Mayor Faulconer and City Council,
I am writing you today to express my displeasure with the placement and handling of our city’s “DecoBike” bike-share program, as well as try to express why my neighbors are very displeased with the way this was handled. I know that you have heard the “Mission Beach Town Council” resolution in opposition to the placement and handling of the “Decobike” program as well as heard the displeasure of the community overall. I am certain you probably expect a business owner like myself to have complaints concerning this subject, but please continue to read on as I do my best to make my complaints more universal rather than personal.
1. Our city should be supporting it’s local businesses. Instead, the proximity of the “Decobike” locations, the support that “Decobike” receives from the city and the allowance to use public right of way gives “Decobike” an unfair advantage over other rental shops. Not just the unfair advantage, but it is insulting and painful that the city chooses to support one specific company, especially one from out of state, over it’s own local businesses that have been supporting this city and it’s visitors for many years. I love this city and I love being a friendly host to the many visitors that we receive from all over the world. I take that responsibility very seriously. That is why it is such a slap in the face for me to see our city allow and encourage “Decobike” to move in so brazenly into an area that is already servicing the bike rental needs of that area. This tells me that our city leaders are going into direct competition with the businesses that they are suppose to be supporting. And in case you are wondering the actual impact of “Decobike”, our bike rental sales are down by about 15% this year compared to last year. In our entire 17 year history of doing bike rentals we have never had a year where bike rentals were not higher than the previous year. The timing coincides with the influx of “Decobike” stations during the later part of the year. And the stations aren’t even in Mission Beach yet. I shudder to think when that may happen as I have heard rumors of their coming placement in Mission Beach. However I do thank the efforts of Lorie Zapf’s office for keeping the stations away from Mission Beach so far.
2. There has been a bait and switch here. When “Decobike” first made their presentations, they came touting a system of bike sharing that will help alleviate traffic, support a greener community and give a healthier alternative of commuting to our community. Under those premises, I was in big support and favor of “Decobike” and what they could do for this city. As an owner of a bike business, this is very near and dear to my heart. But “Decobike” has shown that they cannot be trusted by switching their tactic from commuter to recreational user. “Decobike” has shown this by the change in their verbiage as well as the obvious placements of their bike stations. A simple viewing of their bike station map (link below) shows an obvious emphasis in key tourist-heavy areas. It also shows a great lack of stations in areas that would better support commuting and public transportation. Even the main public transportation hub in old town is far away from the nearest bike station. I’m sure several our city council members would like to see better commuter friendly placements and representation in their districts as well. All of this shows an apparent targeting of tourist dollars rather than local commuter support.
3. “Decobike” has abused the public right of way. Several of the “Decobike” station placements have been in very inconvenient locations. For example, many of them take up existing parking spaces. Parking is already a difficult thing to find in San Diego, and now even what we have is being diminished by these stations. Even worse than this is the placements of these stations in areas of considerable public use and natural beauty. Yes, I’m talking about our ocean front boardwalk. The worst of these is a location near Grand Avenue on Ocean Front Walk. The station itself is bad enough but the bikes and station are covered in advertising which greatly diminishes the ambiance and beauty of our beach. Through the community and organizations like the Coastal Commision, we have fought hard to keep the natural beauty of our beach safe from over-commercialization and over-development. We want our beaches to be beautiful beaches, not billboards for advertisers.
4. There is a lack of personal touch with this kind of bike station program. If the city is looking at servicing the needs of the visitors through “Decobike” despite the injustice this brings to it’s own business owners and their organizations, then they must consider the message that this is sending to the rest of the world. Yes, it seems green and technologically forward thinking. But an alternate consideration must be made for the lack of personal attention that this brings. I pride myself in bringing a great service to the thousands of visitors we get each year. I make it my life’s goal to help families and friends have a great and fun time on their vacations and trips. The whole reason I am in this business is because of the many happy faces that I get to make on people from all over the world. These are memories that our visitors will carry with them for the rest of their lives. By emphasizing the use of an automated system, you are removing the smiling human element out of the equation and supporting a faceless, uncaring computer program in it’s place. What truly makes our city so great is the joy that we have in being in the world’s greatest city. This has established a wonderful neighborhood feel all over the city. San Diego is often described as the largest small town. And being at the forefront of tourism, businesses like mine are often one of the few ways that our visitors get to experience that neighborliness which makes San Diego so great. It might seem cool and advanced to be able to push buttons on a machine, but it drives us down a faceless and negative path devoid of human contact. When people rent a bike, we give them a map, tell them which restaurants we like best, what views they have to see, and then we wish them a great time with a smile on our face. All of this reaches out to people on a personal level and gives them an experience rather than a rental. Solar powered is great, but Love-powered is much better. Where would you rather invest in?
Thank you for taking the time to read my complaints and consider my point of view. I would be happy to meet up and discuss this in further detail. These expressions and more are shared by many in my community. I’m sure you’ve heard the distaste in our area from Lorie Zapf and the cries from the community. You should also know that I will be staging a “Rent Local” awareness event on February 27th to help communicate to the public why our community feels so strongly against the outcome of this “Decobike” program in our city. I will eagerly await your reply and will be happy to help us all find solutions to these problems.
Thank you all for your hard work in supporting our wonderful city.