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Dockless Bikes in SD Could Be a Vicious Cycle

Vibrant yellow and green dockless bikes are popping up around San Diego that only require a smartphone and an adventurous person to use them. This is one of many initiatives within San Diego to make urban living more affordable and sustainable, but is it convenient for college students who are busy and trying to make financial ends meet?

In order to ride a dockless bike, all one has to do is find a nearby bike or scooter through the various smartphone apps, unlock it, and ride. Similar to Uber and Lyft, each user has to create an account and enter their credit card information. The bikes are equipped with a GPS device, so they are never lost or stolen. The back wheel locks in place and cancels the trip when the user finishes riding and you can leave it near a bike rack or on the sidewalk for the next rider to find.

LimeBike, Mobike, Ofo and Spin are all dockless bike companies in San Diego and operate very similarly within their mobile apps. LimeBike and Bird also have electric scooters. Bird charges $1 to unlock the scooter and 15 cents for every minute of use. The rest of the companies charge $1 for every thirty minutes of use for their standard bikes.

“Rideshare commuters who replace one mile per work day with LimeBike are saving between $1,300-$1,800 annually,” said Emma Green, a public-relations staff member for LimeBike.

For college students who are not commuting to campus, dockless bikes can be a fun way to visit local attractions but are not always reliable.

Senior marketing major Jazmine Brown tried out the dockless bikes in North Park, San Diego. “Unlocking it was super easy and I was able to ride a few blocks over to the farmers market. The bike rode really nice and it was super convent to get me where I wanted to go,” said Brown. “But when I parked it, I realized it didn’t give me an option to park the bike and keep it while I ran my errand. I tried to figure out a way around this and realized that there was no guarantee to have the bike when I got back” said Brown.

Unlike renting a bike from a storefront, dockless bikes are not guaranteed to be in the same spot you left them. Once you stop riding, they are up for grabs. They are also not ideal in hilly areas or rocky terrains like Sunset Cliffs.

“Our bikes are internally geared and include both front and rear drum brakes. As when riding any bike, it’s important to take safety precautions such as wearing a helmet,” said Green.

Since there are so many of these bikes being left on the streets and sidewalks of San Diego, some people are concerned that the bikes will be mistreated or neglected and are upset because they are causing traffic disruptions. In China, thousands of bikes are being impounded by the city. This was captured in a photo series by Alan Taylor, Senior Editor of the Atlantic. Also, videos of bikes being thrown into rivers are circulating around Twitter.


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Corinne Hauck

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