Above: A one-year pilot program for e-bikes was proposed through Gotcha, a mobility company based in South Carolina. The program, adopted by Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar, provides docked, dockless, e-bikes and hybrid systems. Gotcha assumes all liability with no cost to the cities. Courtesy photo
CARLSBAD — Bike sharing has exploded in San Diego County with a number of companies and vehicles from bikes to scooters flooding the streets.
Carlsbad, along with Camp Pendleton, Del Mar, Encinitas, Oceanside and Solana Beach, each joined to research a Bikeshare pilot program.
However, the Carlsbad City Council unanimously voted against joining the program on May 7, a plan that was tailored for consideration in the Village and Barrio neighborhoods.
Encinitas, Del Mar and Solana Beach recently adopted separate license agreements and are expected to launch their programs in mid-July.
“I don’t see any place in our city for these,” Councilman Keith Blackburn said. “I’m not even in favor of looking at what our neighboring cities end up doing. I think this is right with our type of layout.”
The one-year pilot program for e-bikes will be through Gotcha, a mobility company based in South Carolina. The program considers using docked, dockless, e-bikes and hybrid systems, along with control of the use of the bikes, monitor, enforce parking and Gotcha assumes all liability with no cost to the cities.
Electric scooters are not being considered for implementation at any of the north coast cities.
Geo-fencing, meanwhile, would be incorporated so the bikes cannot leave the established boundaries outside of the participating cities and Camp Pendleton.
“The operators have an ability to draw a virtual circle around certain areas to prevent users from leaving or operating those bikes in certain zones,” said Craig Williams, senior engineer for the city of Carlsbad.
The cities and Camp Pendleton entered into a memorandum of understanding with the San Diego Association of Governments and the North County Transit District to pursue the program this time last year.
Williams said another benefit would be reducing driving, noting 40% to 45% of trips are two miles or less.
“We could use healthier modes such as walking or biking,” Williams said. “It really helps implement the CAP (Climate Action Plan) goals and the General Plan goals. CAP looks at a mode shift from about 22% of bicycle and pedestrian travel to 33%. That’s a 10-point increase for our goals.”
The council’s concerns included liability, safety and effects on bike shops, to name a few.
“The Village, right now, is not tailored for safe bike riding,” Councilwoman Cori Schumacher said. “It’s a real challenge for us and we need to take care of that first.”
Several on the council, though, weren’t totally against saying they would like to see how the program unfolds in Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar.
E-bikes were introduced in 2018 to the region, Williams said. The docked system was introduced in Europe about 20 years ago and has become popular in numerous countries on the continent.
One benefit is to eliminate single-occupancy trips, although Williams said initially it will not be a big drop. But, if incorporated in the Village and Barrio and west of Interstate 5 it will help free up parking for those traveling by car.
The challenges include uncontrolled parking, unsafe riders and overlap with bike shop rentals.
“The bikes that bike shops rent, are generally a different type of bike,” Williams said. “They appeal to a family audience and the Bikeshare bikes cannot be rented to anyone less than 18 years old, with parental accompaniment they can be rented to a 16 year old.”
Denise Buckingham and her husband, Jon, own Pedego Carlsbad, an e-bike shop in Carlsbad Village. Denise Buckingham pushed back saying it is difficult to control where people go and how they use their e-bikes.
The couple gives detailed information to customers, noting they are allowed on pavement only in bike lanes, but still end up on the beach, bluffs and other areas not allowed.
In addition, she said the low overhead from companies like Gotcha would likely force her shop to close.
“Several of the bike shops have closed their doors because of these bike share programs,” Buckingham said. “They do not have the city’s best interest. Let’s wait to see how the pilot program work in the other cities.”
Christine Davis, executive director of the Carlsbad Village Association, said she is neither in favor or against the proposal. She asked the council for the CVA to be involved to help determine whether the bikes should be incorporated in the city after the pilot program.
“We have people in the Village who have performed a great service and now, we, the city, are going into competition against them by allowing someone to use our assets for free, while they having to pay for their space,” Mayor Matt Hall said regarding other businesses. “To me, that doesn’t sit well.