are falling into place for North County’s pilot bikeshare program, with Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas all having approved operator agreements with bike share company Gotcha Ride to carry out the program.

The three cities are planning to roll out the bikes in July, with Oceanside following suit at a later date. Carlsbad has opted not to pursue the program at this time.

Termed a “shared mobility program,” the one-year pilot will bring hundreds of pedal-assist electric bicycles to the region. Cities are also looking into the possibility of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles — a shared transit option offered by Gotcha that would operate like an on-demand shuttle service.

The program has involved several community partners — staff or representatives from the four North County coastal cities, Camp Pendleton, San Diego Association of Governments and North County Transit District have been discussing a potential bike share program since August 2017.

The cities opted to hire a single operator for the program, in order to foster “connectivity” between the cities. A user will be able to grab a bike in Del Mar and cruise all the way north to Oceanside.

The cities are aiming to avoid issues that have ailed other bike share programs in the region — such as the dockless scooters raising myriad safety concerns in downtown San Diego.

In order to prevent bikes from being scattered around the county by users, Gotcha will be installing or designating mobility hubs at key locations around town, and charging users fees for leaving bikes outside out of those hubs.

Gotcha uses geo-fencing in order to track a bike’s location and alert users when they’ve entered a “no-go zone” outside of the realm of service, or when they’re leaving the bike outside of a hub.

Gotcha CEO and Founder Sean Flood said the company is adamantly against free-roaming bikes.

“We think transportation should be predictable and orderly,” he said at Del Mar’s May 6 council meeting.

Come July, bike users will be able to approach any of the 11 hubs in Del Mar and rent one of 75 bikes though Gotcha’s mobile app.

The same goes for Solana Beach and Encinitas. In Solana Beach, there will be about 13 hubs and 100 bikes; in Encinitas, about 25 to 30 hubs and 200 bikes.

Although the hub locations have yet to be precisely determined, Gotcha and the cities are working together to determine locations based on both logical destinations around town, and where there might already be existing racks.

Staff have also been in discussions with California State Parks about adding a hub at Torrey Pines State Beach, as well as the Del Mar Fairgrounds regarding a hub on the state-owned property.

Prices for an average user are anticipated to be $2 to unlock, and $0.10 per minute thereafter. Users can opt to pay for monthly memberships, which will allow them to use the bikes without an added fee for an hour per day, or an annual membership that will allow them to ride the bike for 90 minutes each day.

Gotcha will be incurring all the fees and expenses associated with the program, as well as managing it through a local team of staff.

Stefan Winkler, regional director of mobility partnerships with Gotcha, said the program is largely tailored to the local community, rather than out-of-town visitors.

“We’re focused on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from single occupancy trips,” he said. “We’re focused on connecting people with transit. That’s where our bread and butter is.”

The bikes are available for users 18 years and older — riders are required to scan their driver’s licenses before putting the app to use.

Partner cities and agencies first started discussing a shared mobility program in 2017, taking note of the challenges other cities were facing and getting input from various city boards and committees.

After approving a memorandum of understanding to pursue a bike share program in March 2018, the cities began vetting vendors.

They received and evaluated proposals from six vendors before selecting Gotcha, largely due to their “clutter-free operation,” as described by an Encinitas city staff report.

After a year, the partnering cities’ staff will evaluate the program based on both its popularity, and operational efficiency.

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