COAST CITIES — Del Mar became the first city to sign onto a proposed North County bikeshare partnership, approving at the March 5 meeting a memorandum of understanding to issue a request for information to participate in a one-year regional pilot program.
Solana Beach and Encinitas followed suit nine days later at their respective council meetings. Oceanside is expected to talk about the program next month. Carlsbad officials have been approached but have not set a time to discuss it.
North County Transit District has also agreed to participate. Other potential partners are Camp Pendleton and the San Diego Association of Governments.
The program will allow bicyclists to borrow a bike in one location, such as a train or bus station, use it on a short-term basis and return it to the same spot in another designated area.
Similar programs are in place in the county in Imperial Beach and National City and at the University of California San Diego. Costs to the users vary from .50 or $1 per half hour or hour, Solana Beach Assistant City Manager Dan King said.
Bike sharing can help the cities achieve a goal of their climate action plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by offering safe, convenient and affordable alternative transportation options. It would also relieve parking congestion and provide better accessibility to beaches, parks and businesses.
Solana Beach City Councilman Dave Zito said the mayor of Imperial Beach told SANDAG members the program has also helped reduce crime because more people are out in the community riding bikes.
Del Mar staff members have been meeting with the potential partners for the past several months.
Additionally, in February, they discussed the concept with the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board, Del Mar Village Association and Business Support Advisory Committee to get input on what they would like to see in the bikeshare program.
According to the staff report the groups “enthusiastically support Del Mar’s participation in the program because it supports” the city’s climate action plan and promotes sustainable tourism.
Staff plans to meet with the Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee and representatives from Del Mar Plaza, L’Auberge Del Mar, Hotel Indigo Del Mar and Summer Cycles, the city’s only bike shop, for additional input on how to most effectively implement the program.
The goal of the approved MOU is to collectively agree on a single bikeshare vendor to operate within the North County coastal region to achieve economies of scale, reduce conflicts between competing vendors and provide optimal convenience to users.
The RFI, which will identify vendors with the resources to pilot the program, is a mechanism for gathering information and does not obligate the cities to a binding procurement process.
The envisioned model would use “dockless” bikeshare technologies and not require participating jurisdictions to purchase any contract services or infrastructure.
Once a vendor is selected, council members will still have to approve participation in the program. All costs will be borne by the vendor.
The cities will have to approve business licenses and operations permits to allow the bikes to be used and locked in the public right of way.
According to the proposed timeline, the partners expect to select a vendor in April and launch the one-year pilot program by early May.
Del Mar has been approached by several bikeshare vendors asking if they could implement a bikeshare program in the city.
In response to those requests, staff contacted the other North County coastal cities, which also received similar requests, to discuss the advantages of adapting a regional approach, according to the staff report.
SANDAG coordinated the meetings. Encinitas took the lead on developing the MOU and RFI.
In Del Mar, Councilman Dave Druker had some concerns.
“I want to make sure that we understand what the business plan is of these providers,” he said. “I don’t want to see a business plan that says we’re going to be the Uber of bike rentals.”
He also questioned whether the rentals would be around for the long term or, because they are investor funded, disappear when the funds are gone.
In Solana Beach, Mayor Ginger Marshall said she’s heard complaints from other cities that people leave the bikes all over the place. King said the agreement could include regulations to avoid that issue.
But overall, council members in both cities support the program.
“I do favor a regional approach,” Solana Beach City Councilwoman Jewel Edson said. “I think it’s the way to go because … there could be issues if everyone has a different program where their bikes are in our town and our bikes are in their town.”
“From a resident’s perspective, I’m excited about this program because when people come visit me it gives them another great option for getting around town,” Del Mar Councilwoman Ellie Haviland said. “For the occasional bike rider, it means they don’t have to keep and maintain a bike in their garage.
“I think there is a resident-serving component to this,” she added. “And I think there are residents and visitors coming to see our residents who are going to take advantage of this.”
“It’s not going to cost a dime,” Marshall said. “Why not check it out for a year, see how it works, get public feedback?”
She said she would prefer to see a hybrid model that offers electric bikes.
“You see a lot of older people on those in Solana Beach,” she said. “I think they look cool.”