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San Diego’s Bike Sharing Program Start Delayed

Above: Two Chicago residents check out a bike at one of the city's bike sharing locations.

The start of the city of San Diego's bike sharing program has been pushed back by at least two months.

The program was scheduled to begin between January and March of this year, but has now been delayed until late April or early May, according to Jennifer Kearns, the marketing manager for corporate partnerships for the city.

The bike sharing program lets people rent a bike from a checkout station, ride it wherever they please, and then return it to any other station. People can pay an hourly rate for a bike or buy a monthly membership.

Community outreach over the plan took longer than expected, Kearns said. The plan was to place bike checkout stations across the city, but most of those stations would not be on city-owned property. That means the city needs approval from whomever owns the land.

"Quite a few stations are on land run by the Port of San Diego, along Harbor Drive, and some of them going be adjacent to or on private property, some are on city parks, so we had to coordinate those with the Parks and Recreation Department," Kearns said.

All of that coordination "took a little longer than we expected it to take," she said. "But we did all of that, and we're in very good shape."

Kearns said the city would release the locations of all the checkout spots within the next two weeks.

The city also at first planned to present the bike sharing idea at community group meetings, but then decided that was not the best way to go, she said.

"What we discovered is that because these stations were going in specific locations, it was more effective for us to go to the people as opposed to have people come to us," she said.

Voice of San Diego reported that community group Uptown Planners did not warm to the bike sharing plan at its September 2013 meeting, but Kearns said they received very little pushback when taking the idea to community meetings.

"The majority of people were very supportive and positive about the program," she said.

The Uptown Planners took greater issue with a plan that would accompany bike sharing, to replace one traffic lane on Fourth and Fifth avenues in Bankers Hill with a bike lane, Voice of San Diego reported.

In July 2013, the City Council approved a 10-year partnership with the private company DecoBike to supply bikes and set up checkout stations. While the plan originally called for 1,800 bikes to be spread between 180 and 220 stations, Kearns said the number of stations has dropped to 175.

DecoBike will pay $7.2 million for the bikes and stations and will give the city a chunk of its profits — between $1 million and $2.6 million over 10 years.

Each checkout station will be completely solar-powered, and the bikes will be the newest on the market, Kearns said.

DecoBike will open one checkout station at the end of February in Civic Center Plaza as a demonstration, and will begin selling memberships at the end of March or the beginning of April, Kearns said.

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