It was the consensus of the city council and much of the business community that Coronado was not ready for LimeBike, or any other dockless bike rental company, even on a trial basis. It tabled the company’s request for a nine-month trial and recommended that the issue be fully reviewed by the Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) and the Active Transportation Committee.
“Let’s take a step back. Let them take a look at it and make recommendations,” said Councilwoman Carrie Downey.
LimeBike has used pilot programs to successfully establish itself in communities and college campuses across the country. LimeBike launched a 6-month pilot program in Imperial Beach in September. LimeBike proposed a 9-month trial for Coronado, which would have kept the bikes on the streets through the summer tourist season.
Thus far the bike sharing program has been a great success in Imperial Beach, according to its Assistant City Manager Steve Dush. “It’s been most popular with workers who ride them from home to MTS,” he said. City officials in National City approved a pilot program two weeks ago, becoming the 30th market the company had cracked in the past year.
Not so Coronado. It wasn’t quite ready to give over the use of its public right of way for $800 a year, a fee City Councilman Bill Sandke thought was ridiculously low. “We’re not doing the taxpayers any favors,” he said.
The fee would allow the company unlimited use of the city sidewalks to store their bikes, where potential riders can pick up one and ride it for $1.00 a half hour. Bikes are equipped with GPS and are tracked through an app. Users scan the bicycle with their smart phone to unlock the bike. When they complete the ride they press a button on the bike to lock it.
LimeBike’s representative, Colin McMahon, said the company intended to partner with the Navy to ease commuter congestion on Third and Fourth Streets.
The Navy has been talking to McMahon, but it is a long way from signing on. There are a number of entities that have to approve it and a major hurdle has to be cleared – the Navy’s helmet rule. “All personnel must where wear a helmet while cycling on base, no exceptions. A LimeBike doesn’t come with a helmet.
“We will not ban LimeBike from the naval base,” said Wes Bomyea, Director of Operations, Readiness and Sustainment at Naval Base Coronado. “If they have a helmet they will be allowed to ride the bike on base. If not, they will have to walk the bike.”
The possibility of easing commuter congestion along Route 282 appealed to Mayor Richard Bailey.
“One of the reasons we hear that people don’t carpool to the naval base is that they require transportation on the naval base,” he said. “I can see a potential upside to this.” He also stressed his concern that allowing a dockless bike company to do business in Coronado would negatively impact local bike shops. In this he had wide support from the business community.
Giving over public space to bike rental “gives an unfair competitive and financial advantage” over storefronts, said Sue Gillingham, Executive Director of the Coronado Chamber of Commerce. “Rent for a storefront can cost as much as 35% of its revenue.”
She was not alone. The Hotel Del and Marriott, who offer bike rentals to their guests, opposed the idea, as did the Ferry Landing and Bikes By the Bay.
Ironically, the owner of Coronado’s oldest and best known bike shop, Holland’s, was open to the concept. “I fully support anything that promotes cycling on the island, supports the increase in tourism, and helps alleviate our traffic congestion,” Karl Young wrote in an e-mail to the city council. He concluded that a dockless rideshare would do none of this.
Rather than reject the concept out of hand, he proposed “sending the issue back to the BAC so that they may further investigate the details and the benefits of a dockless system in Coronado, communicate directly with the major stakeholders to insure they have their support, and come up with a vision that they can all agree on and communicate that to the city council.”
After LimeBike applied for a permit, Urban Cycle contacted the city. Both made a pitch at the December 5 council meeting and at the BAC meeting the day before.
These are not the only newly minted dockless companies. There are also SPIN, SoBi, bluegogo, Vbikes and Mobike.
For one councilman the proliferation of dockless bike sharing startups underscored the need for further study. “With so many companies how would you pick one?” Mike Donovan asked. The concept was just too new and the companies too untested. There were too many known unknowns for the council to make a decision. Given this, Bailey said it would be “prudent to table the motion” until more was known.
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